*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 23rd of June 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Because you are listening to a show whose entire conceit is a daily reminder of anniversaries and historical commemorations, I don’t need to tell you that we like to mark the time with “firsts.”

Who did it first? It is a common question, and often we find people racing to be first like they were my sons racing to sit shotgun in my car. Consider how many churches call themselves 1st Baptist, Presbyterian, etc., and then there is the contentious debate over the “first” church services in the New World.

In this show, we have discussed the Spanish Catholics in Florida who likely held the first Mass in what would become the United States. We also looked at the Jamestown colony and their first service in 1607.

However, the West Coast would like a word with its claim that on this day (or thereabouts) in 1579, the crew of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind held what was likely the first Protestant service in what would become the United States. The service was led by Francis Fletcher- an Anglican and the record keeper for this global circumnavigation. Fletcher called himself a “minister of Christ and preacher and Gospel Adventurer and Traveller in the same voyage.” He brought sacramental vessels and prayed daily offices on board the ship.

A few things before that first service. Remember, Drake was the first to complete the circumnavigation (Magellan’s crew made it, but he was killed in the Philippines). Drake was most certainly a knave- a pirate and slave trader. He was under some orders from Queen Elizabeth, we aren’t entirely sure, but it all seems shady. And for other native Californians, it's good to remember that Drake didn’t land in the San Francisco Bay- this is all part of a hoax perpetrated by a historian last century who forged the plate supposedly left by Drake (he likely landed somewhere up the coast in Oregon).

So- this first service in the New World, or first Anglican Service on the west coast, etc. Fletcher wrote that the natives believed the sailors to be deities. Fletcher reports that they began to tear at their skin until the crew started pointing to heaven and singing Psalms. The natives were apparently quite taken with the singing and motioned for more. The local king placed a crown on Drake’s head, and he was happy to take the regalia back to the Queen. Luckily for the natives, Drake’s ship had been quite successful in pillaging from elsewhere, and so they were treated as a curiosity; the church was had, and Drake’s Golden Hind was off (first to try and find the Northwest Passage back to England through Canada, but ultimately eastward). Francis Fletcher would go on to serve as a parish priest- perhaps a run-in the following year with Drake convinced him that the sea-faring life wasn’t for him. Fletcher blamed a spate of bad luck on Drake’s beheading of a crew member. For this, Drake excommunicated Fletcher and had a sign made and tied to his arm; if Fletcher took it off, he would be hanged. It read, “Francis Fletcher ye falsest knave that liveth.” So it ended poorly. But after what may be the first Protestant service in the New World on (or about) this day in 1579.

The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary- from Psalm 77:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
 yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will consider all your works
 and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Your ways, God, are holy.
 What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;
 you display your power among the peoples.

With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
 the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of June 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man that reminds you that a knave is another name for the jack in your pack of cards. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who knows that historically knave meant servant but also came to mean scoundrel and rogue. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.