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Forgotten Faces, Places and Faiths

George Whitefield doesn’t get much recognition in the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.  Yet, during the Tent Revivals inspired by the first Great Awakening, George Whitefield traveled throughout northern Delaware. preaching along the banks of Pike Creek and as far south as the town that bears his name, St. Georges.  According to colonialist historians, Whitefield began his preaching and teaching in New England under Jonathon Edwards’ leadership.  From here Whitefield traveled to Pennsylvania following William and Gilbert Tennent to each event.  Whitefield also spent time helping Samuel Davies in Virginia as these awakenings using stationary tents led to many converts to Christianity.  Unfortunately, George Whitefield lived in the shadows of two friends from England, Charles and John Wesley.  While Whitefield received notoriety as an inspirational evangelist, the Wesley’s founded the Methodist Church.  As new converts to Christianity in Delaware grew, Methodist churches began to form up and down this state, embracing a methodical application of spiritual disciplines.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite, Isaiah 57:15.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is a 14 mile long body of water that connects the Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay in Northeast Maryland.  From 1822 and 1829, construction on this United States Army Corp of Engineers project faced many obstacles.  Besides financial issues and a changed in plans further south toward the Back Creek branch of the Elk River, the waterway finally opened in 1829 using a four lock system.  The total cost was 3.5 million dollars, the most expensive government project of its day.  During the rerouting of this canal, two cities were cut in half; Chesapeake City, Maryland and St. Georges, Delaware.  While Chesapeake City maintains a steady population fueled by restaurants and marinas on the north and south banks, St. George’s is nearly dead.  To add insult to injury, the bridge constructed to connect northern with southern Delaware was built directly over Main Street.  Thus, unless you visit one of the few dining establishments, not much remains of the town George Whitefield put on the map.

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him, Hosea 6:2.

Like any good thing, even revivals come to an end.  Thus, instead of relying on emotions and a spiritual high, new converts to Christianity need to begin to exercise their faith.  Depending upon your past, this spiritual detox will take time along with pain and struggles of change.  To avoid falling prey to legalism, this transitional period should include an acceptance of rising and falling.  While perfection is unattainable, God simply wants our best effort with an expectation to grow closer to the Lord each day.  Although this sound logical, some faiths will grow cold and die.  When I was a youth pastor out of college, I took a country road to church every Sunday.  One day  I noticed a small church forced to close their doors as the congregation either passed away or moved on to another denomination.  A few weeks later, this abandoned building re-opened as a liquor store, a crushing blow to changing times.  Today, about a thousand churches close their doors each year worldwide.  While the number of believers have remained about the same, the commitment level has softened.  Thus, many Americans have forgotten godly leaders of the past like George Whitefield, towns like St. Georges and their faith in God.  May a new awakening come quickly so that souls will be revived with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as America celebrates Independence Day.

by Jay Mankus

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