October 2018--Why did four members of First Church get shuttled by car from Milford to New Haven just to turn around and walk back to Milford?
To get to the answer, you have to go back 379 years to the beginning of Milford as a Christian settlement.
In 1637, a group of English people left their homeland because, after trying for over a decade to reform the rules of government and religion, they were still being mistreated for wanting to worship God in their Reformed Protestant simplicity. They felt God calling them to embark on a refugee journey to the New World to escape intense persecution.
The group, led by Rev. Peter Prudden, landed in Boston, but the area had already filled up with many European refugees looking for a better and freer religious life in the New World.
Captain Tibbals, during a bloody event in the Pequot Wars, had seen the area at the mouth of the Quinnipiac River, and so Prudden's group and John Davenport's group traveled from Boston to what became New Haven in 1638. It turned out that the city founded, New Haven, was not big enough for two preachers to both lead the new settlement's religious life.
After some investigating, a smaller river and Native American group was located west of New Haven and a trade of goods for land made. In late summer or ealry fall, the settlers migrated, as the History of Milford describes:
"The body of planters moved from New Haven by land, following the...Indian foot-path, driving their cattle and other domestic animals before them, while their household and farming utensils, and the materials for 'the common house' were taken round by water. Serg. Thomas Tibbals piloted the company through the woods to the place..."
Our trip was a much less difficult retracing of the first settlers' steps.
We had the benefit of sidewalks, roads, bridges, and bathrooms along the way. We had no cattle to herd. But in an age when people would probably drive or take the train between the two cities, we took a now uncommon journey. It was a connectional journey, making every step between the two places and making them feel more organically united in space and time (a reality that goes back to the two cities' very beginnings).
It turned out that the day of our journey was a chilly and blustery one, and when we hiked in West Haven on the boardwalk we felt the strong breeze on our faces. But we also enjoyed discussing with one another the joys and challenges of life, and what we anticipate will meet us in the steps ahead on our life journeys.
Near the end of the journey, Debra suggested that we walk through Milford Cemetery and by the D.A.R. house. This gave us the opportunity to pause on the back fence of 67 Prospect Street, where the first settlers were buried in Peter Prudden's garden. We thanked God for those settlers, for their journeys of faith that led us to being able to worship God in Milford and being able to go on our journey that day.
Our feet, knees, and hips may have been sore from walking over so much unforgiving pavement (over 12 miles!) but we were also refreshed by the opportunity to walk together and share such a distinctive spiritual experience together. There's even talk of making the hike a tradition (August 18th, 2019, anyone?).
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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