Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Christian Heritage

Like tracing the outline of a shadow on the wall, so is recounting one’s family’s spiritual heritage. The sturdy Scot-Irish identity, grounded in Presbyterianism, was passed down generations to men who served in the capacity as missionaries, ministers, deacons and women who demonstrated courageous acts of charity.

Pastor was James Patterson Kerr
Boyds MD Presbyterian Church
c. 1955
Quakers took up the cause of racial equality generations before civil rights came to the forefront of social consciousness. Such was the legacy of Jonathan Lindley whose influence lived on in his great granddaughter and great-great granddaughter, faithful keepers of the light.

It is evident that charity began in the home of Henry Presley Thornton (1783-1865). When Clorinda Coffin married the oldest son Thomas Volney Thornton (1810-1845), a Presbyterian by faith, she was ex-communicated from her Quaker church and family. Sadly, their only child, Harriet, did not survive her first year. When Clorinda was widowed in her husband’s 38th year, it was her in-laws who provided shelter. Following their father’s example, the Thornton men were active in their community as church lay-leaders and financial supporters, to name a few; Edmund Braxton Thronton (1856-1929), Henry Clark Thornton (1852-1930) and George Abram Thornton (1821-1854).


Notable examples of men who served in the ministry include Robert N. Davis (1923-2002), Ernest and Robert Shaw, and James P. Kerr.
left to right: Harriet E (nee Hall) Shaw, Frances Dallant,
Eleanor Shaw (dau), Ernest Thornton Shaw, Stephen Shaw (son)
Pieping, China - October 1936

Ernest Thornton Shaw (1889-1958), the son of Presbyterian Minister  Robert P Shaw (1844-1935) and Mary Caroline Thornton (1854-1930), born in Michigan, but he grew up in Tacoma, Washington. After graduation from Washington Territorial University, he visited China in 1912 and then entered Oberlin Seminary. He finished advanced studies at Columbia Theological School in New York City. He returned to China in 1918 as an ordained Presbyterian minister. Whereupon, with his wife Harriet, he received a lifetime appointment  from the American Board Commissioner Foreign Mission to Indo-China and North China. His family settled in Peiping, China, where his primary occupations included operating a radio station and serving as Vice Principal of the Yu Ying Boy’sSchool. Ernest and his wife remained in China even after their release from the Japanese internment camp at Weihsein in 1945, leaving under the orders from the newly-installed Communist Regime in 1951. Following in his older brother’s footsteps, Robert Braxton Shaw (1897-1989), became an ordained Methodist minister and social activist. It is an interesting conjecture to think what motivated a young man to give up all that he knew and was comfortable with to live his life in a distant land. 


James and Ruth Kerr
50th Wedding Anniversary
celebration
 In 1904 Ruth Davis (1882-1970), married James Patterson Kerr (1880-1964), also a Presbyterian minister. The Kerr’s settled in Boyds, Maryland, serving with exemplary dedication in a church ministry for 31 years; a total of 60 years before his retirement at the age of 80 years in 1960. They were faithful to church and marriage, celebrating their 50th anniversary in the year 1954. Ruth and James lived a modest life punctuated by family gatherings and enriched by music and art.  Humility and modesty guided their lives:  their contributions have not been forgotten at the Boyds Presbyterian Church
 
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