"Please, Mr. Parker," he said. "Talk to him. I mean, what harm can it do?"
What harm can it do? Those words would come back to haunt me again and again in the days that followed. They came back to haunt Jack Mercier as well. I wonder if he thought of them in his final moments, as the shadows drew around him and those he loved were drowned in redness.
Despite my misgivings I took the check. And in that instant, unbeknownst to us both, a circuit was completed, sending a charge through the world around and beneath us. Far away, something broke from its hiding place beneath the dead layers of the honeycomb. It tested the air, probing for the disturbance that had roused it, until it found the source.
Then, with a lurch, it began to move.
THE SEARCH FOR SANCTUARY: RELIGIOUS FERVOR IN THE STATE OF MAINE AND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE AROOSTOOK BAPTISTS
Extract from the postgraduate thesis of Grace Peltier, submitted posthumously in accordance with the requirements of the Masters Sociology Program, Northeastern University
To understand the reasons for the formation and subsequent disintegration of the religious group known as the Aroostook Baptists, it is important to first understand the history of the state of Maine. To comprehend why four families of well-intentioned and not unintelligent people should have followed an individual such as the Reverend Faulkner into the wilderness, never to be seen again, one must recognize that for almost three centuries men such as Faulkner have gathered followers to them in this state, often in the face of challenges from larger churches and more orthodox religious movements. It may be said, therefore, that there is something in the character of the state's inhabitants, some streak of individualism dating back to pioneer times, that has led them to be attracted to preachers like the Reverend Faulkner.
For much of its history, Maine was a frontier state. In fact, from the time when the first Jesuit missionaries arrived in the seventeenth century to the midpart of the twentieth century, religious groups regarded Maine as mission territory. It provided fertile, if not always profitable, ground for itinerant preachers, unorthodox religious movements, and even charlatans for the best part of three hundred years. The rural economy did not allow for the maintenance of permanent churches and clergymen, and religious observance was oftentimes a low priority for families who were undernourished, insufficiently clothed, and lacking proper shelter.
In 1790, General Benjamin Lincoln observed that few of those in Maine had been properly baptized, and there were some who had never taken Communion. The Reverend John Murray of Boothbay wrote, in 1763, of the inhabitants' "inveterate habits of vice and no remorse" and thanked God that he had found "one prayerful family, and a humble professor at the head of it." It is interesting to note that the Reverend Faulkner was given to quoting this passage of Murray's in the course of his own sermons to his congregations.
Itinerant preachers ministered to those who lacked their own churches. Some were outstanding, frequently having trained at York or Harvard. Others were less praiseworthy. The Reverend Mr. Jotham Sewall of Chesterville, Maine, is reported to have preached 12,593 sermons in 413 settlements, mostly in Maine, between 1783 and 1849. By contrast, the Reverend Martin Schaeffer of Broad Bay, a Lutheran, comprehensively cheated his flock before eventually being run out of town.
Orthodox preachers found it difficult to achieve a foothold in the state, Calvinists being particularly unwelcome as much for their unyielding doctrines as for their associations with the forces of government. Baptists and Methodists, with their concepts of egalitarianism and equality, found more willing converts. In the thirty years between 1790 and 1820, the number of Baptist churches in the state rose from seventeen to sixty. They were joined, in time, by Free Will Baptists, Free Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Universalists, Shakers, Millerites, Spiritualists, Sandfordites, Holy Rollers, Higginsites, Free Thinkers, and Black Stockings.
Copyright © 2001 by John Connolly
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