Shrine curator is an avid student at the 'University of Life' Lay speaker feels Methodist post is where he belongs NORTHWEST * Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

May 20, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

An enormous gray cloud won its tug of war with the su yesterday morning as David Bulpit walked along the gravel driveway to the curator's cottage at the Strawbridge Shrine in New Windsor.

But the chilly morning air didn't faze him.

"This is English summer weather," said Mr. Bulpit, an Englishman who came to the United States in 1990. "I'm very much accustomed to it."

Mr. Bulpit, 59, has become accustomed to every situation into which his insatiable curiosity about the world has led him.

But it is his steadfast belief in God, he said, that has guided his sometimes tempestuous life and led him to his current appointment as curator of the shrine.

"I have absolutely no doubt that this is where I should be," Mr. Bulpit said of the position he accepted in March. "There are people who are very humanist in their views, but I feel that there is an element in everyone's life that is guided by something spiritual.

"If you let go of life and ambition, it is possible that that spirit will lead you or guide you through life."

It is a similar philosophy, Mr. Bulpit will tell you, that led Robert Strawbridge from his home near the River Shannon in Ireland to the New Windsor area of Maryland in 1760.

"Strawbridge was never instructed to do any of the things he did," Mr. Bulpit said, leaning against one of the long benches in the shrine's Log Meeting House.

"He was not required to keep a diary or journal the way ordained minstered or missionaries of John Wesley [who created the Methodist church in England] had, nor had he any of the limitations."

Mr. Bulpit's smooth English accent is almost as hypnotic and riveting as the history he relates about Strawbridge, who is known as the father of American Methodism.

"Although I have no intention to be or emulate Robert Strawbridge, I share that rare belief in a spiritual life that he had which needs to be communicated to others," Mr. Bulpit said. "I think that I came to the realization that there was more to life than what I could see in the material world."

Mr. Bulpit -- a certified lay speaker in the Methodist Church who is studying to become a pastor -- came to this conclusion about the same time that his wife of four years, Angela, made a similar decision.

"We both had a great deal of domestic turmoil in our lives, and we believe we were spiritually led to one another," Mr. Bulpit said of his wife, also a certified lay speaker.

The Bulpits -- with several failed marriages between them -- felt that they needed to be of service to the Christian community, so they left England and moved to the United States in 1990 and spent eight months as domestic counselors affiliated with a Methodist church in the Philadelphia area.

They moved later that year to Carroll County, where they began volunteering at the New Windsor Service Center.

It was in New Windsor that Mr. Bulpit learned as much as he could about the town, the churches and, especially, American Methodism.

"I am basically an inquisitive person. I had studied quite seriously for the few years I've been here about American Methodism," Mr. Bulpit said.

Mr. Bulpit has many ideas for promoting the shrine, which he said is worthy of much admiration.

The basement of the curator's quarters will be the shrine's resource center, where visitors can look at artifacts from the period and wait for the next guided tour.

Although the visitors can walk through two authentic structures that served as meeting houses in the early days of Methodism and view the farmhouse in which Strawbridge and his family lived, Mr. Bulpit said he believes other important sites related to the shrine should be available in a video or slide presentation so that visitors can understand how deeply the religion permeated the county.

"There is the Strawbridge oak where [Strawbridge] held open-air meetings and the stream alongside it where baptisms were routinely performed, but they are not on this site," Mr. Bulpit said.

Mr. Bulpit can talk about many things with the same sincerity with which he discusses the Strawbridge Shrine, including the history of the service center, the growth of Methodism in England and the history of Pipe Creek Brick Church, the church of which he is a member.

And he said he still yearns for more.

"One can never learn enough," Mr. Bulpit said, sitting forward in his chair as if to emphasize his words with the intense look in his hazel eyes. "The University of Life is the best place to learn, and I don't expect to graduate."

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