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‘Front Porch Ministry’ debuts today at WVU Presbyterian center

The Rev. D.D. Meighen was having some fun the other day trying to figure out a quote that is living on, in the craft store.

You see it proclaimed on banners, framed posters and lawn art.

Needlepoint, too.

Paraphrased (or not), it goes something like this: “Welcome to the porch, where wasting time is considered time, well-wasted.”

“Or is it, ‘Sitting on the porch?’” Meighen mused.

“Anyway, that’s what we’re about here.”

Meighen, a retired minister, is now serving as interim director of WVU’s Presbyterian Fellowship.

In case you’re wondering, the stately house on Willey Street that houses the fellowship is adorned by a striking version of the above-mentioned architectural feature, the kind of which is a celebrated signature, in living spaces and gathering places across Appalachia.

Meighen noticed it immediately when he drove up to the then-unseen dwelling after accepting the appointment in February.

“I said, ‘That’s a great porch.’ We’re gonna have to do something.”

It didn’t take long for an idea to saunter up and sit a spell.

Meighen calls it, “Front Porch Ministry,” and it will convene every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. through Aug. 10.

“That’s what West Virginians do,” he said. “You sit on the porch. You tell a story. You strum a guitar.”

Old-time musicians and dulcimer players Judy Werner and Donna Weems will kick off the inaugural proceedings today.

Speakers include WVU President Gordon Gee and beat cop-turned-university professor Jim Nolan.

Francene Kirk, who directs the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University, will discuss the Appalachian storytelling tradition.

Chris Haddox, a WVU professor and musician, will also perform songs from his self-titled debut album, which was released nationally over spring.

Besides the music, Meighen said, discussion subjects will take in everything from tall tales to Title IX.

“It’s a pretty diverse lineup,” said the minister, who will also stream the proceedings live on his TV19 Facebook page, named for his cable access broadcast service in Fairmont.

To learn more, call the fellowship center at 304-292-4061.

While he knows many of the subjects that will be discussed are contemporary, to go with the electronic delivery system, the motivation of it all, he said, is as timeless as the presence of the Appalachian mountain range that gives the region its identity.

Even the rocking chairs donated to the cause have stories, arriving as they have from sitting rooms and church nurseries.

Dr. David Bonasso, a Fairmont dentist, attached a note to the rocking chair he donated. It belonged to his mother, who died in 1965 when she was just 44.

“She left my dad with nine children,” the once-and-future dentist wrote. “I was the oldest at 18.”

The matriarch had a college degree to go with her kids.

“She was one of the first 100 women to graduate from West Virginia University,” her eldest continued. He and his siblings were all rocked to sleep in the offering to Meighen’s Front Porch Ministry.

“My mother loved this chair …”

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