Essays on Faith: Going ‘Back to the Future’ in Wirt County
Even though I do not drive a DeLorean, I nevertheless had a “Back to the Future” moment this past weekend as I went to visit some college friends in Wirt County. In this venture, I was confronted by God’s beautiful creation as I removed myself from our techno-centric society. As I turned off route 21, not only did I leave behind the only gas station for miles, but I also felt as if I left behind the 21st century for a time long gone. Both sides of the road were lined with beautiful farms with gargantuan and supple hayfields that seemed to come alive as the wind blew through them. The aroma of freshly mowed hay filled the car as I threw up my hand to the diligent farmer working in his fields on the anonymous road I traveled.
As I journeyed, I felt as if I were stuck in a continuous, but ever lovely moment of déjà vu, with every homestead alive with farmers haying and livestock grazing. The road wound past grandiose, rough-cut wooden barns, darkened with weather-worn age. Ever so slowly, the two lane road lost its painted lines and morphed into a narrow country lane. Unsure of my surroundings and the location of my friends’ home, I scrambled for my cell phone as I came to a halt by sunbathing bovines, certain that any obstruction to traffic would be quite unlikely as I parked in the middle of the thoroughfare. To my displeasure, I discovered that in exchange for fresh country air and a picturesque landscape I had lost service. Worried, I continued until one bar appeared and I was able to contact one of my friends to give him my location.
In time, I reached the quaint, two-story farm house with shade tree alongside and barn in the back. After visiting for some time and taking a back-road adventure to Parkersburg, my friends and I ended our evening joking and talking next to the barn, trying to impress each other with our knowledge of constellations (since my friends didn’t have cable, out of choice). My amazement was complemented by the truism one friend made in regards to the vibrant and expansive star-studded night sky in which he stated, “It makes you realize how insignificant you are.” However, the awe-inspiring view reaffirmed that this creation most definitely had a Creator who set the stars in motion, and that “He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite.”
Soon, we headed to bed. As I laid in the creaky cast-iron bed in the spare room, I soon discovered the plight of many a generation that suffered through summers without A.C. The next morning we arose and traveled the short distance to the beautiful and charming Union Chapel United Methodist Church. We arrived a few minutes before worship at 9:30. The parishioners who were there met us with warm greetings and friendly hand-shakes as we walked through the door. By the time the opening song had finished, there were only 12 worshipers in the sanctuary.
As we sank back into the pews, I was confused by the lack of a minister. I was later informed that the preacher was in a circuit with other small churches, so my friend’s father led the service, a page taken directly from frontier evangelization. Throughout the service I kept looking around at the faithful few and was reminded that “For where two or three are gathered together in [His] name, there [is He] in the midst of them.” And truly, He was there, for you could sense it in the genuine sincerity of the joys people shared with fellow congregants. These testimonies exemplified “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” And when it came to praying, this was the first time I have ever felt a prayer; I had heard prayers, but never felt them. It was as if the flood-gates of souls had been opened and a well-spring of adoration for our Savior sprang forth from mouths as murmurs filled the spacious sanctuary.
Even though the service and testimonies were heartfelt and sincere, we were reminded of the Lord’s sense of humor throughout the entirety of the day’s message. For on that morning one the parishioner’s dogs had followed her to church that morning. The old hound also was singing the praises of our God’s creation right along with those assembled, just out of sequence. As I listened to the Message about loving our neighbor as ourselves and our God with all our hearts, the hound heralded that there was a hare as he chased the critter from one end of the church yard to in the direction of the church. As the hare dove under the church the hound followed suit barking, knocking floor boards, and rattling gas pipes that shook the furnaces within the small sanctuary until the rabbit found refuge in which the dog could not follow as he stopped to whine at the injustice. This occurrence did not go without notice from the other worshippers. The service stopped for a moment to make a quick joke about the ruckus.
In time, the service ended, and we all went our separate ways. As for me, after visiting with my friends for a while longer, I reluctantly left for home. The same fields I had passed before were now being baled which seemed to act as the realization that made my unpretentious surroundings of my visit come to an end as I was catapulted once again into the world of “technologically advanced amenities.” My short visit to Wirt County made me realize that sometimes we simply need to slow down and redirect our attentions so that we can truly experience the grandiose and intimate nature that is God and genuinely God-filled people and neighbors.
Alex Urban is from Sissonville and attends West Virginia University majoring in history and geography.