By Way of Introduction
Or, How I Met Charlotte Macy
I met Charlotte Macy kinda like Paul met Jesus - out of season.
I was preaching at Scotts Mills Friends Church in the late winter early spring of 1996. It was a small church in a small town. I knew the regulars. We were mid-way through the first hymn when an old man came in and sat in the back pew and took off a weather beaten cap. A sour looking fellow. He did not sing. No one else paid him much mind. He stared hard at me while I tried to preach the Gospel. It was a wee bit intimidating. At the end of the service, as I walked towards the back, I asked one of the elders, “Who’s this gent?” “Old man Fink - lives up hill from the parsonage - haven’t seen him in here in years.”
I greeted Fink the elder, and introduced myself.
He stated his business: “I don’t come to church. Most likely you won’t see me again. But I heard that they had a gal preacher down here, and last time they did that it was Charlotte Macy. She was worth listening to. You favor her a bit - keep at it.”
And he walked out, and did not come back, and did not make himself available for any pastoral calls. I was curious. I consulted the records. Charlotte had been dead for almost 20 years, and had been pastor of Scotts Mills 20 years before that. What kind of woman got an old man out of the house and into a pew after 40 years? I got busy and forgot about it. But it didn’t forget about me. Within six months her name had come up again - in Silverton. And then again - at the beach. Then Again - at George Fox University.
So I stopped in at the library at Fox to see what they had on her. Precious little. But by asking around I found her kin and friends. Northwest Yearly Meeting is fairly lousy with Macys. And everyone had a story of her. And every single story was superlative. And the stories rang bells down in my soul. And when I would sit alone in the meeting room at Scotts Mills she started to be a real presence and inspiration to me.
And then one night very near the millennium I had a vivid dream. The kind you don’t forget. I was sitting on a lawn, and a little girl about four walked up to me. And for some reason I knew she was a little Macy. And she said to me “Tell me about Aunt Charlotte - I need to know about Charlotte Macy” And I said “Honey, I never met her, you need to go ask the old folks about her.” And the girl said “I can’t - they’re all dead - I’m asking you!” And I woke up with a start and a bit of a commission. From a woman long dead and a little girl not yet born.
So I started to take notes, and peruse old Yearly Meeting minutes, and gather papers, and do interviews - with as many of Charlotte’s friends and relative as would sit with me. And now I know a lot about Charlotte. And I think I know why old man Fink and some others have said that I favor her. It is not our history or the content of our theologies. I am under no illusions about that. Charlotte Macy would have had no truck with my post-modern take on Christianity. She was a Quaker, sure but she was capital a ‘E’ Evangelical. She was steeped in the Holiness Movement. She took her Bible seriously and literally. She believed in saving souls from a very real and imminent hell.
But when I listen to the stories about her. I like to listen to the woman behind the doctrine. The spirit from which the theology sprang. The character that could not be squelched even by death. There I find something remarkable. And that spirit, that character, that woman, is what I hope to describe to you. She has something to teach the 21st century. She especially has something to teach young women, or any person marginalized. She beat all the odds. And there is yet an echo of the blueprint of how she did it. And that needs to be elucidated and remembered.
For the ones yet to come.
Tonight the word "favor" catches my ear. "Favor" as in bear a resemblance, not favor as in a couple other senses, like or do the favor of....Post a Comment
This is a usage I only hear among African American churchwomen, usually African American churchwomen of a certain age on the bus. As in directed to my sister and me, at times to our horror, "My you two do favor each other."
So I am wondering what threads of geography or preaching or other forces of dialect gave the world also to the elder in your story?