Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Heritage of Esther Burgess

Lois and I recently attended the Memorial for Esther Word Burgess, wife of Tom. Hundreds came. We saw people from Florida, Puerto Rico, and India.

It was moving to hear their daughter Jean affirm that she wanted to be a Christian woman like Esther. Son Jon has been a stalwart of the faith since childhood.

I thought of the God-related decisions that had contributed so much to Esther’s highly-regarded life. Her parents loved the Lord and raised her to love him, too. Her dad was the controversial and to some people – abrasive Archie Word, among the last of the great revivalists. He was loved in mill towns and disdained in college cities.

Brother Word had a heritage from the John Mulkey movement in Kentucky. This is the preach-it-hard group that many church historians discount. John Mulkey of Tomkinsville, Kentucky stood up for what he believed. He was agressive. His son, John Newton Mulkey, spent his years preaching the same message at Glasgow, Kentucky.

Archie Word's mother Maggie (whom this writer knew) lived at the edge of Glasgow and attended the Glasgow church as a girl. Archie Word's pre-school church experiences would have been under the influence of the Mulkeys clan and their hard-driving preaching.

In turn, John Mulkey had been raised to love Jesus by his father Jonathan, a preacher. Jonathan’s own father Philip had been converted to Christ by one John Newton while studying Isaiah 53. We could step back to Shubal Stearns who made the decision to follow Christ from hearing Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield about 1740. Starns studied on his own to learn about the role of baptism in salvation.

When Philip Mulkey gave up fiddling for dances and turned his considerable talent toward heavenly causes, he could never had dreamed that in five or six generations, an heir would become renown because God had given her an extreme measure of musical talent and that it was all used to bring praise to the heavenly realm, perhaps even competing with the angels.


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