The Horseback Riding Ministry

It was June, probably 1950, and a new minister was assigned to First Methodist Church of Jonesboro. The pastor was a man who loved horses. His parting gift from his former congregation was a horse of his very own. My memory is sketchy with details of how we offered to board this beautiful animal. There was a pasture, fenced and with water, across the lane, and I know that his horse stayed along with several others including mine in that place, when they weren’t in the fenced enclosure and barn in the rear of our house.

The minister formed a group of young teens into a “riding club” and anyone who had access to the loan of a horse and could ride was welcome to participate. I think of sunny afternoons and the caring spirit of this good person in opening his thoughts to us and the comfort of knowing him as a man, approachable with our cares.

He wanted me to exercise his horse as I had time. I remember one late afternoon when the horse stopped abruptly and dumped me into the holly bushes!

Pastors have a difficult life as they are criticized about any little thing: not preaching long enough; one who preached on too deep a level for the congregation; one who didn’t read well; one who didn’t visit the sick. I could go on and on and each one of you who read this know what I mean. This dear man began to curtail his hours with the teens because, guess what, he spent too many hours shepherding his flock to understand life as Jesus taught and other things were being ignored – or so some people judged.

When this one teen was able to escape her unhappy home and learn unconditional love, how could anyone dare object. I look back and see that the Saturday afternoons were a blessing of peace. After all, if the minister just wanted to enjoy riding his horse, why would he want a bunch of teens trailing after him!