FAIRMONT — Some clergymen like to get up in front of the congregation to deliver “sermons.”
The Rev. D.D. Meighen isn’t one of them.
For him, deliverance of a good story does all the preaching ever needed on a Sunday morning.
A compelling account of someone’s walk in life — as opposed to a laundry list of proclamations delivered from on high — is akin to an act of amazing grace, for him.
Or, faith that made itself known at just the right moment.
Tales of travelers who lived to tell about it.
Those are the stories the Fairmont-area minister, with his strong ties to Morgantown and WVU, has been crafting and chronicling for decades.
Meighen is also a community activist and founder of his own cable access network in the Marion County city, broadcasting civic meetings while spotlighting people and community events of note.
This past Monday in Charleston, the West Virginia Council of Churches told his story for a change.
The council presented Meighen with its Mary Virginia De Roo Award.
It’s the highest honor the ecumenical organization bestows for faith and outreach.
“I really wasn’t expecting this,” the recipient said.
“I was humbled and flattered. I’m just out there doing what I do.”
Which, as can be noted, is a lot.
Even for a 78-year-old man of the cloth and media practitioner whose (alleged) retirement lasted exactly two months: from December 2021 to February 2022.
Or, especially for a 78-year-old man of the cloth and media practitioner whose (alleged) retirement lasted exactly two months: from December 2021 to February 2022.
Not that he harbored intentions of ever getting too comfortable in a rocking chair, anyway.
During that winter month last year, Meighen was coaxed back into his field.
That’s when he assumed, at the request of the organization, an interim appointment as director of the WVU Presbyterian Student Fellowship, on Willey Street.
It was an easy sell, actually.
And, a homecoming of heart.
From 1976-81, Meighen served as campus minister of the state’s flagship university.
Students in Morgantown then were still feeling the sting of Vietnam and Watergate, before uncertainty over the Middle East settled in.
They were seeking, wandering and hoping to set down moorings for their place in the cosmos — be it anchored by faith, or not.
And they still are, he said.
Call it human nature, he said. We’re all seekers.
That’s true, he said, of the congregants who have filled the pews at the 17 churches and their four denominations he’s served — in a calling that’s only just a few Sundays away, now, from spanning six decades.
The once-and-future minister began doing outreach work early at Fairmont Senior High School, where he quickly found he enjoyed toting a reporter’s notebook just as much as the Good Book.
After divinity school in Ohio, he came back home in the early 1970s.
The young minister was intent on changing hearts and minds over some long-held misconceptions about life in the Mountain State, where poverty, more often than not, prevails.
Part of that mission meant reaching, and preaching, into the then-conventional wisdom decreeing that Appalachians, generally and simply, “chose” to live that way.
To prove the stereotypes wrong, he lived with two needy families in Marshall and Fayette counties for nearly two years.
He ate at their tables and contributed financially to their households, while chronicling their struggles.
Almost Heaven, he said, doesn’t guarantee a livable wage.
Thus began his liturgy of the lens (and microphone) as it were, that took him on an analog tape, then digital, journey to TV19.
Meighen was a one-man operation for his above network, covering meetings of Fairmont City Council and the Marion County Commission, along with candidate forums at the Elks Lodge and concerts at Palatine Park.
You have politics because you have people, he said.
It’s even more so, he said, with dispatches of the daily news and human condition: Here’s what happened when Dad got drafted.
Here’s why I voted the way I did — or said what I said, after the first reading of that zoning ordinance.
This is why Mom never finished her degree.
Here’s how it looked after the floodwaters finally receded.
Meighan’s gospel goes that informed citizens make better choices in the voting booth.
And of course, he said, everyone has a story to tell.
That’s the narrative that’s us, he said.
Meighen’s story these days involves medical appointments and occasional hospital stays.
He’s dealing with some health issues that have surprised him.
There’s always a plot twist, he said.
“I’m working through it. It’s temporary. Just a few little bumps along the path.”
Bumps for which he’s currently using a wheelchair to navigate.
He uses the chair when he preaches at area churches for fill-in work, and he accepted his accolades in Charleston while also seated in that chair.
You know how it is, he said, chuckling, when a minister gets on a roll.
“Hey. I still have work to do.”
And stories to tell.