Monday, March 16, 2009

Guest Blogger: Mary Connealy on Preachers

Hatch, Match, and Dispatch

I write historical romance so I do a lot of research.

For part of the upcoming Montana Marriages series I wanted my hero to fill in for the circuit rider when he was out of town, which opened up some really interesting lines of research.

What really makes a minister back in the old days?

I mean really, think about it. Were their seminaries? Yes. Harvard was one. Princeton was one. Did all ministers have to attend them? Not sure.

Could anyone declare himself a minister? Some churches now let you do that. And, if you declared yourself a minister, could you perform weddings? I mean it’s dealt with often in burials, whoever’s handy says a prayer and leads everyone in “Amazing Grace.” But a wedding is different. It’s a legally binding contract between two people, right? Besides being a vow before God. So does a minister have to be licensed?

I want my hero, Red, from book one, Montana Rose (releasing July 2009), to perform a marriage ceremony in book 3.

Now these days, you can get a license and call yourself a preacher over the Internet. It’s wide open. I mean, sure it’s a huge commitment if you want to be a Catholic priest, but you wanta be a pastor in the church of Elvis Presley? No problem.

I Googled “Minister License Free” for the purposes of this post and, yikes, it’s easy.

>>>>Become an ordained minister legally by our online Christian ministry for free. . .within the 50 United States ordination by mail<<<<<

>>>Free ordained minister credentials<<<<

There were 1,980,000 hits. Try

No idea what’s on these sites but it sure looks easy to legally do baptisms, weddings, and funerals: That is to Hatch, Match and Dispatch. You know the baptisms and funerals, sure, anyone can do that. But marriages? That’s a legal, binding contract that takes serious steps to break. It seems like it’d be harder to be able to do those.

We think of the Pilgrims as seriously conservative, right? They’d take their vows before their parents and TADA! they were married. Everyone accepted it. And when a circuit rider came along, he’d bless whatever marriages had begun, however long ago that was…and maybe baptize their children while he was there.

So that’s interesting and fine. But for my book, I’d better come up with a real marriage. My editors assured me it was the right thing to do. :)

The thing that makes this especially hard is how much information I DID find. I found a site that listed every church in every town and in many cases; the number of members, the day the church was opened, a description of the church building, sometimes photos, the name of the pastor, and where he went to college. I mean I found serious DETAILS here.

What really struck me, though, is how few pastors, how few towns, how few people. Guess what else? How few women!

The population in Montana in 1880 was 39,000. Actually 39,129, yes they took a census. And they knew how many members belonged to each church. It was harder than I expected and also fascinating.

You know. . .the west was really empty. The boom towns created by a gold strike were few to begin with and very often abandoned completely when the gold ran out.

Do any of you have info on ordination of pastors in 1880 Montana? What do you find in your research that surprises you? And how would be EVER do it without the Internet?


Erica Vetsch said...

Hatch, Match and Dispatch? LOL!

I love internet research to get a feel for what I should be looking for. Like shooting off an 8 gauge shotgut at my covy of questions and ideas and seeing what falls from the sky.

But nothing for me beats getting my hands on books, photographs(if possible), journals, letters, and especially newspaper clippings. And following a particular bit of information through these sources is like using a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight.

Mary Connealy said...

I've been doing so much research on my WIP, not the Montana Rose series, those are done, but what comes after. I just hit a major, major road CLIFF.

So, I'm rewriting a whole lotta that book, but thank heaven's I found out I'd made a very incorrect assumption, something that absolutely could NOT have happened.

Feel like I had a very close shave.

flchen1 said...

I have no idea how I'd learn anything without the Internet these days, Mary! And wow, I didn't know any of that about preachers! Gotta love research!

Vickie McDonough said...

I'm not sure I'd be a writer if not for computers and the Internet. I do use books for research, but the Internet is a good way to start researching a book or to find info about a specific detail you need for a story. I've found very intersting stories on the Internet, one of which I turned into a whole series.

My grandpa was a Nazarene minister, and my dad went to Salvation Army college for a short while--because that's where his girlfriend was. Not the best reason but some of their teaching rubbed off onto him.

Thanks for that great link about historical ministers.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yeah, Mary, that H,M & D is cute!

