Moving Around, But Keeping Those Appalachian Connections



When people ask me where I’m from – I tell them “West Virginia.”

When they ask, “where in West Virginia exactly?…Where’s ‘home’?”…

Well…that’s a little tougher to answer.

You see, I’m a “PK”.

For those who don’t know, that’s a “Preacher’s Kid.”

Specifically, I’m a United Methodist PK.

United Methodist pastors are itinerant.

Meaning…they move from place to place.

They agree to go wherever the bishop sends them.

They’re sent to serve in a given place for a year at a time.

They usually stay longer than a year, but rarely are in one place for their whole ministry.

So my family moved several times as I was growing up – always within West Virginia.

I was born in Charleston, but before I graduated high school and left for college, my family also lived in Westover, West Liberty, Charleston again – different church, New Martinsville and Keyser.

The year I graduated from high school my family moved to Clarksburg.

I studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon – and have since lived in Charleston, Morgantown and now Fairmont.

There were a few years there in my twenties when I lived in West Germany and then Columbus, Ohio – but for most of my life, I’ve lived in West Virginia.

For me, this has meant a strong sense of connection with our state and a strong appreciation for her people.

“People” are “home” for me – my family; church members, neighbors, classmates and teachers in all those towns I grew up in; my colleagues in the jobs I’ve held.

Earlier this month I was reminded of this strong sense of connection.

Every June, clergy and lay members of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church gather at West Virginia Wesleyan for a yearly business meeting.

This is a meeting which includes serious business – you know…motions and amendments and amendments to the amendments and calling the question and budgets – but also a whole lot of celebration and worship and fellowship and…connection.

I serve as a lay member of the annual conference and have attended for a number of years in that capacity.

But for many years, I was among the PKs who tagged along with their parents to this conference in Buckhannon – exploring the campus, participating in activities, attending the worship services, embraced by the people of the conference.

The people of the conference and Wesleyan’s campus with its tree-lined walkways, Wesley Chapel and its white-painted pews, pipe organ, hand-carved sculptures of the disciples and the large statue of John Wesley out front…these have been constants in my life and in the lives of many other West Virginia United Methodist PKs.

The connection is strong at this annual gathering.

You have to leave plenty of time to stop and talk as you make your way across campus, because you will run into many friends.

And when the conference ends, the people head to their cars, point them in the direction of their current physical homes, and fan out across West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland.

They disperse to go and serve their communities and the people there.

At the conclusion of this year’s four day conference, as I steered my car onto Corridor H and then I-79 north, I was tired and glad to be going home…but also thankful I’d just been there.

Sarah Lowther Hensley is a former West Virginia Public Radio reporter and higher education administrator who lives in Fairmont, West Virginia. Her writing appears on her blog Home Among the Hills.