Have Faith: Looking back

Federated Church re-enacts history in “For All the Saints”

Kevin Ryan playing Thomas Mayhew junior, left, with David Pritchard playing Thomas Mayhew senior in "For all the Saints." —Stacey Rupolo

Edgartown’s Federated Church is celebrating its 375th anniversary with several events this summer. The congregation hosted a reading of a Frederick Douglass speech on July 3 and marched in the Fourth of July parade, and now they’ve put together an evening performance of “For All the Saints,” a history of faith on the Island from 1642 to 1945 through words and music. The first performance was July 17, and another will follow Monday, August 7, also at 7 pm.

I was able to make the first pageant, and was happy to see players decked out in period costumes and historian Elizabeth St. John Villard completing the picture with historic facts along the way. Minister of music Peter Boak kept the choral portions flowing with an outstanding chorus section and several top-notch soloists.

“For All the Saints” presents the history of the Federated Church, formed by the union of the First Congregational Church of Martha’s Vineyard and the Baptist Church of Edgartown. Names like Mayhew, Dunham, Marchant, Folger, Vinson, Pease, Norton, Fisher, and others were among those portrayed.

There was even a bit of an argument between Thomas Mayhew Sr. and Peter Folger, who dared to bring up the Baptist viewpoint.

“God tells us infants are damned and must be baptized!” Mayhew declared.

“All those baptized in the Bible are adults,” Folger countered.

Katrina Nevin played Susannah Browning Vinson, and told the audience what life was like as a settler on the Vineyard in 1664.

“You didn’t have an empty house waiting for you to move in,” she said. Ms. Nevin said that life was difficult, and if there was furniture needed, it had to be built first. She also said that Puritan women were allowed to choose whom they married. After all, how could she obey her husband if she didn’t love and respect him? Ms. Nevin, who has a lovely voice, then sang “I Sought Him Whom My Soul Did Love.”

It was clear all evening that even though the men were the dominant decisionmakers, the women on the Island were more than capable of taking care of things while their men contemplated theology, war, and the whaling industry.

Liz Villard created and directed the performance, and did a fine job collaborating with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s prize librarian, Bow Van Riper, on gathering Island history. She also credits several books, using them to gather enough information to paint a good picture of what life must have been like back then.

If you enjoy Island history and terrific music, try to make the August performance. And if that’s not possible, there are a couple of other things going on at the church.

On Sunday, July 30, the church will formally thank their interim minister, the Rev. Sharon Eckhardt, for her work over the past 14 months at the church. The congregation will host a light luncheon following the 9:30 am service, the last she will preside over. Herb Ward, who is in charge of publicity at the church, said the reception will take place at the Mayhew Parsonage, and all those whom she touched are invited to come.

The Federated Church hosts its 10th annual Edgartown House Tour on Tuesday, August 1, this year focusing on houses in the Dunham Road/Atwood Circle area of Edgartown. Tickets for the tour are $40, and can be purchased at the church at 45 South Summer St. beginning at 1 pm on the day of the tour. Mary Jane Carpenter will make a presentation at 1:30 pm. Following the lecture, the tour will run from 2 to 4:30 pm.

For more information about any of the events at the Federated Church, call 508-627-4421, email admin@federatedchurchmv.org, or visit federatedchurchmv.org.


The talented brothers McMahon, Sean and Griffin, will perform at noon at Union Chapel on Wednesday, August 2, as part of the chapel’s free concert series.

Griffin is music director at St. Andrew’s Church and directs the Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Chorus. When he’s not working, he’s busy playing keyboard in just about every band on the Island. You can find him at the Ritz playing with the Edbury All Stars on Thursday nights, and sometimes with Phil daRosa, the Chandler Blues Band, and others.

Sean spends a lot of time on the Island as well. “I come here often,” Sean told me on Tuesday. “I don’t have a regular gig, but I can be found at Lola’s, the Wharf, the Ritz. I’m around the Island too, but in a mysterious, spontaneous way.”

Sean plays guitar, and both brothers are talented singers. Sean just finished playing the Green River Festival in Western Massachusetts, and has been recording with his band, Workman Song.

I’ve heard them both perform, and you won’t want to miss their folk/rock sound, especially at Union Chapel, where the acoustics are pretty incredible.