January 26, 1878 - April 23, 1956
|With the passing of Van Carter, April 23, 1956, a chapter ended in the careers of four illustrious Carter preachers of the Louisiana Conference.
Dr. C. W. Carter, the distinguished father of three Methodist preachers, Briscoe, Thomas, and Van, was born in East Feliciana Parish in 1833. Dr. Carter entered the Methodist ministry in 1861 from a career in law. He served churches all over the state of Louisiana, and later became president of his alma mater, Centenary College, located at Jackson, Louisiana into the excitement and impermanency of a Methodist parsonage, at Bastrop, Louisiana, Van Carter was born, January 26, 1878. Also from the parsonage home came Briscoe Carter, a famous name in the annals of the Louisiana Conference, and Thomas Carter, the distinguished Bible professor of Vanderbilt University.
There were three daughters of this distinguished family who reached womanhood, Mrs. Mattie Peace, Mrs. A. D. McVoy, and Mrs. Edward Gardia. All have preceded Van across the last frontier.
Death came rather suddenly to Van Carter while he was pastor of Bethel church at Pride, Louisiana, in the Baton Rouge District. He was buried in Baton Rouge, on April 23, 1956. The Rev. Edward W. Harris, his district superintendent and dear friend, officiated. Dr. Bentley Sloane, one of his “sons in the ministry,” spoke briefly of his life. Two other friends, Dr. B. C. Taylor and Dr. A. M. Serex, had the prayer and read the scripture.
Van Carter is survived by his wife, Fannie Norman Carter, and six nephews.
Up and down the roads and highways of Louisiana, in town, city and hamlet, the name of Uncle Van Carter was a household word. In later years, after he married Miss Fannie Norman, a member of his famous Camp Lassa staff, Aunt Fannie and Uncle Van were linked in common affection in the hearts of a great multitude.
The restless energy of Van Carter found expression in many directions; but step-by-step the “Hound of Heaven” pursued him until he joined the ranks of his distinguished father and brothers in the vocation of his Lord and Master. A mere chronicle of events in the early manhood of Van Carter reveals the restless quest of this great soul. In 1901, Van remained in Crowley where his father had been pastor. He worked in a canal office and later sold life insurance. In 1906, he was secretary of the Correspondence School of Vanderbilt University.
In 1907, he became General Secretary of the North Carolina Sunday School Association. In 1909, he returned to his native state and became General Secretary of the Louisiana State Sunday School Association, and established headquarters in New Orleans. In this work, Van Carter found adequate expression for his unique talents and boundless energy.
In 1920, he attended the World Sunday School Convention in Tokyo, Japan. In 1922, he went to Cuba with an old friend, Mr. Ruben Douglas, of Gilllain.
Long before the denominations had developed an extensive program of Christian education and rural work, Van Carter and his staff of Sunday School workers were pioneers in this field. He traveled all over the state, organizing Parish Sunday School Councils and setting up conference and conventions where lay workers from local churches could come and learn new methods. This program was a combination of rural work, church extension, and home missions all in one. It reached into remote sections where the church was weakest, gave a new vision to the local group, and enlisted leaders for the future.
His office published a monthly Sunday School magazine with helps for the local church and his Parish Councils. He saw a great potential in youth work, and in 1919, he joined forces with the state Y.M.C.A. and opened a boy’s camp at Lake Arthur. From this beginning, Van Carter moved into the camping program as a major enterprise. As the International Council of Religious Education developed, the Louisiana Sunday School Association became the Louisiana Council of Religious Education. In 1924, he secured a tract of land in Forbing, a few miles south of Shreveport, and set up summer headquarters for the Louisiana Council of Religious Education. To this beautiful 40 acre tract of rolling, wooded hills, he gave the name Camp Lassa, thus preserving for posterity the title of the Louisiana Sunday School Association, which he founded. This Camp Lassa site was extensively developed with water systems, halls, and lodges, and eventually it became the permanent headquarters of the Louisiana Council. Young people from all over the state and from all churches came to the ten-day camps scheduled throughout the summer. The name Uncle Van became a famous one among the church people of Louisiana. Miss Fannie Norman, his efficient secretary and dining hail manager, became “Aunt Fannie” to the hundreds of young people who came to Camp Lassa during the summer. She was the chief feminine influence in this great program, and Uncle Van came more and more to depend on her gracious spirit and efficient management. On November 28, 1936, Uncle Van and Aunt Fannie consummated their careers in marriage and entered a new and happier vocation of establishing a home. Thereafter, in writing his friends, he signed his letters “Fananvan.”
The personality of Van Carter was the dominant factor in the Camp Lassa program. His clear voice rang out over the hills in friendly greeting or gospel song. He personally guided the table talk and stunts at mealtime. One by one, he gave counsel to boys and girls as he sat with them in the afternoon on the hillside. He umpired the baseball games and presided over the vesper services. But his greatest role at Camp Lassa was in the character of the Great Chief of the council fire program, the evening climax of the day’s events. Indian lore was used throughout the Camp Lassa program, and It reached its highest idealism in the sacred council fire at night. Dressed in his deerskin robe, his feathered Indian headdress, and carrying his sacred staff, the symbol of his chieftain authority, he presided over the council circle. In the light of the glowing embers of the campfire, hundreds of’ boys and girls found a new dimension of life, and returned to their local communities prepared for Christian service.
As the denominations developed their own youth camping programs, the pioneer work of Van Carter was brought to a close.
In 1938, he joined the administrative staff of Centenary College to assist in raising funds. But events were shaping up to bring a grand climax to the life of Uncle Van Carter. In 1941, Dr. Briscoe Carter, his distinguished brother in the Louisiana Conference, died while serving the church at Mooringsport. Van Carter, a layman in the Methodist Church, was called upon to supply the pulpit of his distinguished brother. At the end of the Conference Year, Van Carter stepped forward to carry the torch of the famous Carter family in the Methodist ministry. Dr. A. M. Serex, his district superintendent, recommended him to the committee on admissions, and in turn, this committee made a special case of Van Carter and recommended that the Conference admit him on trial by three-fourths vote. This was done, and at the age of 63, Van Carter joined the ranks of the itinerant ministry in the Methodist Church in the tradition of his family. He and his beloved companion, “Aunt Fannie,” entered upon a new and what was to be the last phase of his remarkable career. The mother church welcomed another son of the Carter parsonage, and Uncle Van turned his unusual talents and boundless energy to the work of the settled pastorate. He built a church at Mooringsport, served Belcher and Gilllam, and was assigned to Jackson, where he superannuated in 1950. Although Van Carter had reached the legal age of retirement, his work was not finished; so he asked for an appointment and was continued in the Baton Rouge District on the Bethel charge. Even here, his last assignment, Van Carter was making plans for a new church building. But the final chapter in a long, useful life was being written, following a hemorrhage while in Clinton, he passed away, April 23, 1956.
This brief record and the circumstances which brought it to a close are not the measure of this great soul. Released from the restrictions of an infirm body, Van Carter lays his trophies at the feet of the Master and arises to the dawning of a new day.
Like Enoch of old, Van Carter had walked with God on such a long journey that it was too late to return home and in the gathering darkness he went on across the last frontier with God. A great multitude will say,
“Goodbye, Uncle Van, unti1l we meet again.”
“So long Thy power hath blest me,
Sure it still will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, O’er crag and torrent,
‘till the night is gone.
And with the morn those angels faces smile;
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.”
|Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church, Pages 151-152, 1956 by Bentley Sloane.|