by Phil Miller–
MapQuest steered me south on Martinsville Road and then across Battleground Avenue onto David Caldwell Drive. Who was David Caldwell, I wondered. No, I didn’t Google him. I came across his name again in Newell Williams’ book, Barton Stone: A Spiritual Biography. (In case you don’t know, Barton Stone was one of the founders of our denomination and is the one for whom Barton College is named.)
David Caldwell moved to Guilford County in 1765 and lived here until his death in 1824. During those 59 years, he pioneered education from his two-story log home. Five of his graduates became governors of states. In January, 1790, Barton W. Stone, age 17, enrolled to study law with Caldwell, a New Light Presbyterian preacher and teacher. (Chapel Hill did not yet have the University.)
A frequent visitor to Caldwell’s academy at that time was the Reverend James McGready. His preaching aroused a year-long spiritual struggle for Barton Stone. At the end of that year, Stone attended a service at Alamance, a church Caldwell pastored, and heard a sermon by William Hodge which emphasized God’s love. Afterward, Stone went into the woods with his Bible and prayed. He counted that as his conversion experience. He dropped his plan to become a lawyer and decided to study religion.
Stone’s biography continues on a spiritual roller-coaster, but I merely want you to notice how important Greensboro and Guilford County were in his development at an impressionable age. “Our History,” the article in First Christian’s centennial booklet, says, “It was 1899 before Disciples were known to be living in Greensboro,” and it took them 18 years to organize a church. In other words, it was over a century after Barton Stone enrolled in David Caldwell’s school in this very county before the denomination that calls Stone its founder emerged here.
The previous two churches I served through the transition between pastors were both established in 1832. Two weeks before coming to Greensboro, I returned to a church in Northern Kentucky, which was started in 1912 as a break-away from another Disciples church. So, as things go in the Southeast, FCC Greensboro is relatively new. Yet it has ties with the earliest roots of Disciples thought and spirituality—the struggles and prayers of a student in Guilford County named Barton Stone.
photo credit: Google, mapio