Posts Tagged ‘ Wesleyan ’

Clover Wesleyan Church, Part 2 – Visited on 8/1/12

Wayne Spear, pastor of Clover Wesleyan Church, sat for his interview with Churchspotting in his modest office in his church’s Fellowship Hall, a separate building from the church sanctuary and a regular setting for community meals and Bible study.  Though he woke sick that morning, Mr. Spear remained game to speak with Churchspotting.

Rev. Spear was a heavy-set man, of greying hair and deep set eyes.  He was born in  Davenport, Iowa in 1947, the oldest of four children.  His father was an electrical engineer; his mother, a schoolteacher.  Mr. Spear’s family settled in Davenport during his youth, and his parents spent the rest of their lives there.  He grew up on the brown banks of the Mississippi; in his youth, the principal entertainments were riding bikes around town and playing baseball in empty lots.

After high school Mr. Spear left home to begin the pre-engineering program at St. Ambrose college, from which he transferred to the University of Iowa.  In 1967, as he was going down to an evening’s dinner he noticed a poster that read, “Jesus Christ and the New Student Revolution.”  He’d never considered Jesus a revolutionary figure before, but that poster set him to reconsider the Presbyterian faith his family followed, and in which he was raised.  It set him on a trajectory that would lead to his current position as a minister of the Wesleyan Church.

When general drafts began for the Vietnam War, Wayne Spear decided to enlist and choose a position in the military rather than have it chosen for him.  He joined the US Navy, in which he served for six years as a nuclear-trained electrician on a nuclear-propelled fast attack submarine.  He assisted in the maintenance of electrical equipment on submarine tours that could last from a week to two months at a time–and according to Spear, anything longer than a few weeks seemed to stretch into eternity.

After leaving the military Mr. Spear became an employee of Duke Energy, a Charlotte NC based power company that supplies electricity throughout Charlotte’s surrounding area.  He helped write procedures for the operation of the McGuire Nuclear Station at Huntersville, North Carolina, while it was under construction.

During his time at McGuire one of Mr. Spear’s superiors introduced him to his own Wesleyan congregation, and he evinced a growing interest in spiritual matters and religious study.  After around one year with Duke Energy, Spear left his position as an engineer to enter seminary school.  During this second period of schooling Mr. Spear met the woman he eventually married, and worked nights as a janitor to support himself.

After earning his ordination as a pastor of the Wesleyan Church Mr. Spear tended to a succession of North Carolina churches before settling at Clover Wesleyan, where he has presided as pastor for the last seventeen years.

Clover Wesleyan was founded in 1911, when Clover SC was only three decades old.  As of this interview it averages around thirty-five attendees each Sunday.  The Wesleyan Church was itself a product of America’s 19th century social political schisms.  The group that became the Wesleyan Church split from the mainline Methodist denomination prior to the American Civil War over the issue of slavery.  Whole churches that chose to condemn slavery broke away from the Methodist body to become the Wesleyan Methodists; the group’s name has shortened over the decades into the simpler Wesleyan Church.

Rev. Wayne Spear said that homosexuality was an “abomination in the eyes of the lord.”  He views same-sex relationships as a sin, of the same type and caliber as adultery.  As both a minister and a veteran, Spear believes that though the United States was justified in its invasion of Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, it is not within the US’s power to “fix the whole world.”  He remarked that while the US was engaged in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, genocide and civil wars raged in Africa that our government did not feel obligated to intervene in.  He held that the reason the US intervened in Iraq but not Africa was Iraq’s substantial oil reserves.

Mr. Spear’s church sits across the street from the wreck of the American Thread property, the shuttered and decommissioned warehouses that once held Clover, SC’s textile output.  Many of his own flock worked in the town’s textile mills before the vast majority shut down during the late 1980s and 1990s.  Spear said that God promises to bless the lives, lands and families of those who are faithful, and withdraw those blessings from those who are not.

He believes that America has turned against the Lord, and as such the country’s blessing is withheld.  He attributes this moral decline to the rise of secularism in American culture, to the practice of abortion, and to the breakdown of traditional marriage.  He also cited the “homosexual agenda trying to take over the country,” as a major contributor to civil decay.

Mr. Spear is not sure whether or not we currently live in the End Times mentioned in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, but he said that after 1948 and the founding of the modern state of Israel, that possibility is stronger than ever.

On the proper relationship between Church and State, he said that the government is barred from establishing a state religion, but contended that Christmas displays on city property do not constitute such.  He maintained that God will bless America if the nation returns to Christian practice and values.

