Feast of John Eliot (May 20)   Leave a comment

Above:   John Eliot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JOHN ELIOT (JULY OR AUGUST 1604-MAY 20, 1690)

“The Apostle to the Indians”

On the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church the commemoration of the life of John Eliot falls on May 21.  May 20 is a better date, however, given the fact he died on May 20, 1690.  Therefore the Feast of John Eliot falls on May 20 on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Since his feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar via The Episcopal Church, my denomination, I emphasize a particular point about the breadth of the Episcopal calendar of saints.  I note that Eliot, a Puritan (albeit a Non-Separatist one), occupies a slot on the calendar of saints of a church that is the U.S. counterpart of the denomination he rejected de facto.  The catholicity of the Episcopal calendar of saints appeals to me.

John Eliot, who became an evangelist to Native Americans, was an Anglican priest who turned into a Non-Separatist Puritan minister.  He, born in England in July or August 1604, graduated from Cambridge in 1622 then became a priest in The Church of England.  During the next few years he transformed into a Puritan, however.  He arrived in the new Massachusetts Bay colony in 1631 and became a minister at Roxbury.  Unlike many other Puritans, our saint did not consider indigenous people to be agents of Satan and a population to kill.  (If one cannot kill alleged agents of Satan, which group of people can one kill in good conscience, I ask facetiously.)  No, he studied the Algonquin language and, having mastered it, inaugurated his mission to the native speakers of that tongue in 1646.

The “Apostle to the Indians” was an effective evangelist.  Eliot received help from the government of the English commonwealth via the Corporation for Promoting and Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians of New England, which Parliament chartered in 1649.  Natives in the “praying towns,” fourteen of which Eliot founded over time, received education, homes, clothing, and food.  Eliot founded the first indigenous church in 1660, published an Algonquin translation of the New Testament the following year, and released the full Bible in Algonquin in 1663.  As of 1674 about 3,600 “Praying Indians” resided in New England.

Unfortunately, war came, and fear, intolerance, and violence destroyed what Eliot worked so hard to maintain.  During King Philip’s War (1675-1676) many panicky colonists did not distinguish between Christian Indians and non-Christian Natives while attacking and killing people.  After the war, which resulted in the decimation of the indigenous population of New England and the selling of many Indians into slavery in the Caribbean basin, the work of evangelizing Native Americans in New England became more difficult.  The mission dwindled.  The last native minister died in 1716.

Eliot was also historically important with regard to publishing in North America.  He helped to prepare the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first book printed in New England.  Our saint also wrote The Christian Commonwealth (1659), suppressed due to its political position, republicanism.  Eliot’s The Communion of Churches (1665) was the first book published privately in North America.  Other works by our saint were Indian Grammar Begun (1666), The Indian Primer (1669), and The Harmony of the Gospels (1678).

Eliot, aged 85 years, died at Roxbury on May 20, 1690.  He had built up a mission for the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of his indigenous neighbors.  Unfortunately, others tore that down.  Nevertheless, Eliot was faithful to the end.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Eliot was a pioneer in the fields of Native American linguistic studies and missions to indigenous populations in North America.  Many subsequent people have stood on his proverbial soldiers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, by the proclamation of your Word all nations are drawn to you:

Make us desire, like John Eliot, to share your Good News with those whom we encounter,

so that all people may come to a saving knowledge of you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Great Creator, we thank you for the imagination and conviction of your evangelist, John Eliot,

who brought both literacy and the Bible to the Algonquin people,

and reshaped their communities into fellowships of Christ to serve you and give you praise;

and we pray that we may so desire to share your Good News

with others that we labor for mutual understanding and trust;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 1:1-11

Psalm 68:33-36

Romans 15:13-21

Mark 4:1-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 381

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: