Last Wednesday, I pointed my Chevy SUV down I-85 and headed through a rain-soaked Atlanta to a place I had never been, Columbus, Georgia.

Two blocks from my downtown hotel is the Bo Bartlett Center where Dr. Bartlett and two of his famous art students were on the program for the current exhibition. Amy Sherald painted the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama (above); she came to her hometown to chair the panel discussion. Kate Capshaw titled her first solo show “Unaccompanied” because it features stark paintings of homeless and unaccompanied youth.

“How was your transition from actress to artist?” Amy asked Kate halfway through the panel presentation. “I was never really an actress,” Kate responded. It made me recall what a transgender woman said recently when I asked about her prior life as a male: “I never was a man. I only presented as one.”

I drove to Atlanta and flew to Texas where I spent the following day with Pat Ayres. She took me on a tour of her 7,000-acre Shield Ranch on the outskirts of Austin. “Did your parents earn their living by working the ranch?” I asked, to which she replied, “No. My dad was in oil.” Which, no doubt created her capacity to be a benefactor of note, including for The Meetinghouse.

The farm is now a “historic district and protected wildland” with a slice transformed into a summer camp and event facility with new immigrants as its target demographic. “I’d like to broadcast TheMeetingHouse from this fabulous space,” I said, sweeping my hand around the upper-level room with picture windows providing panoramic views of the Texas landscape.

Sunday brought me back to the micro church in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where I serve as pastor. Before I preached the sermon (including my assessment of the campus revival at Asbury University, “Heaven and Earth” linked here) parishioner Joshua Bledsoe gave testimony to his joy with our new non-discrimination statement. “For six years, I have prayed for this,” he said, before concluding with, “I love you, Providence.”

We love you back, Josh, associate pastor Marcy Mynatt responded for all of us. I put my arm around him as he walked out the sanctuary at the end of our worship. We are on this journey together.

That night, five of us drove to Taylors, South Carolina, to attend our first Hymns & Hops. It was hosted in a repurposed warehouse and filled, shoulder to shoulder, with adults of all ages.

What were they doing? Singing hymns, driven by a band of guitars, drums, fiddle, and tambourine. Not new contemporary songs, but hymns, old hymns, like “There is a Fountain.”

It is a fad begun in Australia under the banner of “Pub Choir” and publicized by Baptist News Global. I mentioned the article to a friend while talking at Starbucks when a stranger nearby interrupted with “I’m the leader of the Hymns & Hops band.” He told us when and where, and we went. We stayed for two and a half hours, all the time plotting to bring some version of this appealing Christian gathering to Hendersonville.

On Monday, Allan and I headed to Kentucky for long-standing commitments. Our travels to the Bluegrass just happened to coincide with the surprising work of God, as many name it, at Asbury University. For 12 days, the chapel full of praying, singing students had gone on nonstop.

We headed down there, to Wilmore, on Tuesday. I made four videos for use on the weekly broadcast of TheMeetingHouse. That will be available Thursday night on YouTube, Facebook, and at But I kept reading about all of it, including a fascinating article by another resident of Greenville County in South Carolina. I reached out to him with an invitation to coffee.

All that made for a busy week and perhaps a weakened immune system. Because my Tuesday evening plans to join the American Spiritual Ensemble for a unique community singalong came to naught, undone by symptoms not to be scattered among others.

But that won’t keep me from enjoying yet another basketball game, Kentucky at Florida, ESPN, Wednesday evening. And when I get back to Travelers Rest—aptly named, don’t you think—I have on tap a Leanne Morgan comedy show, a house full of company, and—as always—Sunday morning church.

It has been an invigorating eight days of delight stretching over six states (if I count the two plus hours of travel through Tennessee on my way from Kentucky to South Carolina). I’ll be glad to find some respite once again in Travelers Rest.


Published On: February 22nd, 2023 / Categories: Commentary /

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