Pastor Tom’s Blog: Genealogy
My sister loves studying genealogy. She is not alone.
Cousin Alice, on our mother’s side, and another cousin—we call him Sonny—on my Dad’s side: all three of them, like people you know, or you yourself, spend lots of time and energy tracing it all back, trying to find the roots of our family tree.
Ironic, though. None of them seem very interested in actually getting together with the family.
Well, Alice does. She and her husband Jess make trips, even long trips, to see cousins and such. I remember one trip she made to see a cousin she had never met.
Which only proves my point: the Steagalds, the Nalls, our other various family headwaters and tributaries: we never get together together.
We have not a family reunion, on my father’s side, in decades. I was in seminary the last time we did—forty years ago or more—and then, only because everyone thought dad was dying. Which he was, but not immediately.
We have never had a family reunion on my mother’s side. (Funerals are as close as we come, but even then we are so spread-out, so loosely connected, we never see even the majority of everybody. Oddly, we occasionally meet family members at the graveside.)
Which does not keep Debs, Alice, and Sonny from looking under historical rocks, as it were, where they have discovered on both sides, horse thieves, prostitutes, swindlers, felons… and Yankees!
Even Presbyterians! (And Baptists, of course. And Methodists, not a few—though I do not know if we are related to UM Bishop Otto Nall.)
There were some normal folk, too, of course. A grocer. A railroad engineer. Homemakers. Several officers in the Civil War, on one side or the other. With great names: Edgar Augustus Steagald, for instance. But the “normal” stories are not the most interesting.
One great, great uncle, on Dad’s side, had a Bat Masterson mustache and was far too good looking for his own or any others’ good. He disappeared for about three years, and when he reappeared, he told everyone he had been doing missionary work in China; uh, no. He had been in the Georgia State Penitentiary. He was the horse thief.
Some of our people—whether Steagalds or Nalls, Tarwaters or Oggs (that’s right: Tarwater, and, yes, Ogg)—you really wouldn’t want to hang out with some of them! At least not for very long.
But still you have to know your people. And in the south, especially. We have to know our people. Want to know our places. We need to know our stories. Only then does it feel like we begin to know who we really are. Which is why, this year at Hawthorne Lane, we have chosen for a theme, ancestry.faith.
Over the next few months, we will be doing, as it were, spiritual genealogy: discovering, or rediscovering some of our people. Some of whom you wouldn’t take home on a dare. But they are our people. And we are their children: their offspring and heirs.
We will visit some of our places. Don’t miss church on October 21, when we hope to have a live feed from Israel, as 26 of us will be there discovering some of our places. Looking under the rocks…for real.
This next year, we are telling and retelling our stories. Some of them. And no way for me to do all the great stories, or talk about all our people, much less all the places… but this year we hope to name and some of the
main branches of the family tree.
So join us! Here at one of those holy places, HLUMC, or via streaming, to hear some of our great stories, as we get together again with some of our people. And some of them, truly, of questionable character and reputation. But all of them a part of God’s redeeming purposes in the world.
They, like we are, were uniquely loved and gathered, uniquely gifted and sent, to make a godly difference in the ungodly world.