Clover Wesleyan Church, Clover SC – Visited on 7/29/12

Clover Wesleyan Church stands beside Highway 321 in the southern stretches of Clover, SC.  To its immediate north lies the former warehouse lot of American Thread Inc., once a mammoth repository for the town’s textile output.  The warehouse was shuttered decades ago.  In more recent years the nearer of the two warehouse buildings to the church’s property was demolished to its foundations, leaving nothing more than a vast grassy field.  The church’s lighted signboard by the highway reads in black, interchangeable letters, “Pray For America.”

Sunday school starts at 10 AM at Clover Wesleyan; the day’s religious service begins at 11.  Devotions are held in the church’s sanctuary, a high-ceilinged, white-washed hall.  Two rows of pews march down its subtly slanted floor, each decked with faded off-pink cushions.  Wall to wall carpeting of a slightly darker pink covers the floor beneath them.  The walls are pierced by towering, arched stained glass windows.  Their colored panes do not depict scenes or specific images; they are simply plates of swirling, predominantly blue-tinted glass.  Their glow on the morning of July 29, along with the illumination cast by electric lamps hanging from the ceiling, gave the sanctuary a fresh, pale light.

The pews give way to a narrow open space before a curved wooden banister rises to delineate the congregation’s seating and the wooden pulpit, altar and choir loft beyond.  The choir sits in a tall, squarish depression in the far wall; above them hangs a wooden cross.  The church’s pastor sits in a high-backed wooden chair beside the choir loft when not speaking or preaching.  Two flags stand in the corners: the American flag to the congregation’s left and the Christian flag to their right.

The congregation numbered about 35 individuals on the morning of the 29th, with around a quarter of those being children.  Dress tended towards the formal, with women in dresses and men in collared shirts and slacks.  This trend lessened with the congregation’s children, with most–but not all–of high school age and younger arriving in street or school clothes.

The day’s service began with announcements delivered by the church’s pastor, Rev. Wayne Spear.  A heavyset, middle aged man, he wore one of the handful of suits present at that day’s service.  A performance by the choir, a seven-member body of men and women led by a young woman referred to by the congregation as ‘Miss Anna,’ who guided the rest of the church in a cycle of hymns.  Despite the choir’s microphones and the piano accompaniment, the congregation’s voices were still clearly audible as they took part in the music.

After the songs came the day’s offering collection.  Two older men who’d stood by the sanctuary doors stepped forward to bear the golden plates up and down the pews, collecting what stray bills and envelopes the congregation put forward.  Then the congregation’s children filed onto the front pews to listen to the ‘Young People’s Sermon’ offered by Rev. Spear.  The pastor described to the children what heaven is supposed to be like, and explained to them that their only means of reaching that paradise was to ask forgiveness for their sins and accept God into their lives.

After the children’s sermon Spear asked his congregation for any particular people or issues they ought to pray for, then led them in worship.  Topics of prayer included members of the congregation who were sick or undergoing medical treatment, an Air Force chaplain slated to head for Afghanistan, and a few requests members of the church wished to remain ‘unspoken’–that is, prayed for by the group but not explained publicly, trusting to the omniscience of the deity to know what was ultimately asked for.

Another performance by the choir followed, which was succeeded in turn by a performance by the “Wesleyan Men”: a group of six men, including the pastor, lined up on stage to voice a gospel song, with Miss Anna on the piano for accompaniment.  After the Wesleyan Men finished, the pastor took his place behind the pulpit and began a sermon that filled the rest of the worship service.

Mr. Spear took that morning to advise his congregation on how to be “effective and productive” as Christians.  He read from 2nd Peter in the Bible’s New Testament, and listed qualities the apostle Peter believed were essential to meaningful Christian practice.  He explained that works alone had no bearing on whether or not one went to heaven after death–that lay entirely with each individual’s faith and repentance–but added Peter’s belief that “faith without works is dead.”

Spear said that a great part of living the Christian life was a matter of personal discipline.  He told his congregation that so long as they lived on Earth they’d be surrounded by iniquity and decadence, and as such it was their duty to keep themselves apart from corruption.  He invoked the character Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or at least their film adaptations, and spoke of how Gollum’s lust for the One Ring goaded him to hate and fear those who tried to help him.  As an example of standing firm in the face of decadence Mr. Spear hailed the Catholic Church’s “stand against gay marriage.”

After Rev. Spear’s sermon a Norman Dunn, one of the Wesleyan Men and an elder member of the church, led the congregation in a final prayer.  With that the worship service ended, and the congregation dispersed into a bright, relatively cool afternoon of late July.