Palo Alto celebration features pilgrim's diary

Interfaith Thanksgiving gathering Nov. 22 includes readings, ethnic desserts, multi-faith prayer

Almost four centuries have passed since the first Thanksgiving. On Tuesday (Nov. 22) night a gathering will recall the words and thoughts of Mayflower pilgrim leader William Bradford.

The event is part of a public Thanksgiving celebration at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, which includes an incantation by a Cherokee warrior, ethnic desserts, multi-faith prayers, chants, dancing, music and an interfaith Thanksgiving service entitled, "Many Gifts, One Spirit of Generosity." Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders will be among the participants.

The centerpiece will be a community-building conversation inspired by Bradford's journal, "Of Plymouth Plantation." The book records the events of the first 30 years of the pilgrims' life in the New World and the colonists' reactions. The journal is considered the single-most important source of information about the pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, according to the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Mass.

Fifty-three Mayflower survivors took part in the first Thanksgiving, which celebrated the first summer and autumn of abundance following a harrowing and deadly first winter and spring in 1620/1621, according to Bradford's journal. Out of 102 immigrants, 49 had died by that autumn.

The journal is relevant to current times, said Rev. Laurie McHugh, First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto associate pastor, who is leading the Bradford journal program.

Three excerpts on Tuesday will include the religious persecution of the pilgrims, fear and stereotyping of the native people, the pilgrims' hardships during the first winter and help they received from the native people and the first Thanksgiving, when natives and pilgrims overcame their fear of each other.

McHugh said she was inspired to bring to light passages from the children's book "Pilgrim Courage," which is based on firsthand accounts of Bradford and Edward Winslow, a governor of the colony.

"We are living in times not that unlike the conditions which the pilgrims faced, in which many of us are more keenly aware that our survival as a society, and indeed as a species depends on our cooperation with others who may come from vastly different backgrounds and worldviews.

"And yet few of us are well-schooled in trusting others or engaging in deeper-than-surface-level conversation with people we deem 'other' or 'strangers,'" McHugh said.

"My hope for this evening is a chance to offer some practice in that deeper relationship/community building, in a safe and prayer-filled setting."

Covenant Presbyterian Rev. Margaret Boles said organizers wanted to create an event "to talk about the tone and political rhetoric pervading the country today that is damaging to the collective soul. We chose to make a break from this (holiday) tradition to address this now."

The celebration is open to everyone of any faith and will emphasize respect and thankfulness for diversity, caring for one another and mutual respect for all human beings, organizers said.

Participants can bring a dessert to share. The evening will include accepted donations of non-perishable items for the South Palo Alto Food Closet. Any financial donations will be divided between the Palo Alto Opportunity Center and Doctors Without Borders.

What: Interfaith Thanksgiving celebration

When: Tuesday, Nov. 22, 7:30 t0 9:30 p.m. Anyone wanting to sing in the community choir should arrive at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 670 E. Meadow Dr., Palo Alto (adjacent to Mitchell Park)

Cost: Free

Information: Rev. Dr. Margaret Boles, 650-494-1760, or Samina Sundas, 650-387-1994

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Plymouth-Rock-Or-Bust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2011 at 6:30 am

Given that the Plymouth Colony was driven by men keen on separating from "the establishment" of English religious authority, to find themselves creating another "authority" based on zealotism, and intolerance, one can only wonder just how much "wisdom" there can be in thinking of these people.

The Wiki-page on the Plymouth Colony provides more detail that people are provided in public school history:

Web Link

One particularly interesting outcome of the social engineering of the "managers" of the early colony was to come face-to-face with the failure of "communalism":

From the Wiki-page:

Plymouth Colony has been cited as an illustration of the benefits to productivity gained when comparing a communal system to that of a free market system. With the change in law to allow each laborer to keep the food he grew, productivity received an enormous boost, taking the colony out of starvation. Once again when land was given over to ownership by the working people, production increased significantly.

This outcome rarely is discussed in public history presentations. It will be interesting if this seeming foray into politics at this church will also include this key outcome from the experiences of the Plymouth Colony? Another bit of history that is rarely found in public history texts is that Christmas was banned, by law, in this colony for a while, also.

All in all, living in the Plymouth Colony was probably not a lot of fun.

Like this comment
Posted by Carlito Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

And then the slaughter of native Americans started.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Simply Sandwiches shutters in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 3,137 views

More Stupid Plastic Food Things
By Laura Stec | 9 comments | 1,540 views

Operation Varsity Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 4 comments | 1,328 views

Couples: Write a Personal Ad . . . to Your Partner . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,211 views

State Legislature on Housing: Getting the Demos out of Democracy & with it, Accountability
By Douglas Moran | 5 comments | 1,162 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details