The Jesse Lee Project


The Jesse Lee Project was named as such in the hopes of paying homage, to a nearly forgotten character of New England history.    For those who have heard of Jesse Lee, his story is a peculiar one.


In the late 1700’s Jesse Lee, a young travelling Methodist minister, visited New England.   As he travelled, he stopped long enough to establish pockets of Methodism all along the Connecticut River, up to the farthest settlements of Maine.


Whether it is legend or not I can not say, but the story goes that Jesse Lee was travelling through Connecticut Valley, through the heart of the Heart of the southwest corner of NH, determined to drop a new church with every stop.   Unfortunately the further north he went, the less people became less receptive to this outsider.  For those familiar with the pulse of New Englanders, this is not surprising.  After repeatedly failing to gain the interest of locals, he decided to take a different route.


After growing frustrated with his lack of success, he threw caution to the wind, and hitched his horse to a tree right outside of a school house.    This portly little man, climbed on up  and started to sing from his travel worn hymnal.    As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir among the children.     Soon a crowd of kids joined him around the tree and joined in the impromptu sing along.   After doing this for an hour or two, he looked down at the kids, and said; 

“Maybe…  I can do this at one of your houses…  I could give a service,…and we could sing….    Would any of you like to come to your house?”


All hands shot up.    Jesse Lee would follow them home, introduce himself to their parents and tell them what he wanted to do.   At first the parents would oppose the idea.   That oppostion lasted only as long as they avoided the gaze of the pleading eyes of their children.    He would hold the service in that child’s home, and through a captivating presence capture the spirit of those gathered, and as he packed his saddlebags to leave, people would already be considering where their church would go. 

Soon, tree climbing became his standard operating procedure upon entering any new town.(Click here for more about the Rev. Jesse Lee)


Ignoring the obvious concerns over the manipulation of children, perhaps the only thing the church really needs is more people willing to climb trees.   Maybe the church needs Christians that think and act outside of the box.   We need Christians who are willing to take risks, shake things up, and not get caught up in the same old ways of doing Church.   Maybe the church needs to realize that there is a new breed of faithful out there, just looking for that tree to climb.

Ive coming to believe that my calling in ministry is simple;  I want to climb trees too.    The Jesse Lee Project is my attempt to do so.

Leave a comment


  1. Never knew this end of the story. My wife is a descendant of Jesse Lee, and that side of the family loves to claim his missionary work in the Oregon Territory. (The less-churched 20- and 30-somethings have far less investment than older generations.) i’ll be sharing this part of the story and seeking ways to apply Jesse’s strategy–or the contemporary equivalent.

  2. pastorscott2007

     /  January 23, 2013

    Thanks! It seems as if every time I turn around I find more and more stories from Jesse Lee, each as colorful as the next! Thanks for stopping buy! Shalom, Scott

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