The Chandlers of Chincoteaque, Virginia were another family of the sea. One brother was the keeper for the Cape Hateris lighthouse. Yet another brother, Joshua, was a sea captain who was lost at sea. I’ve been told that all that was found of Joshua after his death was his red long johns which the family buried beneath a headstone on the side of a road at the end of Chincoteague island in his memory.
And Billy—Uncle Billy—as he was affectionately called by everyone who knew him—was a Wesley Methodist preacher. By Wesley Methodist, I mean a “shouting Methodist”--A group of evangelical, charismatic Methodists that would shock most Methodist congregations today. But Uncle Billy worried that the Methodist Episcopal church wasn’t emphasizing holiness enough and so in 1887, he joined with Joseph Lynch and others in establishing the Christ's Sanctified Holy Church on Chincoteague Island, an independent church which still has about 1000 members today. It has always been an unusual church with its lack of Sacraments or ordinances (they don’t baptize or practice Holy Communion). And, even more unusual was the fact that women were not only allowed to teach men, but they were also allowed to preach in a day and age when few established church hierarchies were ordaining women.
As I said earlier, the Chandlers were a family of the sea—lighthouse keepers and ship captains. So I guess it is not too surprising that Uncle Billy’s ministry also involved the sea. In the late 1800’s, he boarded a house boat in Dover, Delaware and began a long voyage around the coast of the United States and ended in Galveston, Texas in 1900. As he sailed along the coast, he would stop and hold revival meetings all along the way.
1900 was the year of the great hurricane in Galveston. The entire city was nearly destroyed. But Uncle Billy survived by anchoring his house boat in the Gulf and taking on as many people as he could fit on the boat to ride out the flood.
I can’t remember the first time I heard stories about my great-grandfather, William Chandler. Perhaps Nanny first told them to me as she cradled me in her arms. I’ve heard the stories all my life and they are a part of who I am. I have been shaped not only by Uncle Billy, but also by his granddaughter who felt that his story was important enough to pass on to her grandchildren. Like Buffett, my life has been shaped by men of the sea and the tradition remains.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The Gospel and Jimmy Buffett: Son of a Son of a Sailor
For a number of reasons, I do not have a manuscript for this week's sermon. (Only the second time in 10 years!) But in honor of father's day, here is my opening illustration: