The Keener-Shrum Family Cemetery
in Lincoln County, North Carolina is on the grounds of what is now Union Baptist Church in a small rural community called Pumpkin Center. After the Protestant Reformation, German Lutheran and Reformed Christians often built “Union
” churches (in both Germany and America) since their individual congregations were so small that they didn’t need separate church buildings. My own German Palatine ancestors settled in the Catawba River Valley of North Carolina in the mid-Eighteenth Century and later established a “Union” Church in Pumpkin Center (Lincoln County) about the time of the Civil War. Their church was eventually open to other denominations (instead of just Lutheran and Reformed) and was called the “Do As You Please
” Church for many years. Victory Baptist Church and Antioch Baptist Churches (in Lincoln County) first held their services here before building their own facilities. The property for the church and family cemetery were granted to ancestors of the current owner by William Henry Keener and Daniel Scrum in 1893, and the deed specifies that the only building allowed on the property is a church named “Union.” Today it is Union Baptist Church, and when asked about its “Do as you please” history it is not uncommon to receive a tense response from the old-timers in the area along the lines of “It aint that no more.” When I first heard about this church, I couldn’t help but think of the Wiccan rede: “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.” But its an idea with roots in Renaissance humanism.
“DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor.
— François Rabelais, 1534