By Jeremy Shannon
In February of 2014, thousands of people grieved as they learned about the unexpected passing of Dr. Jack “Doc” Birdwhistell.
Having served Georgetown College’s campus in several capacities including campus minister and Professor of Religion, Doc spent over 30 years investing in the lives of his students. I, along with what seems like infinite others, felt a strong bond with him.
This past semester at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, I was given the opportunity to create a tutorial. With this freedom to create, I knew that I wanted to do something that would honor one of Doc’s passions. Doc was famous for many things, but one of his biggest interests seemed to have been in the realm of church history, particularly local church history.
The idea soon came to me that there is no better way to learn about local church history than to visit the places where important events occurred. I arranged with my professor to create a course that would allow me to visit some prominent church historical sites within Kentucky and see what I could learn from their stories.
The places that I visited varied quite a bit. Over the course of the semester I was able to visit a monastery, the oldest Baptist church in the state, a Shaker community and a meeting house that’s location is often credited as the height of revivalism in America. While I expected my visits to mainly be informational in nature, I soon learned how connected I was to each place in one way or another. The church that I had never heard of had helped shape my college alma mater and ordained a minister at the church where I serve. The monastery and Shaker Village had deeply influenced people like Doc, whose influence has spread around the world. Some of the greatest stories of revivalism in America had occurred less than 20 minutes from my house.
As the church and the way that we do church changes, I have a fear that we will forget the stories that have helped shape who we are. It is up for us to take up the place where people like Doc left off, recording the stories of our faith and passing them on so they are not forgotten.
Thankfully people have recorded some information about these more prominent places. We must be diligent in recording the faithfulness of God in all of our congregations. As we do that, we will not only learn about faith from the experiences of those who have gone before us but also understand the responsibility that comes in continuing that work as we serve the world around us.
Jeremy Shannon is a CBF Leadership Scholar in his final year attending Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He serves as youth minister at Cynthiana Baptist Church in Cynthiana, Ky. If you’d like to visit Jeremy’s blog that was created as part of this project, click here.