Preaching on the Plains, Chapter One – First Preaching

In Preaching on the Plains on June 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

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Preaching on the Plains, by David K. Myers, D.D.

Chapter 1

“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.”
(Psalm 126:6)

The year was 1927 and the month was May. A young man in his mid-twenties was on the trailing, New England train bound for Nova Scotia. It had left Boston to the south, and hugging somewhat the Atlantic Coast, the state of Maine was passed and the high watery gorge at the border city of St. John’s New Brunswick. Then rolling above the northern reach of the Bay of Fundy, the steam train came to the charming city of Truro, Nova Scotia. De-training at this point, the young man entered the combined mail and passenger carrying auto. In this he began to see the sights of the picturesque western shore of Minas Basin and in time was brought to his journey’s end, the village of Economy.

Minas Basin is a beautiful and historic inlet from the Atlantic Ocean. Its tides flow through a narrow defile to a broadpointed gulf. These tides wash even to a point near Truro. On its eastern shore across from Economy is the site of Grand Prez from whence French settlers had been cruelly expelled at the time of the French and Indian wars for Canada. The region was called Acadia, as is also an area of Louisiana today, to which some of the expelled were taken by the British. Longfellow celebrated this sad event in his “Evangeline”.

As one traveled and approached Economy, he could still see the old French dikes bordering creeks and marshy lands. Some could still be seen sturdy after two centuries or more. They seemed to be in surprisingly good condition showing the faithful labors in their construction long ago.

Passing Bass River, a furniture town, Economy was soon seen to the south in a pastoral setting such as all the coastal areas had revealed. Yet spring weather had hardly released this northern clime from its winter cold. Small pastures, trees and bay brought beauty to one’s eyes everywhere.

The young man fancies a legend concerning the name, “Economy”. It is that the place was called by the Indians, “Oconomo”. When the French came it was “Oicionomoi”. Then the Scottish settlers came and it was, “Economy”. While the writer does not vouch for the truth of these statements, the concoctions of his own fertile mind; still, after marriage to his faithful wife he first met in Edinburgh, Scotland, nearly fifty years ago (1931), he can state that the word and practice of economy is a good name for one’s habits or for a village in Nova Scotia.

Now it may be fairly guessed that the young man described above is the writer of this record, Preaching on the Plains. Hereafter he plans to take the liberty of writing in the first person. While he is writing he is far from the Great Plains of the American West where a good deal of his ministry was to be. And Economy, Nova Scotia, in this point in the narrative, was also distant from the same region. But he believes it was a most helpful place for the beginning of his ministry. It will be described in this and a following chapter.

A “student minister”, for that was my status, is not an ordained minister. He cannot marry any one, but he can officiate at burial ceremonies. He is expected to visit the people of a church or preaching field. Where it is needed he is also expected to preach according to his best efforts although his training is still limited in scope. Often, students from Bible Colleges, Institutes or Seminaries were so employed summer vacations, or during the year’s academic periods within reach of the schools they were attending.

At the time related above, a request had come to the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, asking for twenty students to come to Maritime churches that adhered to the Presbyterian faith. Most of us were ‘Juniors’ or first year men at Seminary. I saw the request listed on the bulletin board. My first thought was to pass it by. I felt I was far short of being equipped to preach. While the greatest of teachers were our mentors — such as Drs. Robert Dick Wilson (Hebrew), J. Gresham Machen (Greek), Caspar Wistar Hodge (Systematic Theology) — I felt short of training, or adequate to care for a church, or to preach for twenty summer weeks. (It is to be said that no one is ever sufficient “of ourselves”, II Corinthians 3:5, 6. Paul, too, had said before, “And who is sufficient for these things?”, II Corinthians 2:16).

But I noticed that the bulletin board did not fill up with twenty volunteers and began to feel for the Canadian churches. They were then like Fundamentalists. They did not go into the liberal and ecumenical United Church of Canada. At that time in Economy they were old time Scot Presbyterian laymen who wished to preserve their heritage. And they believed in the verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture. I finally said to myself, “Well, I am not sure even if I am to become a minister in my life. But at least I could go up there and give them my testimony; and would not that be better than if a church had nobody at all?

