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Methodists honor circuit rider legacy

April 28, 2012
By Joe Hoover Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Imagine north-central West Virginia 200 years ago: Dirt roads often impassable from the wear of weather and traffic. Waterways without bridges. No indoor plumbing. No grocery stores. No hospitals.

It was a wild expanse of mountains, ravines and rivers.

Imagine traveling this land on horseback and on foot, 20, 30, 40 miles a day, four weeks at a time.

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This is what early American Methodist missionaries, called circuit riders, did to bring Methodism to the edge of the fledgling country.

Aware that today's Appalachian Methodists are indebted to the circuit riders' efforts, the Tucker County United Methodist Parish churches have included a special circuit rider element in the revivals they hosted from Wednesday through today.

Dr. Lawrence Sherwood, acclaimed Methodist circuit rider specialist, spoke Wednesday during the first revival at Davis United Methodist Church. He talked about West Virginia's circuit rider heritage.

"Our circuit riders would go out for weeks," Lawrence said. "The circuit that covered this area included 28 different locations, and it would usually take four weeks to complete it, depending on conditions."

The revival also included a performance by parishioner Kevin Keplinger who appeared as Bishop Francis Asbury, one of West Virginia's most prominent circuit riders.

"Circuit riders are like miners, " Keplinger said during his performance. "But souls are our iron."

The revival seemed to serve its purpose, because the church was nearly full.

Davis United Minister Neil Parsons said the service went very well.

"The parish decided to come together and host these revivals. Last night was a big success," he said.

Contact Joe Hoover by email at



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