This week’s blog post is written by our Pastoral Associate Jaz Buchanan.
This past fall, a handful of us (First Church folx) embarked on different pilgrimages, learning more about Cambridge and surrounding neighborhood’s 18th and 19th century civil rights history.
- to the Royall House and Slave Quarters
- along Black Heritage Trail through Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood
- and along the African American Heritage Trail in Cambridgeport, Cambridge
We welcomed each pilgrimage as a prayer, grounding ourselves in our own heartbeats and breath. Sometimes we journeyed in silence, paying close attention to what we smelled, saw, heard, and felt. Other times we talked nonstop, sharing stories with friends we had not seen in a long time.
All three pilgrimages were filled with history that transformed the soul. History, many of us never knew about. History, many of us traveled past without ever noticing. We bore witness to the face of God in people’s stories and resistance who were enslaved. We were moved by the divine strength within black community activists, like Lewis and Harriet Hayden, who fought for human rights during the American Civil War. Lewis and his wife, Harriet, were leaders in the abolitionist movement and kept two kegs of gunpowder under their front stoop. When southern slave owners approached their door, the Haydens greeted them with lit candles, saying, “they would rather drop the candles and blow up the house then surrender the ex-slaves to their trust.” Holy bravery and courage.
We included a couple of testimonies below to share with our wider church community. We look forward to future pilgrimages that nudge us to expand our hearts to hear the Word of God across time and space.
Despite having walked many historic paths in Boston, I was first introduced to the African Meeting House on the FCC pilgrimage in Boston, and I learned about the significant role it has played in Boston and American history. It was here that meetings took place to desegregate Boston schools in the 1840s, to hear William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass on abolishing slavery, to assist fugitive slaves via the Underground Railroad, and to support the local African American community. I look forward to returning when the Meeting House reopens for visitors. – Susan Ohman
An eye-opening journey- from the tour of the Royall estate in Medford, a place I have passed many times, learning that the owner had many enslaved people and was accepted by his peers… right here in Greater Boston. The Beacon Hill tour with its highlights of African-American places tucked in among the affluence of that area. The great statue of the Massachusetts 54th regiment-very moving, especially when one considers the lack of recognition and compensation for African-American soldiers. -Marianne Jensen
Come join us next time?
Pastoral Associate, FCC