Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Neither throw out the past nor be bound by it

If you have been to Augusta, Georgia you know that Washington Road and Gordon Highway are main thoroughfares into downtown but they present a very different picture from the beauty of Walton Way.

As you make your way up Walton Way from the Savannah River in downtown Augusta you cross the Augusta Canal, built in 1845 to harness the water and power of the Savannah River . Crossing 13th Street and continuing west, you pass University Hospital and the Medical College of Georgia.

Just a little further on is Richmond Academy. Chartered in 1783 as an all-male, privately funded school, it is one of the oldest public high schools in the United States. After the American Civil War it became a military school. When it moved to its present location in 1926 someone described it as "second to none in the South in terms of facility."

Walton Way climbs into Summerville, referred to by locals as "The Hill." This historic district is one of the most beautiful residential areas anywhere.

The scene changes at the intersection with Hickman Road where you are facing the impressive Victorian Gothic architecture of the Bon Air Hotel, the first of three resort-style hotels built in Summerville around the turn of the century.

When the street makes a dog leg to the left you cannot miss the Partridge Inn, known as "The Grand Hotel of the Classic South." It was built in 1836 as a two-story private residence. Morris Partridge, a northern "snowbird" who often vacationed in Augusta, purchased the building in 1892 and converted it into a hotel.

The Partridge Inn expanded from two stories to six and added sixty rooms and a quarter mile of verandahs and balconies. In 1923 it was selected to host a gala banquet for President Warren G. Harding.

The Great Depression took its toll on Augusta as it did throughout the United States. Then the railroads were extended to Florida and the city lost its spot as the South's top winter resort destination. The hard times caused Morris Partridge to sell the property.

By the 1980s the Partridge Inn was in such a state of disrepair that it was slated for demolition. A group of community leaders fought on behalf of the historic hotel and saved it from the wrecking ball. After several years of extensive renovation, the hotel re-opened in 1988. Today it is one of the most charming spots in Augusta.

Last week I was disappointed when I tried to make reservations at the Partridge Inn. The hotel had no rooms available. There are plenty of other more modern hotels in Augusta but none can match the charm and character of this historic building. I am so glad that some folks had the wisdom and vision to prevent its demolition. New buildings can replace old structures--and sometimes that is necessary--but we often lose more than we gain.

There is a lesson to be learned from the history of the Partridge Inn.

I have been energized by recent conversations with younger clergy. I am encouraged by their passion for the Gospel and their love for the Church. Their perspectives hold tremendous promise but they have challenged me in many ways. These under-age 45 clergy have great potential to advance the Cause of Christ and revitalize the United Methodist Church.  They are filled with new ideas and perspectives on how to be the Church in the 21st century. They give me much hope for the future.

I welcome the leadership of these whom God has called for this time but I offer a bit of counsel to them (and to all of us) as we seek to be faithful to the task our Lord shares with us.

Don't throw out the past. But don't be bound by it. Learn from it and build on it. There are peaks and valleys in life's journey and the United Methodist church is currently at a low point. Seek God's guidance and work together with each other and the Holy Spirit. Hold onto what is good; discard what is not useful, and be open to re-shaping the rest.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," August 29, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]