This summer David Newman had the privilege to take a sabbatical from his role as the Lead Pastor of Antioch Church, which meets at the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Ohio – just outside of Cincinnati.  This was not just some time off for “good behavior”… was an investment by his congregation and the Lilly Foundation into some post-doctoral studies David wanted to pursue about the foundations of the YMCA.  As most of our readers know, David’s doctoral thesis focused on the history of the YMCA. 

Specifically,  David wanted to travel to England to visit the birthplace of YMCA founder George Williams.  This past July David did just that!!  The picture to your left shows David walking on the Williams family farm where George Williams was born.

It doesn’t appear much has changed from the time that George’s family ran the farm, growinghay and raising both sheep and cattle. The rolling hills still create a landscape that seem almost idyllic, far removed from the hustle and bustle of London. 

But it was on those hills that something began to stir in young George’s heart.  As he walked around the homestead he dreamed of his life being used for something significant.  Many of his friends and neighbors were moving into the city and the burgeoning new industries.  The sedate simple routine of the family farm had a hard time competing with the steady work of the factories and the enticing pleasures of “city life”.  

In sharing a video he took while visiting the William’s family farm,  David surmises that it was here amidst thetranquil quiet of this place that God placed the eternal longing in George Williams’ heart. It was that longing that would lead George to the city, and eventually to make a decision with 11 of his friends to begin something that truly became significant, the YMCA. 

It’s important for all of us within the YMCA movement to understand our history and heritage.  Folks like David Newman are working to make sure that we fully appreciate those who have gone before us.  We’re grateful for the opportunity David was given to pursue his passion.  In the end, we’ll all be blessed by what he saw and experienced this summer!