I did not realize until last night that my post on finding people in the church with whom I was connected by family ties  would be a regular phenomenon, but here goes. Yesterday at church I had a fairly Nathanish day. The choir sang, and I thought we performed well, and I found myself teased in the usual fashion by the people speaking–by the gentleman giving the announcements because I would not be there to help serve as a backstop for him next week when he was giving the Bible Study. After church, though, I was invited to come to dinner at home with my cousins with whom I will be staying with for the next month as is my fashion, even though we had a retired minister who served as our guest. Of course, the guest was late, mainly because he refused to follow the directions given and wandered all over creation and ended up about an hour and a half late, by which point we had already eaten.
Admittedly, this sort of dinner party is the sort that deeply interests me. After all, dinner parties  are a place where I cannot only play the raconteur and share my own humorous stories, which I need little encouragement to do, but it is also a place for me to listen to the stories of others and gain some understanding and sympathy with the people I am eating with. Since I enjoy understanding as much as I like being understood, that is quite alright by me, and while some people might have been made uncomfortable by the sort of conversation partner we had, I found it worthwhile to acquire some humorous stories and enjoy the conversation of someone who liked to talk about themselves, at any rate.
But, as is my fashion sometimes, I realized before too long that I was acquiring more than just entertaining stories about famous and important people and a high degree of bragging that would be unseemly in a sermon message but is not terribly uncommon in personal conversation. Towards the end of the conversation, we spoke about the Puritan elite from which we are all descended in our own ways. Our guest spoke about being descended from the Dudleys, among the first royal governing families of the Massachusetts Bay colony and notorious for corruption–to which I pointed one of the Bailyn books we had around that talked about it–and he mentioned that he was descended from George Washington’s grandfather, Lawrence Washington. This morning, though, my cousin and I discovered that if he was indeed descended from Lawrence Washington that we were related because we were both cousins with him through his wife, who was descended through our common Spencer family.
When I told the story of how I was related to my hosts to another one of my friends, the reply was that my world is too small, and that is indeed true. My world is indeed too small, and it is continually getting smaller. Yet it is getting smaller in rather striking ways. To find three previously unconnected family lines all coalesce in the same small Spencer ancestors suggests a few worthwhile and strange areas of thought. How is it that a retired minister, a vagadondish person from the East, and a native-born Oregonian would be related to the same exact family in the England of the sixteenth century? This is definitely we mystery well worth solving, and to my mind it suggests several possible conclusions. For one, it suggests a possibility that anyone who can connect their family to the interconnected elites of colonial America and early Reformation England can probably connect themselves to others because of the endogamy elites tend to show. For another, it raises the possibility of God having worked with a common ancestor of us whose faith opened the way for God to work with anyone who would hear His word however far off they may be, as it was promised in Acts 2.
There are different ways we can react to this interconnectedness. For one, I find it deeply of interest that I am connected to this retired pastor through the same precise line that is connected to my hosts, and that connects us all to such people as George Washington and the Spencer-Churchills of high English nobility and royalty. Not everyone is as interested in such matters, but whether one views my friends and acquaintances and I as “illuminati-confirmed” because we are connected to the same elite families that end up providing so much leadership as far as politics and institutions are concerned or to view it as the opportunity for discovering the specific people we are related to and figuring out what kind of larger spiritual importance they may have is, I suppose, up to others. I now leave the verdict in your hands, dear readers, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that my world should be such a small place where I have so few strangers and have so many connections of such concern with a small band of Anglo-American elites.
 See, for example: