The Air We Breathed
A 1930s tent revival meeting in West Virginia - would have looked big but familiar
If Idaho was the ground in which Charlotte was planted, The theology of her place and day was the air she breathed.
It permeated everything.
Arthur Roberts was a contemporary of Charlotte’s and another Greenleaf native. He is also a pretty fair theologian. His report of the place and day was that in other churches that first wave Fundamentalism (the doctrine - not the process) was being replaced with a second waved Fundamentalism that emphasized lists of behavioral rules. Arthur considered Friends to be outside of this stream. - That’s right - they were the progressives in that place and time, emphasizing response to the Spirit and abundant grace. The Friends Church of Oregon Yearly Meeting (they looked west to First Friends in Portland at that point) was heavily influenced by the Holiness Movement, which believed that through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the human soul could be cleansed of its original sin once and for all. They called this entire sanctification. George Fox called it perfection, using the same word as Jesus in the matter. The Holiness movement and the Friends believed that the human bent towards sin could be pounded out, and a peaceable kingdom built on Earth, a restored Eden, and during that work that a beloved community could be participated in here and now. During that time and for decades to come, Oregon Yearly Meeting churches sent in an annual report that included not only numbers of souls won by convincement or a conversion experience, but they reported on the number of souls who ‘prayed through’ and attained sanctification.
This way of thinking was to be differentiated from all the local Baptist Calvinists who taught that some people were elected for this grace and the rest were out of luck. A lot of other churches were heavily into Dispensationalism, a 19th century teaching that the bent towards sin was a part of our “age” and would only be dealt with by the imminent return of a triumphant Christ who would wipe that nonsense out once and for all. (most Friends in OYM would, and some still do, dabble in dispensationalism) The local Catholics (probably in Boise) were teaching that sin was a chronic condition to be managed with daily application of sacraments. No one was arguing that the human condition did not include a natural predisposition towards sin. That they all agreed upon.
Almost everyone had a church connection of some sort. Out in the rural areas, declared sinners and apostates were hard to come by. This did not stop Christians of all denominations from preaching conviction and conversion. There was always the business of saving your own children, and the justified but not sanctified did backslide and needed to get right with God. So there were traveling evangelists and revivalists who came through and livened things up. Over in Star Idaho, a long morning’s drive away they had a tent revival camp meeting every summer where Friends came from all over the region, camped out, and the service were held on benches over straw. The weather was hot and so was the preaching. Imminent, eternal and literal hell was right there waiting for anyone not inclined to accept the restoration of the second Adam. Arthur saw this as glass half full - immediate and abundant grace for any and all. Mahlon admitted that he thought that they focused a little too much on conviction and not enough about assurance.
For Charlotte and her sensitive peers this meant that they got saved - A Lot.
Charlotte may not have remembered her first conversion. It was likely to have happened at a family altar at a tender age, like as soon as she could talk. But she remembered many others. Gerry Wilcutts recalled going to the altar with Charlotte many times. “We were spiritually sensitive, and we examined ourselves for any sin and then came forward and made it right.”
No record has been found of when Charlotte achieved sanctification. In the Greenleaf FC records there were many each year, but not reported by name. She was surely one of them. She was recorded as a minister at the age of 27 and that would not have happened without her profession of being a saved and sanctified soul.
Thank you for collecting these marvelous stories about Aunt Charlotte. I arrived in the Yakima Valley of Washington State a year before her death and remember many of our obituaries carried the phrase, "a pioneer," referring to families that arrived earlier in the century, often living a year or two in a tent while establishing their orchard. The very act of writing a project like this is, of course, a matter of discovery and faith -- you really have no way of knowing where it will lead or how far it will go or, for that matter, how many times new details will pop up years from now. Still, from my end of the Quaker spectrum, her example raises questions of just what we might find effective in addressing the spiritual conditions of so many others in our neighborhoods.Post a Comment
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