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One of my favorite places to visit is Colonial Williamsburg, the restored eighteenth-century capital of Virginia.  It blends together two of my great loves – history and theatre – in ways educational, inspirational and entertaining.  Several years ago during my first visit, one of the buildings I toured was the gaol (jail), where I met a man who had been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel.  Virginia was a crown colony; and the established church was the Anglican Church.  “Dissenting” preachers were allowed only under strict limits – which this man considered unconscionable.  He preached whenever and wherever he liked, and soon found himself in gaol for breaking the law.  He identified himself as an itinerant Baptist preacher, and argued that all ministers of the Gospel should be allowed to preach without restriction.

“All preachers?” I asked him.  “All!”  Using the eighteenth-century term for Roman Catholic, I inquired, “What about Papist preachers?”  Well, his commitment to dissent and embrace of tolerance did not go quite that far, and we had a lively and enlightening discussion on the subject!

After reflecting on the conversation, and on my own ministry, the phrase “Itinerant Papist Preacher” came to be a good brief description of who God has called me to be.

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