Food for Thought-How Methodism Came To Ocracoke: From the Diary of Chief of Big Vern Ojibwasen, formerly of Green Bay, Wisconsin


Do you know how United Methodists first came to Ocracoke?  After the collapse of the world’s first high tech start-up, the other Lost Colony (the one they don’t mention in the history books) found itself held captive by a group of directionally confused Ojibwa Indians.   The Ojibwa are native to the upper Midwest.  However, a small band of Ojibwa fishermen purchased defective GPS devices from rogue Canadian traders at a flea market in Saskatoon.  Hearing of a great angling opportunity somewhere to the south, they traveled to what we today call “Memphis”, turned left and ended up near Swan Quarter, North Carolina before they realized something was wrong.  This looked nothing like their bootleg GPS’s depictions of the Gulf of Mexico.  While they were heading toward water, this wasn’t the “great sea” they hoped to find.

Out of frustration more than hostility, the lost Ojibwa’s captured the bedraggled colonists fleeing Walter Raleigh’s second failed cat breeding experiment on Ocracoke Island.  The Ojibwa chief, Big Vern Ojibwasen, later said in his diary, “We thought if we got a bunch of people together, who were from this part of the country some of them might be able to help us get back home.  One of them had to know how find Wisconsin on a map.”

The colonists had never heard of Wisconsin.  They knew nothing beyond Ocracoke; they were first time settlers in the New World.  Everything was new to them.  Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania were as foreign to them as those new craters NASA keeps finding on the south side of Mars.  Though challenged geographically by their isolation and having spent their formative years in Europe, the colonists did know about religion.

Many claimed to know God personally, although a few were more comfortable with an indirect relationship.  In the midst of their captivity, the head of the colony, Captain HoHigh McGenericCelticLeaderMan, decided on a plan.  The colonists should try to convert the Ojibwa to Christianity.  If everyone was of the same religion, perhaps we could all live in peace and even go back to Ocracoke with a larger, more sustainable community.  The waters around the island were teeming with fish.  These guys knew fishing.  Chief Vern’s brother Floyd had a truck, trailer, and a fishing canoe on the trailer.  HoHigh’s people knew feral cat breeding.  Captain HoHigh reckoned the only thing standing between their captivity and fishing prosperity was teaching the Ojibwa about Jesus!  But how would they evangelize without Bibles or a church?  Liturgical dance!  Captain HoHigh and the gang had once danced from Milan to Minsk as part of the “Methodists Missionaries for a More Muscular Methodist Movement” Movement.  This was before they became cat breeding colonists.

The first missionary work in this area of eastern North Carolina was by Methodists, who brought liturgical dance to a group of geographically misplaced Midwestern Native Americans.  Whatever their dance moves, it worked.  Dance freed their bodies and souls.  The Ojibwa and Methodists returned to repopulate the Island of Ocracoke.  Once there, they fished, danced, and established the Third United Methodist Church.  Why the “Third” Methodist church?  Methodists are humble, down to earth people.  Records indicate the first parish council was concerned about sending the wrong impression with the word “first” or “second”. Fearing they might seem haughty or arrogant, the church settled on “third” as a compromise solution.

Over the years, a church building was built and pastors were appointed.  The second pastor, a Reverend B. Lack Bearde was decapitated in a freak fencing accident.  It’s always been difficult to find steady musicians over the years at Third United Methodist Church.   In the 1800’s, they hired a young man from France named Mr. Claude Debussy.  He only stayed four months.  The congregation complained; his preludes went on and on forever.

Now you know the rest of the story.


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