Annapolis - a line crossed ...

8 December 2014

In this blog I want to give a mix of a trip report and some background information related to it. It was the second visit this year to Annapolis, Maryland – the original tribal lands of the Susquehannock people (also called the Conestoga by the English). Records are scarce but it is estimated that the tribe numbered from 5000 – 7000 in 1600, and were a regional power capable of holding off the Iroquois Five Nation Confederacy, who early in that century had begun war-faring in pursuit of the lucrative fur trading business with the Europeans. Following the zenith of their tribal power in the 1670s, the Susquehannock mysteriously suffered an extremely rapid decline – presumably from infectious disease (undoubtedly introduced from Europe) followed by successive subsequent defeats by the then more powerful Iroquois.

By 1677 those that were left, merged with and therefore came under the protection of their former enemies and distant language kin – the Iroquois. By 1700 their numbers appear to have diminished still further to about 300. Those that remained were believed to have been brutally murdered in a number of massacres during 1763-64 by the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian Paxton Boys – sadly, as a result the tribe no longer exists.

Annapolis – the first Thanksgiving Conference …
We were gathered, the day after Thanksgiving, for a three-day Conference with the purpose of laying a foundation – with some of the local clergy and interested Church members – for Community Transformation. The team comprised of: Mike Berry our host; Alistair and Marie Petrie (who lead Partnership Ministries and have worked with Transformations Ireland over many years. They have also been very supportive of me on my current journey, as well as that regarding the Ulster Covenant); Ivan and Linda Doxtator (Iroquois and Cherokee respectively – they head up The First Nations Counseling Ministries); Ruth Ruibal (who was involved with her husband Julio in seeing an incredible transformation of Cali, Columbia, with the removal of the drug cartels from their midst. He was martyred in 1995 and she continues with the ministry there); Bill Hailey Jnr., (grandson of Alex Hailey – author of the story of their direct descendant Kunti Kinti who features in the book and film entitled ROOTS); Gloria Roberts (founder and president of Lifequips and former Executive Director of Elijah House, Canada) and myself – what a privilege to spend quality time with them.

During the opening meeting we honored the new Mayor and the Police Service of Annapolis – all the more significant considering all that was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. This was followed by Ruth Ruibal, who shared with us the remarkable and envisioning story of how God, in bringing a deep unity among the spiritual leaders, brought Cali into an incredible spiritual and social transformation. On Saturday morning it was felt appropriate that Ivan Doxtater should open the session by doing protocol with us – acknowledging that they are the ‘host people’ people of the land – this developed into something broader and deeper involving Bill Hailey in recognition that Annapolis was the city, into which the first slave ships came from Africa to the United States.

We were also made aware that this was necessitated by the fact that having tried to make slaves of the Native Americans, failure to do so brought about the introduction of black slaves. At which point I was able, in identificational repentance, to acknowledge that it was my ancestors who first came there, bringing with them the Doctrine of Discovery, black slavery and also causing the extinguishing of the Susquehannock tribe. For many gathered that morning it was their first time to experience much that took place – we were both modeling something as well as enabling them to partake first hand in some aspects of reconciliation regarding their city. Much of the teaching that followed was to unpack this further for them. It was great to see, in the process, a deepening unity among the clergy gathered.

During the Conference we also took time to look at the key importance of Annapolis in the development of what became the United States of America.

Annapolis – its history …
Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland and is situated at the head of the Severn River on Chesapeake Bay. It started life in 1649 as a settlement of Puritan exiles from Virginia in what was then a province of Maryland, named “Providence” and then to provide for a deeper and safer Harbor it moved it over to the south shore. It also went through several name changes including “Town of the Severn” and “Anne Arundel’s Towne”, to be given its current name in 1694, after Princess Anne of Denmark and Norway, soon to be the Queen of England. It was incorporated as a city in 1708.

From the middle of the 18th century until the American Revolutionary War it was very much known as a wealthy and cultivated society, being commercially very successful until Baltimore, with its deeper harbor, was made into a port in 1780.

For a short period (1783-84), following the signing of the Treaty of Paris (signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on 3 September 1783, brought to an end the American Revolutionary War), Annapolis served as the temporary capital of the United States, were Congress sat in session. It was here also that General George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

Three years later, delegates from all the states of the Union were invited to meet here. While not all were present, they passed a resolution calling for another convention to meet the following year in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation (this was the document signed by the 13 original colonies that established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution). During that convention they drafted and approved what became the Constitution of the United States.

The slavery issue …
Located at the head of the city’s harbor, is the Kunta Kinte-Alex Hailey memorial. Completed in 2002 it commemorates the arrival point of Alex’s African ancestor, Kunte Kinta as a slave – his story, as I have already mentioned, is told in the book and film Roots.

There is a sense among folk in the US reconciliation/prayer movement that the African slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries put a curse on the land – some enslaved Africans having retaliated by cursing the slave-owners’ land with voo-doo practices brought over from their homeland. There is also a sense that this is connected with modern day slavery practices throughout the U.S.

I quote from an article written by Mike Berry:

“On September 15, 2003, we gathered at the Annapolis city dock for prayer, repentance and reconciliation. Present were … leading politicians, members of the press, other church leaders, church congregations, tourists … Mike prayed with [Bill] Hailey and asked forgiveness for the city, the churches, his own family and his own participation in the sin of racism – he didn’t know how to explain it, but you could feel the sense of history and Kunta Kinta’s presence in [Bill] as he held the slave chains, and offered forgiveness to us. It was a powerful moment that continued as Pastor Mike turned and kneeled down to wash the feet of some Annapolis’ African American pastor … afterwards, we did a prayer walk around the city asking God to heal and cleanse the land.

24 hours later an unusual miracle happened. A tropical storm had moved off the coast of Africa on September 1, 2003. It turned into a hurricane and followed the exact trade route of the slave ships. It entered the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on September 15, 2003 and headed straight for Annapolis … after prayer, this storm inexplicably died down to 35 mph; however, it baptised the whole downtown dock area of Annapolis under 10 feet of water, as though God was cleansing the land.”

Interestingly earlier that year, singer and songwriter Jason Upton was holding a concert along the lower Chesapeake. In the middle of it he sensed that God was showing him “that a great hurricane, tornado-like was coming to the Chesapeake.” He felt that God was showing him that this hurricane was coming to cleanse the land. God has clearly been highlighting an important issue – though there is an awareness that further deep healing regarding this, in the light of current racial tensions, is needed in the nation!

On the Sunday morning I had the privilege of speaking at the service led by one of them – Greg Carr, from Christ the King Church – where I took the opportunity, using the opening chapters from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, to develop a practical means of engaging with God’s heart for their community through the use of a City map, spiritual mapping and prayer walking (possibly worth developing into another blog!)

This was clearly a landmark Conference in a landmark city and state – a place with many roots: of the nation, slavery, native American issues. A place were, unfortunately, Satan has been given footholds into the Nation. Nevertheless a line has been crossed in the sand, leaving the participants something to build on – the reclaiming of God’s destiny for Annapolis – and the possibility of us returning for Part II!!

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