Session 1 – Remembering Foundations: This is Bigger than Me!

©2017 Ginger Hertenstein

Community Conversation 3
Community in Unity
A conversation among leaders and citizens for the flourishing of Duncanville

We began by setting our goal; engage in conversation about becoming a community in unity. Our diversity should enrich us as we listen and learn from each other’s perspective. We are not trying to solve problems! We are practicing the art of civil conversation.

Week One: a conversation about our foundations. We are the United States. Our mottos are “In God We Trust” and “E pluribus unum.” It means “out of the many, one.” How did we come to those mottos? We looked at three stories from our nation’s history. We discovered the risk was huge; the faith was large; the fight was strong. People in these stories felt that they were called. They believed that settling and founding this nation was much larger than themselves.

Story Summaries

Story 1:
In the fall of 1620, the Mayflower/Pilgrims landed 250 miles from their originally planned destination. No friends, no inns, ocean on one side and woods on the other; winter approaching. They could not even disembark. But by God’s grace and their own initiative, the settlers found an abandoned Indian settlement in a well-sheltered clearing on a high hill with a freshwater stream, and an abundant supply of dried corn and seed. The next spring God’s grace came in the appearance of an Indian from the Wampanoag tribe who spoke English. A peace treaty was negotiated between the Chief and the Pilgrims that lasted fifty years. The Indian stayed on with the Pilgrims to teach them how to grow appropriate crops for survival. They considered his devotion as a gift from God, and they marveled at God sending someone who helped them far beyond their expectations. That next fall the Pilgrims and Indians held a three-day celebration—the First Thanksgiving.

Story 2:
One hundred fifty years later thirteen colonies challenged England and sought independence. How did they do it? The eight-year war contained so many failures it is hard to imagine success. The Continental Army was often ill-equipped, hungry, poorly clothed, rapidly dwindling, and without funds. Stripped of any personal power or pride, the 9,000 men under Commander in Chief, George Washington prayed, trained, and pressed on. The British mockingly described them as: “Bible-faced, Yankee Psalm-singers.”

In the midst of the war, the colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, exposing them to execution as traitors. It actually spurred the signers on. Ben Franklin said, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Pledging to each other “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, they fought the proud, well-supplied 32,000+ British soldiers. God indeed helped them. Battles were won through magnificently timed ice storms from which the Brits retreated; hurricane-force wind storms that drove back British warships; and fog which protectively blocked the view of the enemy when the Americans needed help, allowing surprising victory.

Story 3:
The Constitutional Convention convened in summer, 1787. Thirteen loosely connected states were trying to create something never been done before—a UNITED States. “We are attempting, by this Constitution, to abolish factions, and to unite all parties for the general welfare,” said Alexander Hamilton. The delegates pledged total secrecy and blocked out all media and pledged to keep all their records private until all the delegates had died, which all did. But disagreements constantly threatened this attempt at a government of self-rule and freedom. After weeks of fighting, 81-year-old Ben Franklin urged them to pray, saying, “God has helped us thus far, and if you think you can do this on your own, you will fail. After that talk, the tenor shifted.

The day of the most crucial vote arrived. There were two delegates from Maryland, each on a different political side thus with each vote, they canceled out the other. On that day, just prior to the vote call, one of those delegates, Daniel Jenifer, got up, strolled out of the State House, and took a walk. He returned right after the tally. He had left just long enough for Luther Martin, the other delegate from Maryland, to control Maryland’s vote on equal representation for every state in one house of the legislature. Mr. Jenifer knew that had the other party not won the vote, the convention would have ended in disagreement, and if they had quit, there would have been no United States. Even though he was on the side against this issue, he deliberately threw the result the other way to save the convention. He wanted to deliver a larger victory for his country.

Table Conversation
Each table highlighted a story they particularly liked and related it to unity. Some points that were noted:

  • The willingness to make great sacrifices for the good of the whole
  • Faith in God
  • Common vision and persistence to survive, fight, achieve something never done before
  • Indians and Englishmen worked together peacefully and helped each other
  • Hang together and win or hang separately as traitors (united we stand, divided we fall)
  • Sense of destiny or vision/call to do something worthwhile

There were many other excellent comments about what inspired each of us, and how these stories need to be told to the next generation in order to help them understand, learn from, and not repeat the same mistakes.

Closing:
“In God we Trust” and “E Pluribus Unum” are written on walls all over Washington DC. But words on walls are not enough. Is your faith on a sign or maybe even a cross on your wall? Only when you live it does it come to life. A symbol on the wall is simply that: a symbol.

Nobody could guess the Continental Army’s favorite song. It was “Chester” by Wm. Billings.1 Check out the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7S_07E-9CA

Thanks Kasey for the sound system, awesome tech support, brownies and ice cream!!!

See you this Thursday! 7:00 – 8:15 pm


1 Billings was the first American choral composer who had published The New England Psalm Singer in 1770. In it was a hymn called “Chester.” In 1778, he rewrote it for the Continental Army.

 

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