I think the most surprising fact I discovered while researching for my Outlaw mss was that in 1879, pencils already contained graphite and not lead. Now you all might have known that fact, but Mom told us otherwise. When my sister accidently stabbed herself with a sharp pencil and a bit of the 'lead' imbedded in her leg, we were all praying like zealots so she wouldn't die of lead poisoning. I saw my sister at Christmas and after 40 yrs, you can still tell where the 'lead' is because of the blue tinge to the skin. Yup - she's still alive and missionarying. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Anita! I've got this blue spot on my leg where I got stabbed with a a flirting BOY.
No, it didn't work. Ouch! It's still there after...yikes 35 years maybe? I consider it my tatoo.


Mary Connealy said...

I've heard of denominations where a person merely has to stand up in church, announce he's been called and he's declared a minister. He's got full rights to try and get a job as a preacher in their denomination.
In fact my brother is a minister in a very, very fundamental denomination and he's got the usualy four years of college, three years of seminary and he said he feels like it almost works against him to have the degree, it's not necessarily a useful selling point in a job interview.

You know, I don't have a problem with this actually, neither do I have a problem with seminary. Seems like there's room for all kinds of people led to serve the Lord.

Beth Loughner said...

I use the Internet for research and about ten of my can't-do-without books that cover various topics like poisons, crime, guide to places, character emotions, etc.

But I love to experience events, too. At a conference last year, Gail Martin Gaymer said she plans to take a hot-air balloon ride (even though it really scares her) to experience what her heroine will in her book. I'm a bit like that, too, but not a big risk taker. No balloon rides for me. :-)

My next research adventure is joining the 10-week spring training session of our city's Citizen Police Academy. It's an extensive hands-on look at everything the police department does. They say it's not for squeamish people. It will not only help me be a better citizen, but it is valuable research for my WIP.

Since I've never written historicals, I've often wondered which takes more research. I would think historicals do, but it might depend on how technical a contemporary becomes.


Mary Connealy said...

Beth, I've lately been trying to do more hands on type research. I still use the internet like crazy but I've been haunting history museums and taking little trips to area sites to get a better feels for what I'm writing.
I really wanted to get my hands on a Winchester 73 but had to be satisfied with taking pictures of a couple I've found. I did spend a while handling another rifle just to get a feel for the weight of it and how it hit my hands (no shooting-although I suppose I should do that...but it's so LOUD)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Mary, I've never held a Winchester 73 but I have fired an FNC1, FNC2 and a Sub-machine gun (SMG) during my 20 yrs in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The SMG was the easiest to hold (hip level) but scary because it had a tendancy to ride up with each shot so if you didn't have a very firm grip, you'd be shooting at the sky after 20 rounds and just a second or 2. Real scary.

The FNC1 and 2 were 7 lbs if I recall which doesn't seem like much but try holding that up for 15 mins and your arms feel disconnected. We were told to take our berets off our heads, fold them, and tuck them under our right bra strap when we first went to the weapons range. I did but even with that, I still wore a huge blue bruise the next day from the kickbacks. Of course, kickback can be decreased by tucking your rifle into the hollow of your shoulder tightly but I just couldn't seem to keep it there.

My favourite research is heading out onto the prairie behind the barn dressed in my 'olden days' get-up and imagining I've gone back in time. It's silent out there until you hear the birds calling and singing and the breeze rustling the grasses. In the winter, it's just quiet. Silent. Yeah.

Mary Connealy said...

Wow, Anita Mae, was this part of some research with the gun or were you in the military?

I am now very afraid of you, fyi.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yeah, sure you're scared of me... that's a laugh...

Yes, I was a regular member of the Canadian Armed Force for 20 yrs, working in communications while serving on air bases across Canada. I even receive a pension every month which means I get to stay home and write instead of work outside the home. :)

Beth Loughner said...

I actually took a 12-hour hand-gun course and like to spend time on the firing range. I've never fired a 44-magnum, but there's a reason why they call them "firearms". A fella two booths down must have liked his. You should have seen the flames shooting out the end. And the repercussion is enough to rattle the seeds in your gourd.

To experience the five senses makes my writing so much better.


Gold Bra Strap said...

This is a good one. I am so glad that I came across it.
Thank you so much for sharing this.