Preaching at Old Sturbridge Village


I am a living historian and as such I get to do some cool things.  A few months ago I got to witness the wedding vows of two people in full colonial minister’s garb and recently I was asked to preach at the Center Meeting House at Old Sturbridge Village.

If you are unfamiliar with Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), it is a collection of buildings set in a rural New England about 1830/1840-time frame.  Costumed historical interpreters lead visitors through daily life in the village.  The centerpiece is the Meeting House at the head of the Town Common.  The Meeting House was originally the Baptist Church in the Town of Sturbridge until that congregation merged to form what is now the Sturbridge Federated Church.

I was asked to preach as part of the Redcoats and Rebels event that takes place each year.  Although not the same period, OSV opens its doors to living historians of the Crown Forces and the Americans stage this event as a living history/battle reenactment.  I would guess there were about 1,000 reenactors present for the entire weekend.  There were various displays of camp life as well as life in general in the late 1700’s.

On Sunday, a different minister is chosen to bring the message to the reenactors and those who might be visiting the village.  The Meetinghouse was filled, which made it sweltering.  I used my line, “it is much better to be hot here than hereafter” well it’s not my line, but I have made it my own.

CMH Pulpit
Center Meetinghouse Pulpit

Standing in that historic pulpit gave me pause and my mind drifted to all those who have preached from that spot in the past.  What messages did they bring?  How many couples have been joined in that building?  All interesting questions to ponder.  Then there was the height.  The pulpit stands a good 20 feet off the ground, so one is looking over the tops of the heads of those listening.  Of course, this was done primarily for sound purposes but also, I imagine, for a little intimidation.

Keeping with the theme of the event I admonished those present for their behavior the night before in the tavern as well as the display the women had staged the day before. They did a kind of cool presentation about women’s dress of the period and in the real Puritan style I marched in the meeting house calling “shame.”  The assembled women assured me that their virtue was intact and that they were well guarded.

After the admonishment, I moved into the sermon based on Jesus words from John 6 “I am the bread of life.”  I will post the sermon in another post.

I am grateful to the folks at St. Michael for giving me the day off, so I could bring God’s word to the battlefield and also the organizers of the event for asking me to preach.  I will not soon forget the experience.

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