February 12, 2014

Slave, Minuteman, Pastor: Lemuel Haynes

Stephen Nichols
Slave, Minuteman, Pastor: Lemuel Haynes


This is the month of February, and February we celebrate Black History Month. So in this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, we'll be looking at the life of Lemuel Haynes. We even titled this "Slave, Minuteman, Pastor."

Lemuel Haynes was born in July 18, 1753. He was born in Connecticut, but as a 5 month old he found himself in Massachusetts. He was an indentured servant, or slave. But he was also educated, and he was educated in a strong Calvinist family, and in a strong Calvinist Congregational church. In 1773, at 20 years of age, Lemuel Haynes was converted and professed his faith in Jesus Christ. The next year, 1774, he was again set free, and this time from his bondage as a slave. So, Haynes was a free man.

This of course was the time of the fomenting of the Revolutionary spirit in the early moments that would lead to the Revolutionary war. And Haynes enlisted as a minuteman, and he found himself as a soldier in the Continental Army. He fought right from the beginning in America's Revolutionary war and fought through the early campaigns. Following the war, Haynes took up a pastorate, and he also took to writing. He pastored a church for 30 years in Rutland, Vermont. And he holds the place as the first African American pastor to a white congregation. He then spent the last 11 or so years of his life pastoring in West Granville, New York. Lemuel Haynes died on September 28, 1833.

I mentioned that Lemuel Haynes also wrote, and he wrote a number of things. In fact, a beautiful piece that he wrote was called, "The Character of a Spiritual Watchman." This was his way of talking about the pastorate, or the character of a pastor. He starts this with emphasizing that a pastor must have natural gifts and a good education. He says this is just a given that you would have these natural gifts, that you would be educated in the word, educated in theology. Then he goes on to talk about the spiritual watchmen, or the pastor's character traits. And Lemuel Haynes goes on the list five.

The first is love. "The shepherd must love the flock," Haynes says. The second character trait is wisdom and prudence. The third is patience. The fourth is courage, and fortitude. And the fifth is vigilance. Now as we think about these for the pastoral ministry, I think in reality we all need these as Christians, don't we? We all need to be marked by these character traits.

I thought I would go back and read for you what he has to say about the fourth character trait—the character trait of courage and fortitude. Haynes says this:

"Courage and fortitude must constitute a part of the character of a gospel minister.  A sentinel who is worthy of that station will not fear the formidable appearance of the enemy, nor tremble at their menaces. None of these things will move him; neither will he count his life dear unto him to defend a cause so very important. He has the spirit of intrepid Nehemiah." Quoting from Nehemiah 6:11, "'Should such a man as I flee?' The spiritual watchman stands fast in the faith. Quits himself like a man and is strong."

Well, in his own day Lemuel Haynes took a stand. He took a stand for the gospel. In his area in Vermont he was surrounded by Unitarian Universalists, and yet he took a stand for the gospel. And of course, in his day he was surrounded by slavery. And he took a stand for that too. So, Lemuel Haynes knows a thing or two about courage and fortitude.

As we think back on his life, and we look at our own contexts, we see that we are called upon to speak the gospel, to speak a gospel that's not always received, and to speak into a culture that is sometimes hostile. And may we be encouraged to be courageous and to have fortitude as we do it.

So, I hoped you've enjoyed this celebration of the life of Lemuel Haynes. He is a very worthy servant and a great voice from the past for us.