New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Praying Indians at Wellesley Friends Meeting

Nov 27, 2018
Roland Stern, Wellesley (MA) Friends Meeting

On Saturday November 17, 2018, the film Praying Town was shown at Wellesley Friends Meeting. We were joined by the filmmaker, Zadi Zokou. Praying Town tells the story of the first Praying Indian village founded in 1651 in South Natick, Massachusetts. This was the first of 14 Praying Indians villages founded with the help of John Eliot, the Puritan Apostle to the Indians. It was the only church to call its members to prayer service by its drum.

In 1675, due to the greedy appropriation of Native American lands by whites, Metacom (“King Phillip”), mighty Wampanoag Chief, responded with what has come to be known at King Phillip’s War. The Praying Indians remained neutral. Despite this, in October 1675 the Massachusetts Colonial government ordered the removal of the Praying Indians to Deer Island, and by December more than 500 Christian Indians were brought to the island. When they were released in 1676, because of the harsh conditions only 167 had survived.

At a potluck attended by 45 Quakers and members of the Praying Indians, we prayed, ate and shared our stories. We were inspired by the same Spirit as John Woolman: "Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they might be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of truth among them." (John Woolman, 1720-1772)

After the potluck, 75 assembled to watch the film. This was an occasion for outreach to our neighbors and surrounding towns.

Chief Caring Hands, the current leader of the tribe and the pastor of the Praying Indians of Natick, participated in the question-and-answer session. She recounted that on August 11, 2012, for the first time after almost 300 years, members of the tribe again began worshipping at the Eliot Church, South Natick, the site of the original church of the Natick Praying Indian Town.

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

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