By Jesse A. Miller
For the second year in a row, Jesse A. Miller has written a playlet for our Annual Thanksgiving Evensong Service. This year it was held on November 19, 2000 at the 1744 St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley in Malvern, PA, The Rev. Nathaniel T. Reece, Assistant Rector and SMDPA Elder, the Rev. Judith A. H. Meier, Pastor, Gulph United Church of Christ, Gilph Mills, PA, celebrating.
The Setting: Imagine, if you will, that you are part of a gathering of the Mayflower company on a sunny day in the fall of 1621. You are in the meeting house at Plymouth colony just before Christian services are about to begin. Governor Bradford (portrayed by former SMDPA Governor Frederick T. J. Clement, Jr.) and Elder Brewster (portrayed by the author, Jesse A. Miller) are leading a discussion on certain plans for the colony.
Elder Brewster: Lord, we ask thy blessings on this group and ask thee to guide us in our meditations. We undertake now to discuss a matter of exceedingly great importance. One that could have grave consequences for the future of our colony. We ask thy guidance and direction in this matter.
Governor Bradford: It has now been almost a year since we first set foot upon the soil of America. This has been a year of great hardship and many sorrows. Of the 102 souls who dis-embarked from the Mayflower last November, less than half have survived the winter. It was a winter of great sickness. And a fire destroyed our common shelter in the midst of winter. At that time it seemed that we all must perish for sometimes 2 people died in a single day.
Master John Carver, who was our governor, died suddenly while planting our crops in the spring. Then you saw fit to elect me as your governor of the colony.
Affliction has followed affliction. But we have had a good summer. The crops, we planted on 12 acres of land, have flourished so that each family should have enough food to last them through the winter. Our Indian corn, which we fertilized with herring in the Indian fashion, did well. The barley did produce although not as well as expected. The peas did fail when the sun scorched their blossoms.
Now Elder Brewster has a proposal to commemorate our first year in the New World.
Elder Brewster: Indeed this has been a trying year. So many of our company have departed and our ranks are depleted. Now it seems that our main troubles are over. The time of dying has passed. We have ample food to last each family through the winter. The Lord has looked after our colony and has blessed us with ample supplies of shellfish, eels and cod. We have the freedom that we sought when we embarked upon this journey last year. We have been blessed. Let us have a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the goodness of God’s mercy.
Governor Bradford: Why should we celebrate such a day? We are still surrounded by many Indians who could take advantage of any weakness or lack of vigilance on our part.
Elder Brewster: Indeed we are surrounded by many Indians, but they have been the ones who have sustained us in our days of great want. When first we settled here, we were fearful that the Indians might attack and massacre us. Instead, the Indians were our salvation. Squanto showed us how to plant Indian corn and how to gather great barrels of eels from the sea and marshes. Massasoit, the great chief of the Wampanoags, has signed a covenant with us to maintain the peace. If his warriors were to come to a feast, they will leave their bows and arrows behind to insure their peaceful intentions.
Governor Bradford: How should we celebrate such a day? Do we have enough food? It is possible that Massasoit will come with his entire tribe, which is said to be at least 100 braves, far outnumbering our people.
Elder Brewster: Now is the time when birds are on the wing, heading south to avoid the winter. Two men with fowling pieces could probably shoot enough ducks and geese in a day to keep us supplied for a week. Wed can gather a barrel of eels without any effort. And there are shellfish in abundance. Our supply of corn is sufficient for corn bread or porridge. Yes, we are well supplied thanks be to the Lord’s generous provisions.
For entertainment, we can have foot races. We can teach the Indians some of our games. We can show them our marksmanship with our rifles. This will impress them with our ability to fight if that should become necessary at some future time.
Governor Bradford: Still, I am fearful for the safety of our colony. We are but a few in the midst of many Indians. They would outnumber us 2 to 1. In a surprise attack they could completely vanquish all of us. Is it worth the risk?
Elder Brewster: I have faith that the Lord will protect us. I have faith that Massasoit will stand by his compact to live in peace with us. I believe we should have a day of thanksgiving to praise the Lord for his bounty and a day to thank the Indians for their help in making this colony survive.
Governor Bradford: This is a decision that must be made by all in the colony since this is a perilous undertaking. You, who are gathered here today, must decide — Should we have a day of thanksgiving to which we invite the Indians to participate? All those in favor, raise your hand. Opposed, raise your hand.