I have to admit I didn’t know who Haynes was until I read an article about him recently. How did you encounter him?
When I was pastoring in Vermont, I did some research into the history of the area, and I stumbled across him. Haynes wasn’t from Vermont, but he spent 30 years pastoring a church in West Rutland. I was about five miles down the road from where he preached. So I was just looking into the church history of Vermont, and he’s a towering figure in that state. But when I started reading up on him, I thought he should be better known in American church history. He’s the first African American ordained by a religious body in America and the first black pastor of a mostly white congregation. That’s rare today. It was unheard of then.
You wrote, “I had a friend who once said ‘fall in love with a dead guy.’ Haynes is my guy.” Why do you feel this special affinity for Haynes?
One reason is his faithful pastorate. He was a devotee of the theology of Jonathan Edwards, so he was in that American Puritan tradition. He was heavily influenced by the revivals; he cites Edwards and George Whitefield in his final sermon to the congregation in West Rutland. So he has that theology, and he was just a faithful shepherd. The first substantive biography of him, by Timothy Mather Cooley, is full of wonderful anecdotes, vignettes of things Haynes did and said. He was so funny; he had the wit of a Spurgeon. I loved that he was a political-minded guy but kept that out of his pulpit preaching. His theology was very rich.