Monday, July 18, 2011

A Field Trip

Yesterday I returned from a week-long "field trip" to Kentucky.  My husband, a seminary student, signed up for a class that had a number of excursions that he thought would be of interest to me.  The professor allowed me to tag along on the trips and we ended up having a great time.  And I was glad that it was a class where I didn't have to write any papers or take a test.  

We ended up driving all over the state of Kentucky, visiting sites that would give future pastors a peek into the social history, economics, and hobbies of rural parishioners.  The reasoning behind having a class focus on this segment of society that the seminary tends to turn out mainly United Methodist pastors and that denomination has many small, rural churches.  The likelihood of being assigned to that type of church upon ordination is extremely high.  In order to minister to a congregation, a pastor needs to understand the lives of the members.

Among the sites we visited were a small church without indoor plumbing (by choice - more on that later), a thoroughbred stud farm (with a $60 million stallion), a closed coal mine (although there are many open ones in the state), and a county fair (where we saw a beauty pageant and a tractor/truck-pull).  It would appear that these sites are unconnected, but they are all important to the rural residents in Kentucky.  The stud farm and coal mines are sources of employment and income, the fair demonstrates how they spend their leisure time, and the church is an important social institution and differs in many ways from the urban and megachurches the students are more familiar with.

When visiting the small rural church, we learned that it does not have indoor plumbing, only an outhouse.  The reason is not because they cannot afford to install a bathroom.  Quite the contrary, they were presented with the opportunity to purchase an adjoining property, complete with bathroom and kitchen facilities, in addition to more space for programs.  However, after careful consideration, the church members decided that purchasing the property to have modern facilities was not the best use of their money.  While replacing windows or repairing the roof is a necessity, having better bathroom facilities is merely a "niceity" as the outhouse serves its purpose.  Instead, the church chose to use the money to continue feeding AIDs orphans in Africa.  Although I personally would have had a hard time saying no to indoor plumbing, I admire the selflessness of that congregation.  I wish more churches would spend extra time considering the best use of their money rather than focusing on their own needs.

What was supposed to be an academic experience for my husband ended up as a nice mini-vacation for us.  Although I would have never considered Kentucky as a vacation spot, I ended up enjoying my time there and am glad I was able to go.

1 comment:

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I am actually really fond of the state and told Tom that if we were to ever move to another state in this region I would consider KY. I have not spent much time in the eastern region (pretty sure that watching "Justified" does not count as knowing about that area) but if it's like Eastern TN + VA, I'm sure it's beautiful.