Sunday, June 14, 2009

The High Point of Stockbridge Calvinism

Calvinism has long embodied many denominations. But, together, those denominations continue to share this common symbol.

A photo of the Rev. Cutting Marsh, Missionary to the Stockbridge Mohicans, 1830-1848. Although (as Roger Nichols noted) Marsh tended to be "stern and stubborn," he experienced a sort of honeymoon period with the tribe before political conflict compromised the whole situation.

By the time Rev. Cutting Marsh enters the scene, the Stockbridge Mohicans had been a Christian nation for nearly one hundred years. This, of course, does not mean that all members of the tribe were pious, or even baptized, but if you've read enough of my posts, you can at least understand why I say they were a Christian nation, not merely "Christianized" or "missionized."

While the Stockbridge mission as a whole was supported by the largely Congregational ABCFM, Marsh identified himself as a Presbyterian, and his salary was contributed by the Scottish Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK). Based on Marsh's ongoing reports to the ABCFM, and his annual reports to the Scottish mission society, I consider Marsh's first six years or so to represent the high point of Calvinism among the Stockbridge Mohicans.

Here are the benchmarks noted in Marsh's letter to the ABCFM of July 8, 1833:

  • Out of a nation of roughly 250 people, Marsh reported that weekly church attendance ranged between 100 and 150 persons.
  • Marsh stated that of those who attended his worship services, none of them "violate the Sabbath by attending to secular concerns or indulging in amusements of any kind" on Sundays.
  • Marsh observed that the Stockbridge Mohicans were hospitable, kind, peaceful, not revengeful, ready to forgive and respectful, both to the aged and to "superiors;" [those traits, of course, are Indian values, but they are also Christian values].

And here's what Marsh wrote in his 1831 report to the SSPCK:
"...the sabbath here is generally observed, all kinds of labour are suspended & many of them observe it with great strictness. And when I arrived at the place of worship, which is not large, I found it filled with decently clad, and apparently devout worshippers. There is on the Sab. a very general attendance at meeting, & better order and more stillness I have seldom witnessed in assemblies of white people than uniformly prevail here. The singing is conducted wholly by themselves and they are very fond of it, have excellent natural voices & would excel provided they had suitable instruction in the art."

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