A Life that Leads

Any history should include mention of the women of the church.  Ebenezer has one such woman who must be mentioned, Mary McFarland, wife of the church’s second pastor.  She was educated at the well- known school founded by Mary Lyon in Massachusetts.  As a young woman she was known to be quite intelligent and perceptive and “caught the characteristic Missionary spirit” but could not decide which call to missions was stronger, home or foreign.  In those days, ”Arkansas was as far from new England then, to all practical effect, as China is now [1909]” (Stringfield, p. 286).  Surrendering to home missions at the age of 20-21, she traveled to Little Rock, and then to Fort Scott, where she became a governess.  There she met and married a home missionary, the Rev. John McFarland in about 1850-51.  Thereafter, the young bride and groom rode on horseback to Greenfield, Missouri, which they called home from then on.

“Mary McFarland, the minister’s gifted and devoted wife, was an important active factor in the work of this period.  She was not only interested in the work of the local church, but in the wider field of missions, and she was one of the first advocates of the Woman’s Presbyterian Missionary Society” (History).   As she worked to create this society for the women of this presbytery, she was often held back because of various ministers who were not sure whether it was a violation of Scripture for a woman to be a speaker in the church.  An article written in 1992 states, “One pastor of the presbytery who objected to such a female organization warned his wife not to join!”   Obviously, the strength of McFarland’s nature won out, as she worked tirelessly with the women of the various churches.  For many years thereafter she was known at the meetings of the organization as “Aunt Mary McFarland.”  She was an avid reader and, according to Stringfield, was a “veritable encyclopedia of missionary information among the women of our churches.”   In fact, the purpose of the missionary society was not just a time for women to meet, share recipes, and quilt, even though they did these things.  This “society” was, according to its name, to support missionary endeavors with prayer and with finances.

When Mr. McFarland retired from the pastorate of the Ebenezer church, a little log school house was built on their farm, two miles north of Greenfield, which was sometimes called Brush College.  It is said that it was the only school in the Southwest that survived the Civil War, or at least it was the only school of any kind at that time within a large area of the country.   “When some of the soldiers who have been her students at the beginning of the war returned to their homes, they went back to Mrs. McFarland’s school.  It is said they found being spelled down by the smaller students was about as disagreeable a sensation as being shot down by the enemy.  “

It is said that everyone loved Mrs. McFarland, especially the youth.  She was always involved in their lives, including their romantic relationships, “even when her hair was silvered” (Presbyterianism).  At the end of her earthly life, Mary McFarland was laid to rest in the Weir Cemetery.

As I stated in a previous article, the recitation of history means nothing if it does not influence, for good or bad, the present and the future.  Reading through the historical information concerning Mary McFarland, I find myself considering my own life and testimony.  What will be left after I am gone from this life?   Mary McFarland had a heart for missions and for education.  She went to a place that required hard work and commitment and gave of herself to those around her.  She left a legacy in education that included young people in leadership in church and society.  And her legacy among the Presbyterian women continues today throughout this presbytery.

The Scriptures talk about several aspects of the final judgment.  The first is that which concerns our salvation, and nothing we do can bring us through that judgment except for the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is given to us freely when we respond to God’s call in faith.  In talking about the judgment, the Bible further speaks of what of my life will remain when I stand before the Lord (1 Corinthians 3), saying that our works will be tried by fire.  What I use to “build” my life will determine what remains after that judgment.

With what are you building your life?  Will those things remain after the “trial by fire” when you stand before God?  The things that remain will be those built on the foundation of our faith in Jesus, not those that are for our own comfort, for our own notoriety, or to please those with whom we live.  Let us live for Christ and do those things that will last, so that those who come behind us will find us faithful.

Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor


P.O. Box 393
Greenfield, MO  65661

History of Dade County and Her People:  From the Date of the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time (November 1, 1917), online at www.archive.org.

Stringfield, Presbyterianism in the Ozarks, 1909Also available online at books.google.com.


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