That effort, for five months the summer of 1927, proved to be just about the hardest thing I had ever tried to do! My sermons were largely the product of studying a word from a Bible Concordance (Strongs). They were such words as “faith” and “repentance”. The concordance had many references of such words. I would look them all up and put them down. Then my problem was to arrange them in a logical and meaningful pattern. Now having not then learned to speak from an outline, and fearful later of forgetting what was in my prepared message, I would commit to memory, word for word, the written sermon. In my mind I imagined a situation might come when the next word in line would be forgotten and this would cause me to forget the entire message! This would leave me entirely lost, ashamed, undone.

Later in the summer, that fear seemed to be very present in actual fulfillment, indeed. A period of illness came one week, and so time was lost preparing and memorizing the sermon for the Sunday following. The morning came, however fearful to face it, with an ill memorized sermon. I harnessed “Billy G.”, Elder Soley’s retired race horse, to the buggy. This task was new to a city-raised lad. Feeling very uncertain, I drove to Lower Economy where the smaller of the two churches had an early morning service. I laid my written sermon on the pulpit. It was the first time I had let one appear, but felt that while I’d be humiliated to do it, yet if memory failed, I might refer to the written paper. Well, in the opening part of the service, the usually calm morning found a sudden gust of wind come. Windows were open at each side of the platform, and the sudden blast just blew my sermon right out of the window. I was aghast. Do not recall how I did it, but somehow I got through that sermon.

Vivid is the recollection of my first sermon. It was the first I had ever preached in a church and was in the main Economy church. The edifice was a very large and impressive building. Battlements were atop the entrance tower. At an earlier period when the country was full of people, no doubt the church had a large congregation. They had had eminent pastors. But many, especially young people, left for other areas such as Boston for employment. When I arrived at the church, services were planned that Sunday in a smaller room in an annex at the rear of the large auditorium. It could be heated more easily. The winter’s cold was still felt in that north country. Men in charge asked me if I wished the large pulpit moved from the main auditorium to the small room. It was huge but I said, “Yes”. (It seemed to have large, protective flanges and in my state of mind it seemed to be a safer place to be for a novice like myself!).

Then news came which was unsettling. The organist could not come because of illness. This seemed disastrous. In those days I did not claim to be much a singer for my voice seemed to be quite flat and nasal to me. Nevertheless, the service was begun without an organ as I announced the first “congregational hymn”. To my great surprise I found myself singing a solo, and that without musical accompaniment. Then followed in order the other parts of the worship service and just before the sermon was the second congregational hymn. For this, one other voice, an alto, joined mine and thus it was a duet, really. Since that time I have thought it quite possible that the hymns I chose were unfamiliar to the congregation. I learned later that these descendants of Scottish ancestors were not people of pretense. They were a most kindly folk, but if some of them felt they were not singers, I suppose they did not try to sing, certainly if unfamiliar numbers. Then followed the moment of truth: the delivery of the sermon!

At this time I recall a particularly needed blessing and impression came to me. It was almost as if a voice was speaking to me and saying, “Now you are all right, just go ahead”. I gave out the text, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”. It was the story of the two to Emmaus who met the Saviour on the morning of the resurrection. But they knew him not and heard him say these words and others which opened their eyes and their understanding, Luke 24:26ff. It may be that the comforting impression at the beginning of the sermon was part of my mother’s advice, repeated in my mind to me. I had once told her of my forebodings if I were ever called upon to preach. Her advice was to, “Just hide behind the cross.”

