For Methodist ministers who may have had occasion to complain about the quality of an appointment, take heart! It could always be worse.

In 1799 the salary for a full time itinerant minister was $64 a year. Apparently it was recognized that Methodist itinerants were slightly under-compensated, because the following year that was increased to $80 a year. (I don’t know what that would come out to when adjusted for inflation, but a Congregationalist minister at the same time averaged about $400 per year.)

And if you were to get into a “who has the worst appointment” contest, I am willing to guess that Henry Smith has you beat. In 1801 after preaching a funeral sermon in Ohio Smith records that “when bed-time came I was conducted to the room from which the corpse had been taken a few hours before, to sleep on the bedstead, perhaps the very bed, on which the young man had died, without the house having been scrubbed and properly aired.”

Another Smith, Thomas Smith, in New Jersey in 1807, found himself in the awkward situation of having to sleep in the same room with the body of a man who had died that morning… His hosts must have thought him quite rude when they discovered that he had decided to sleep outside next to a tree.

If nothing else, this seems to bring out a whole different idea of radical hospitality than Bishop Robert Schnase talks about in his Five Practicesbook!

(The information in this post is found in John H. Wigger’s essay “Fighting Bees: Methodist Itinerants and the Dynamics of Methodist Growth, 1770-1820”, 87-133 in Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture, eds., Nathan O. Hatch, and John H. Wigger, (Nashville: Kingswood, 2001))

Advertisements