I've been doing more genealogy... The information isn't new--Mom and I have been collecting it for years. I've just been picking through all our sources and trying to make some emotional connections. Mom has a lot of memories that I don't have...
Grandpa (Fred) Schneider married Elsie Phillips in 1915... After reading about the Schneiders, I became very curious about the Phillips family and their journey of faith. For these stories, we turn primarily to the writings of Uncle Everett.
Theophilus Ann (T. A.) Phillips (Elsie's father) accepted both the teachings of the Church of God and a call to the ministry in 1892. I cannot assume that this was necessarily a conversion experience--the Church of God was a young theological movement at the time, and the Phillips family may well have had prior exposure to the Gospel. Mom and I have genealogical data for Phillips ancestors living in Ohio as far back as 1810. There is a line of prominent Phillips ancestors who came to America from England in 1636 via Watertown, Massachusetts; and I suspect that our Phillips ancestors are somehow connected to this family in some way. However, I have not been able to determine the link yet. In any case, there would have been ample opportunities for the family to be exposed to the Gospel, in which case accepting the teachings of the Church of God would be a matter of theological preference rather than conversion. I used the wording here because it is what Uncle Everett used, and I feel that it may be important. Without being able to ask any of the Phillips relatives, it's impossible to know. I'm inclined to believe that T. A. had some prior knowledge of the Gospel which enabled him to develop a strong ministry.
The Staggs family is another story. T. A. married Elizabeth Ellen Staggs, known as Ellen, and Everett says on the final page of his collection that all of her relatives were not happy with T. A.'s decision to become a minister. Why this might be is unclear. There is no indication of their position of faith. There is, however, another piece of the puzzle that may indicate a reason for the Staggs' dislike of T. A.'s chosen path in life.
From the little I have been around them, and from the things I have heard, I would think the Staggs were hard working, thrifty people, but somewhat proud, suspicious and negative in outlook. They did not seem to be very happy. Things are better now, but there does not appear to be the warm feeling that I find in my Hatch relatives.
This kind of outlook and lifestyle might clash badly with a person's decision to become active in the ministry--it is possible that the family might fear being judged or even having to associate with "well-to-do" church attenders. People who are thrifty and proud sometimes don't realize their own need for a saving relationship with Jesus--I myself fall into this category at times when things are going well. I think this is why God continues to allow me to suffer from time to time.
Uncle Everett notes some problems that face traveling evangelists. I find it interesting that he noted these things, especially in light of some changes that occurred that were directly responsible for bringing the Phillips and Schneider families into close contact.
Father was away from home in meetings much of the time. It seems strange to me now that the ministers of that day were so often holding meetings somewhere else, and not so much effort and time was given to the home community. They believed so strongly in the imminent coming of Christ and the end of the world that they felt bound to reach as many as possible. Meetings were held in many places, then the minister, or the company moved on to another place. Too often the new converts were left to die. So with all the hard work, the self denial, and the efforts to reach as many as possible with the gospel, much of the good was lost for lack of loving care and proper teaching.
It seems that these problems must have begun to trouble his family. After several years spent in the traveling ministry, T. A. began pastoring a church in Colorado. He still held some meetings, and Everett mentions meetings in Gordon in 1908 and 1909. In 1910 the Phillips family moved to Gordon, Nebraska, permanently. Everett mentioned that T. A.'s health was very poor until his death in 1915. Grandpa Schneider's biographical sketch refers to Elsie as "the pastor's daughter," but Everett does not say that T. A. served as pastor of the church in Gordon. He does say that his mother and George Hatch, the father of his wife, carried on the work of the church and that several ministers came to hold revival meetings. An attachment written by Everett's daughter, Viola, says that she was born in the parsonage, in the home of pastor Theophilus and Ellen Staggs Phillips. In any case, God was making certain that the Phillips family was where they needed to be at the right time. The Schneiders needed good discipleship--and our family needed some Phillips genes!
Doing this genealogy project made me think about the place in one of my Beth Moore studies where I got stuck last year. She was talking about the Israelites setting up stones of remembrance, and I started thinking about them passing their stories down and wondering how younger generations made any connection with these past events. Somehow, not only the stories got passed down but also the passion. I want that passion in my family... Somehow it feels lost. Can it be rediscovered? With God all things are possible... It's really His story, not the Schneiders' or the Phillips'. And if it's His, then it will endure if I make it mine...