By Glenn Wintemberg
My time at Epworth started in 1989. At that retreat we headed down to Vesper Hill, which at sunset had the most beautiful view looking out to Shepherds Mountain. Before entering into Vesper Hill, you passed through a granite wall marked by two granite and stone columns. On the left column a granite cornerstone reads Methodist Men 1950 (not United Methodist Men) because we had not yet joined together with the Evangelical United Brethren. On the right column cornerstone it reads: the heavens declare the glory of God, Psalms 19:1. It was always a sacred place to be with God in prayer and meditation.
In 2000 Epworth Among the Hills Retreat Center was closed and sold. Fortunately the columns were saved and moved to the Blue Mountain Retreat Center where they stood for a number of years. Around 2007 the columns were reset in the ground by a group of dedicated UMMen. They sat there proudly for years marking the entry to the Blue Mountain Vesper Hill. Following the closing of Blue Mountain in 2014, I made a move to acquire the two granite columns. I submitted a request for the columns and within a few weeks I received notification they were mine. I now needed to find a permanent home for them.
In 2015 Matthew Beyes submitted plans for his Eagle Scout project, a prayer labyrinth. I wanted to make the columns a part of the labyrinth project, but first I had to get the columns from Blue Mountain to Mount Zion. I contacted the camp coordinator assigned to Blue Mountain who gave me the name of a possible contact who could help me. I started a discussion with Don Laut, a farmer/contractor from Fredericktown, to help in getting the columns moved from the camp. A few more weeks passed by before I called Don back, expecting to continue the conversation about getting the columns moved only to find out who moved the columns to his property up the road from the camp.
During the next year I was in conversation with Matt Beyes about coordinating an opportunity to pick up the columns. The day finally came to head down to Fredericktown, Missouri. I met Matt at Mount Zion in his brand new heavy duty Ford pickup he said he bought just for this project, whether he did or not only Matt will know. We arrived and within an hour had the columns loaded onto Matt’s trailer. I’m not quite sure I focused on the size of the two columns until I was up close; Don said the two weighed in at around 8 tons. As we were getting ready to leave I took a walk around the trailer and noticed air leaking out from one of the tires. It had an old tire plug in it. Matt pulled it out and replaced it with a new one. We started our journey back to Mount Zion, about 20 miles into our trip I looked out the window in time to see the tire blow. Matt used a ratchet strap to hold the axle up and we nursed the trailer to Farmington to get the tire replaced. We drove cautiously back until we reached I-270 and Big Bend when a second tire blew. Matt strapped the axle on the side with the blown tire and we drove on three trailer tires back to the church. The columns sat in the trailer until recently when they were put into the ground.
The thought of connecting the labyrinth and the columns together was their common thread of Boy Scouts and United Methodist Men. Through the United Methodist Men, the United Methodist Church is the second largest charter organization of Boy Scouts in the world and the largest charter sponsor of Cub Scouts in the world. This project continues toward completion, and we hope it will enjoy it for many years to come.