For Pastor Carhart, the first Christmas at “Saints' Roost” was a dream come true. No alcohol was sold in town, and only church people gathered at the Yuletide table. Time was given for Christmas carols and Scripture readings. In “Saints' Roost,” the citizens enjoyed a rare cocoon of righteousness on the nefarious Texas frontier.
Welcome to Clarendon, Texas, in 1878. This new town was founded at the convergence of Carrol Creek and the Salt Fork of the Red River, by Methodist minister Lewis Henry Carhart. It was his hope that Clarendon would be a little bit of Heaven on Texas earth. Tired of the sinful behaviors of folks back East, Rev. Carhart decided to move to West Texas, purchase 343 sections of land, and establish a community of faith. Like Abraham in Hebrews 10:11, he sought a city that was untouched by sin.
Like Carhart, there were many others who dreamed of establishing a city to honor God. On Christmas Eve 1741, Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf and David Nitschmann, established the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Their hope was to reverence Christ in a town named after the birthplace of Jesus.
And then there was John Alexander Dowie, who founded Zion, Illinois, in July 1901. His dream was to build a city just for Christians. So, he gave Bible names to parks and boulevards, and created a city seal that featured a crown, a dove, a cross, and the words “God Reigns.”
Before you scoff at these “politically incorrect” actions, consider the Pilgrims in 1620. When they arrived at Plymouth Rock, they formed the Mayflower Compact which said in part: “In the name of God, Amen….having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith…a Voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia.” There is no doubt that the Pilgrims were planting a community to honor Christ, just like Pastor Carhart did in Clarendon, Texas.
The small town of Clarendon had a church-like atmosphere, with seven Methodist ministers, one post office, a Bible college, and no saloons. It is said that judges in nearby towns would occasionally sentence those convicted of drunkenness to one week in the “sobriety settlement” of Clarendon. Over time, the town got the moniker of “Saints' Roost.”
While that first Christmas service in “Saints' Roost” held a lot of promise, things changed. The dream of a perfectly righteous community is noble but futile. The Garden of Eden only had two occupants with no saloons, but they still became corrupt. The Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, but to this day, they have not been able to establish that dream city of perfection.
But there is a City that God has created that is perfect. Abraham sought it. Jesus went to prepare it. John the Revelator saw it. One day, it will come down from Heaven and those who have prepared for it, will call it home (Revelation 21:2).