I did preach that morning in Economy. At the end of the sermon a fair and goodly number joined in the singing of the last hymn. At the Isaiah Morrison home for the noon meal, I felt anxious how the sermon was really received. A telephone rang and it was for me. The caller was a visitor who had been at the service, a native son now of middle age returning for a vacation to his home country. He asked me in his call to tell him the chapter and verse of the sermon text. It gave me instant elation and relief. At least one person in the congregation was interested enough to ask for the text. Since that time I have thought it quite likely he made that call in order to encourage a very young and inexperienced preacher. Folk told me later that summer that at that service they just knew it was the very first sermon I had ever preached. They were a gracious people. They called me the “little minister”. Though 5′ 10″ in height, I was slight and was indeed little in more way than one.

That summer I met some of the captains of ships in the earlier days of sail. A number of these ship-masters were still living and in Economy. Isaiah Morrison was one, where I boarded. He and others of the captains told me that I ought to meet Captain Bird Marsh! I imagine he had commanded one of the famed “clipper” ships. He was 90 years old and dean of them all. He and his kind were to soon pass from this world. I went to his home very soon. He met me at his gate, a little man with sky blue eyes and a sweet face. I said to him I had heard him well spoken of as a man of ability as a ship’s master. His answer was, “For fifty years I sailed the high seas. I never lost a ship; I never lost a man. I I had a Pilot!” As he spoke the last words he pointed to the heavens.

Some weeks later I made a second visit to the captain’s home. He invited me into his living room. In the course of the conversation he spoke of his experience at one time in a typhoon in the China Sea. In the fury of the storm he went “below” (like Paul long ago). He came on deck, above, after his prayers and saw a light at a course ahead of the ship. He added, “Now you may not believe me, Mr. Myers, but I was there! I just turned the ship into the path of that light and it brought me safely into my harbor.” I believed him.

Tears were moistening the eyes of the elderly Morrison’s and to my surprise as I was bidding them goodbye. I am sure now it was because of their Christian and mature kindliness and love in Christ for a somewhat shaky and scared lad with whom they bore patiently and cared for as an alien, and I must say I felt most unworthy for their gracious thought for me. Mature Christians they were and Mrs. Morrison then said, “They never forget their first love.” (I take it she meant that a young minister never forgets his first church). And I never have!

  1. Thank you for offering this account of Rev. David K. Myers. He was my father and I had the privilege of typing the first manuscript. I hope his account will be used for God’s glory.
    In Dad’s aviation ministry, I was often a passenger in his light weight, two-seated Luscombe plane. I was taken along to play the piano for services in remote areas or for his radio broadcast ministry. You might say we flew on a “wing and a prayer,” as there were few instruments and no radio contact in those days. One did not know what weather conditions were like a few miles away.
    Thank you again for offering my Dad’s story through this venue.
    I am now a member of New Life PCA of La Mesa, CA.

    Respectfully submitted, Mary A. Peterman

    • It is my honor to be able to make some of your father’s autobiography available for a wider audience. I was particularly pleased when David and the family elected to place the manuscript here for preservation at the PCA Historical Center. I’m looking forward to some of the next chapters, as your father tells about going off to seminary and the years immediately following.

      • Thank you for your gracious reply! I don’t believe many people are aware that my Dad preached at the morning worship service on the day of his Home going at the age of 88, Feb. 16, 1992 at the Nursing Home in Muskegon, MI where he resided. We sent notification of his death to as many people as we could including the History Department of Princeton Seminary. We included a bio of Dad’s ministry as well as an account of his stand for historic Christianity. I received a nice letter in reply from the Office of the President saying, “We need more men at Princeton Seminary like your father in this day and age.” The Lord works in mysterious ways!

        In Christ,
        Mary A. Peterman

  2. this year the reformed presbyterian church which was known as the bible presbyterian church of LEMMON SD will be celebrating their 75 anniversary in september where rev david k myers started the church in 1936. we would be pleased to have his son and daughter in attendance. sincerely yours, lynn peterson, member of the reformed presbyterian church lemmon south dakota

  3. our 75th anniversy of the reform presbertarian church of Lemmon SD will be the tenth and eleventh of september whichwas known asthe bible presbertarian church have david contact me if he can make it lynn peterson

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