A 1608 Map of Jamestown, Virginia
THE REVEREND ROBERT HUNT (CIRCA 1568-1608)
First Anglican Chaplain at Jamestown, Virginia
Colonization is for the hearty. I teach U.S. History I for college students frequently, and my reading of the past tells me that those who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, settled, and survived were heartier and more rugged than I. The first settlers of Jamestown had spiritual needs, and Robert Hunt was their initial shepherd.
Hunt, born in England circa 1568, served parishes in Reculver, Kent, and in Heathfield, Diocese of Chichester, before accompanying Captain John Smith and the first colonists to Virginia. Thus it happened that, on May 24, 1607, Hunt presided over the first Anglican Holy Eucharist in North America. He led many other regular services in the out of doors until the construction of a chapel. Hunt did this until his death in early 1608, sometime prior to April 10.
Hunt also did his best to create and maintain peace among the quarrelsome men at Jamestown. This was a difficult task, but his good character earned him much respect, regardless of the outcome of his peacemaking efforts. One test of this character came in January 1608, after an accidental fire at the fort. John Smith wrote:
Good master Hunt lost all his library, and all that he had but the clothes on his back, yet none ever did see him repine at his loss….Yet we had daily Common Prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons and every three months the Holy Communion till our Minister died.
Smith’s final tribute to the chaplain read:
He was an honest, religious, and courageous divine. He preferred the service of God in so good a voyage to every thought of ease at home. He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine. During his life our factions were oft healed and our great extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death. We all received from him the Holy Communion as a pledge of reconciliation for we all loved him for his exceeding goodness.
Here is a challenge fit for all of us who claim the label Christian: When people recall us, may they think first about our goodness, our service to God, our care for our fellow human beings, and our efforts to create and maintain peace among people. Life, you see, should not be about winning arguments; it ought to be about living love for each other and God. And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our fellow human beings, whom we can see.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 10, 2010 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME
Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and witness of Robert Hunt, first chaplain to the Jamestown colony, whose community knew him as an honest, religious, and courageous divine who, in his short life, endured great hardships without complaint. Help us, like him, to work for reconciliation and healing wherever we may be placed; through Jesus Christ your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16