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It's Only A Token


If it were a Hollywood movie, the scene would be played out in slow-motion:

CUT TO: CLOSE UP OF YOUNG MAN IN ANGUISH

CUT TO: CLOSE UP OF RIGHT HAND HOLDING LITTLE SILVER TOKEN

CUT TO: EXTREME CLOSE UP OF TOKEN: SHOW IT FALL TO TABLE

It was a scene right out of Tinseltown, but one that is very real in the memories of Disciples.

alexander_campbell.jpgIn 1807 Thomas Campbell had immigrated to America. He left his eldest son, Alexander, in charge of the rest of the family and all their belongings. Once Thomas was settled, the family was to follow the next year.

And that is just what they attempted to do. In 1808, Alexander, all the Campbell family, and all their 'stuff' boarded a ship bound for the land of freedom. The journey lasted only ten days before the ship, caught in a storm, ran into the rocky coast off Scotland and wrecked. Alexander fished his family, his books, and himself out of the cold salty water and made his way to shore.

What at first seemed like a set back was another of God's blessings in disguise. Since winter was setting in, it was now impossible for the Campbells to make the trek to America. Instead, they spent about one year in Scotland where Alexander was able to continue his education (entering the University of Glasgow) and to continue his personal pilgrimage of faith.

He had been started well on his theological journey by tutelage from his father Thomas. Now, he had the opportunity to intensely study the scriptures and to inquire of the great minds of history and the university, on exactly how to interpret what God intended for us to hear in the sacred pages.

Interestingly, 1809 proved a banner year for both Thomas and Alexander. Separated by an ocean, the two were knitted together in thought and revelation. Thomas would pen his "Declaration and Address," showing that Christ's Church is a unified whole and realize he was reaching the end of his walk with Presbyterians. Alexander, among other things, would discover that he, too, had come to the end of his journey among Presbyterians. It was all caught in living color by that slow motion Hollywood scene.

In those days, on Sundays when Presbyterians were to celebrate communion (for it was not an every Sunday event), each communicant was examined by an elder to make sure that he or she was sinless enough to receive the meal from Christ's table. Once the elder was satisfied, a little silver token was given that could be exchanged for the elements during the Lord's Supper.

On that Sunday in 1809, in Glasgow, 21-year-old Alexander Campbell was absolutely sure that God did not require that little token. So, he came to the table, dropped the silver piece down, and turned and walked away. In that moment, he abandoned one faith journey in order to start another. The journey of a Disciple. It was a journey he remained on for the rest of his life. And a journey that we are on still.

By Glenn Thomas Carson
President
Disciples of Christ Historical Society

This article was provided by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and used here by permission.

To learn more about your faith story, please visit the Disciples of Christ Historical Society's website at: www.discipleshistory.org

Back Issues Of This Column

January 14, 2009 Our Upper Room
December 17, 2008 A Message from Christmas Past
October 15, 2008 Anywhere with Jesus
September 17, 2008 A Mission Planted With Such Splendid Seed
August 14, 2008 You Are Changed
July 16, 2008 In Love With Two Words
June 13, 2008 A Faithful Voice
May 7, 2008 It's Only A Token
April 9, 2008 A Prescription For Missions
March 26, 2008 Our Capital Witness
February 2, 2008 Drummer To Bugle Blower
January 30, 2008 Creating A Polar Star