Maxine Hallett grew up not going to church but, looking back at her family history, is inspired by her great grandfather
After my baptism in 2015 my mother gave me a Bible that belonged to my great grandfather, Andrew Frederick Metz. Andrew was a lay preacher and would travel around Cornwall sharing the good news. You can very faintly read the inscription on the inside cover: “presented to Mr A.F. Metz as a token of deep respect February 9th 1908”.
I was not aware of my great grandad’s faith growing up. My grandparents never attended church on a Sunday, but my grandmother was part of the Young Wives Group that was affiliated with the church. My mum said that she was confirmed in Truro Cathedral when she was eleven but by that age she only went to church because it was the place you could meet up with the boys! Once she was a teenager her interests took her elsewhere.
My great grandfather, Andrew was born in 1870 in Wolverhampton and died in 1927 in Truro, Cornwall, which is where I grew up. His parents were George Frederick Metz, born in Germany in 1839, and Caroline Pearce from Birmingham. The information we have on George was that he travelled to Cornwall with his friend Solomon. They started a printing and lithography business in Truro, which stayed in the family until my grandad retired in 1985.
Indifference, invitation and tribute
Apart from the worn cover, Andrew’s King James Bible is in perfect condition. I love reading the old translation and I am especially drawn to the marked sections of Matthew 22 and 23 because Andrew has written in bold capitals down the margin the words ‘INDIFFERENCE, INVITATION AND TRIBUTE’.
Also underlined in red pen are these verses: Matthew 23:13-15: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore, ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourself.”
In The Message version these verses read: “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter and won’t let anyone else in either…You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.”
The spiritual walk of my great grandfather
Could Andrew had been in the middle of a spiritual battle? Mentally and emotionally exhausted from the balance of travelling, spreading the gospel and supporting a wife and six children? Was he crying out in prayer as he heavily underscored these verses? What were his prayers, how did he feel spiritually? Was his preaching a gift or did it feel like a burden? So many questions I would love to have asked him if I had the chance.
We never attended church growing up in Cornwall, but to find out so many years later that my great grandfather was a Baptist is heartwarming. Because I now know some of my family history, it’s lovely to know that my great grandfather and I are both united in our love for God.
Dear Lord, thank you that we can stand firm in the foundation of your love. With the wisdom that we gain from those we are descended from, and the grace that you bestow upon us, we can reach our full potential. Let us hold tightly onto our true identity as you watch over us. Amen.