Skipper Hall: Methodist Minister

I first met Bryan Hall in 1974 when he was seventy-seven years old, and I was eighteen. He had already finished his career as Methodist minister, and I was just beginning my years as a college student. I had not yet even decided to become a teacher. I certainly had no thoughts of someday publishing a book about the bald-headed man everyone called “Skipper.”

Bryan "Skipper" Hall, 1972

Skipper Hall acquired his nickname from the young people who worked with him at the Sacramento Methodist Assembly. Those who watched him move quickly from one task to another described him as “skipping” between jobs and events. No other moniker could have described his personality as well. He was a cheerful man who enjoyed all types of work, especially physical labor. He loved life, and he loved people. He rarely spoke ill of others and expressed few complaints about any aspect of his life.

Skipper spent almost fifty years as a Methodist minister, confronting a culture of dogmatic religious beliefs that many of his colleagues would not dare question. Even so, he was never afraid to think for himself and challenge others to adopt social and economic justice as a cornerstone of Christian belief. He always ran a good church and provided the members of his congregation the spiritual guidance they needed to live better lives.

Nine years before Skipper died I asked him whether I could interview him and put his story on audio tape. At the time, he was eighty-three and seemed pleased that I wanted to hear his story. When I arrived for the interview I discovered he had filled several legal pads with notes about what he wanted to tell me. By the time I left he had given me ten hours of his personal history and philosophy recorded for posterity.

A transcript of that interview has been floating around his family for over thirty years. In 2011, I finally took the transcript and began editing it, cutting out the sections that were redundant, trying to make the spoken narrative more readable. My editing work has been published under the aegis of Suncrest Publications as
Skipper Hall: The Life and Religious Philosophy of Methodist Minister in New Mexico.

The book provides a first-person account of Skipper's life, a life that began in 1896, seven years before the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane and twelve years before Henry Ford introduced the Model T. The book also provides an account of Skipper's sometimes stormy relationship with the hierarchy of the Methodist Church. In the last section of the book Skipper explains his religious philosophy, a philosophy that sometimes served as a source of conflict with the church he served. All told, the book should satisfy a variety of interests — history, biography, church politics, and philosophy.

To this day, I have met few people who impressed me as much Skipper Hall. When he died in March 1989, the words spoken at his funeral became a testament to the great number of lives he touched. Numerous people have lived better lives because they knew him, and if the book I have published contributes anything to keeping his spirit alive, I will consider it a success.