- This event has passed.
Even The Rocks Tell Stories
Sunday, November 20 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Let us gather to express our gratitude for all the blessings received this year and to share the story of the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of the Mashpee Wampanoag people. This is an all ages worship service. Join us after for a potluck! Rev. Dr. María Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa will be preaching.
How to Attend
We require masks in all buildings. We encourage all in person participants to be vaccinated. Read more about our In Person Guidelines here.
• To virtually attend, please Zoom in using room number 989 3107 9078, passcode: chalice.
• To phone into the service, call 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 989 3107 9078.
For those joining, please mute as soon as you enter the room, so everyone can hear. Please note, the services will be recorded, but at this time, there are no plans to share the recording.
This week is an all ages service with all children staying in the service. OWL classes will take place. For more about our Religious Education programs, click here!
If you don’t have a chalice, but want to light one, check out our Making a Chalice at Home page.
Both virtual and in person services are followed by coffee hour.
Even The Rocks Tell Stories
I love stories! Do you like stories? As a child I remember being fascinated by my grandmother’s stories. She was a teacher and had lots of stories to tell. Just when I thought I knew a story very very well and couldn’t wait for her to repeat the happy ending, she would surprise me with an ending that was more like a question that made me think hard and sent me right back to the beginning… this is how she ended every time: “y colorín colorado, este cuento ha terminado y pasó por un zapatito roto, para que mañana te cuente otro” and this story went through the hole of an old worn shoe, so that tomorrow I can tell you another one…”
Ask any storyteller and they will tell you that there are as many versions of the same story as there are grains of sands. Each time the story is told, it acquires new and different meanings. Even when the story is retold word for word, it is never exactly the same. As a story teller, I believe in the power of memories as they come alive every time we tell stories. Holidays are times when families gather to tell stories and to remember loved ones who are no longer with us and we gather to make new memories. Thanksgiving is such a Holiday. And there are so many stories about Thanksgiving!
Do you remember the Thanksgiving story?
Most of us learned the “official” Thanksgiving story in school. Depending on the teacher, that story can indeed be told in very different ways in every classroom, with different messages about what happened long ago on Wampanoag land.
The event we know today as “The First Thanksgiving” is said to have been a harvest festival held in 1621 in Plymouth by the pilgrims and their Native American neighbors. But this story is not the whole story. Another story tells of the first official Day of Thanksgiving being proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop. But this is not the whole story either.
Sometimes, even rocks tell stories. Let me tell you:
Overlooking Plymouth Rock, there is another rock with an inscription that reads:
“Since 1970 Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving Holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in a National day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native Peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”
Had you ever heard this story before?
Mourning means feeling very sad for losing someone you love very much. Remembrance means remembering the ancestors, our elders. Spiritual connection means we support each other and we practice loving kindness so that we feel connected to each other.
Sometimes there are important stories that have been silenced. This is the story of Wamsutta James: In 1970, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts organized a celebration of the 350th anniversary of their arrival on Wampanoag land. They invited Wampanoag leader Wamsutta James, but when they found out what he planned to say, they disinvited him. This is in part what he was going to say:
“… I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry… It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People…
The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.
Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. Our spirit refuses to die. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men [sic] and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood [sic] prevail.
The important point is that… we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours”
Why do you think they didn’t want Wamsutta James to tell this story?
He says that history cannot be changed, and he also says that today we can work together and become a more humane America. So this story is still being told and we can imagine and write a different more loving ending, right?
Let me tell you the story of my first Thanksgiving. My grandmother, my mother, and I arrived in the United States in the wintertime. It was freezing cold and we were so sad to be so far away from our family in Chile. I missed my friends so much and imagined them having fun without me. We sat by the window, looking at the empty streets… when suddenly I saw it…snow! I had never seen snow before! I ran to get my mother and we bundled up as we went outside to see this miracle of nature! I remember twirling around and around trying, looking up at the sky, trying to catch some snow flakes in my mouth… I felt sad and happy at the same time…
But wait… You might ask: How can I, a person who honors her indigenous heritage celebrate this day? A day that for many indigenous peoples and allies is commemorated as a National Day of Mourning? How can I be talking about twirling around and playing in the snow?
Well, let’s hear the rest of the story of my first Thanksgiving…
So that first winter was really really cold and my mother heard that the neighbors, Familia Belen, from the Philippines, needed blankets. My mother brought them quilted sleeping bags and they were so happy! They immediately invited us to dinner. Theirs was a beautiful and humble table where every plate was meant to be shared. I don’t know how we communicated but I do remember the smiles, the kindness in people’s eyes, the children playing and snuggling inside the sleeping bags my mom had made. And I remember in my heart a sense of deep joy and gratitude, accompanying a deep sense of loss and sadness at being so far away from home… yet being able to feel warm, safe, welcomed, and surprised by joy and hope, and my own laughter… a couple of months later on another snowy day, my dear Grandmother died. And it was familia Belen who showed up to offer support and the warmth of their loving kindness.
For my mother, Thanksgiving, Dia de Accion de Gracias, became a holiday to celebrate life, to share with others especially those far away from home, to pause and think of our ancestors and give thanks for their resiliency, love, and continued guidance. When she returned to Chile, she brought the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday with her. It became an opportunity for community service at her church, visiting the sick, knitting blankets, baking bread, and sharing meals. Perhaps the turkey took the shape of corn pudding, and grapes replaced cranberries, but the spirit of gratitude still brought back memories of the joy of sharing. And every Thanksgiving, after saying Gracias, mami tells the story of our first Thanksgiving and remembers the kindness of familia Belen. A day of remembrance and a day of spiritual connection.
Dear Friends, may this Thanksgiving Holiday offer us many opportunities to share our stories. All our stories are interconnected and make up the bigger story of humanity. Let us be grateful for all our stories and for our willingness to listen to each other with compassion and without judgment. I honor your story. And I am so grateful for your presence here!
As we remember, let us also be spiritually connected in this community of faith that always has a space at the table for each and every one of us. May we delight in the joy of making new memories as we build a multicultural beloved community. And may we, born story tellers that we all are, remember to tell and retell our stories of pain and healing, loneliness and solidarity, loss and shared strength, separation and gathering, despair and hope, rejection and unconditional love… We have been given an opportunity to journey together as a community of faith and to write a shared story that can help us and our children become more loving, more compassionate, more grateful for all that we are, for all that is our life. Y colorín colorado este cuento ha terminado. Y pasó por un zapatito roto para que mañana te cuente otro..And this story went through the hole of an old worn shoe, so that tomorrow I can tell you another one…
Please turn to your neighbor and say “I honor your story. I am so grateful for your presence” Gracias!