19338 Beaver Dam Rd, PO Box 67, Beaverdam, VA 23015
Beaverdam United Methodist Church
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Friends, United in Christ, Nurturing Each Other and the World
     The West Hanover Charge is a "pastoral charge" - a group of one or more churches that are organized under and subject to the Book of Discipline, with a single Charge Conference, and to which a clergy person is duly appointed as pastor in charge. The West Hanover Charge is part of the Richmond District of the Virginia Conference and includes Beaverdam UMC and Rouzie's Chapel UMC.
     The Richmond District of the Virginia Conference is comprised of 69 churches and a membership of over 41,000, served by approximately 85 clergy. The district covers churches located in parts of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, New Kent and Powhatan Counties, and the City of Richmond. The Richmond District seeks to be a resource to the leaders and members of these churches as they carry out their mission and ministry. The Leadership consists of:
     Rev. Dr. Peter M. Moon, District Superintendent
     Susan Mundell Petrey, District Secretary
     Cindy Payne-Ingroff, District Treasurer
History - In sparsely populated areas of the United States it always has been common for clergy in many denominations to serve more than one congregation at a time, a form of church organization sometimes called a "preaching circuit." In the contemporary United Methodist Church, a minister serving more than one church has a "(number of churches) point charge." However, in the rough frontier days of the early United States, the pattern of organization in the Methodist Episcopal denomination and its successors worked especially well in the service of rural villages and unorganized settlements. In the Methodist denominations, congregations do not "call" (or employ) a pastor of their own choice. Instead, a bishop "appoints" (assigns) a pastor to a congregation or a group of congregations, and until late in the 20th century, neither pastor nor congregation had any say in the appointment. This meant that in the early days of the United States, as the population developed, Methodist clergy could be appointed to circuits wherever people were settling.
   A "circuit" (nowadays referred to as a "charge") was a geographic area that encompassed two or more local churches. Pastors met each year at "Annual Conference" where their bishops would appoint them either to a new circuit or to remain at the same one. Most often they were moved to another appointment every year. (In 1804, the Methodist Episcopal General Conference decreed that no pastor was to serve the same appointment for more than two consecutive years.) Once a pastor was assigned a circuit, it was his responsibility to conduct worship and visit members of each church in his charge on a regular basis in addition to possibly establishing new churches. He was supervised by a Presiding Elder (now called a District Superintendent) who would visit each charge four times a year (the "Quarterly Conference").
Rural locations - Because of the distance between churches, these preachers would ride on horseback. They were popularly called circuit riders or saddlebag preachers. These frontier clergy were never officially called "circuit riders," but the name was appropriate and it stuck. Officially they were called "traveling" clergy (a term that is still used in Methodist denominations). They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples' cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners). Unlike clergy in urban areas, Methodist circuit riders were always on the move. Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. The ministerial activity of the circuit riders boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time.  In 1784, there were 14,986 members and 83 traveling preachers. By 1839, the denomination had grown to 749,216 members served by 3,557 traveling preachers and 5,856 local preachers.