Friday, July 19, 2013

Dixieland Jazz Worship Service

Sunday, July 21 at 10:00 a.m. 

Annisquam Village Church

820 Washington St. Gloucester MA 01930

for this spirit-filled, annual service featuring the "Clam Bake Five +1".


1893 Swami Vivekananda Brings Modern-Day Pilgrims to Annisquam

Saffron robes and languages ranging from French to Bengali make annual appearances at the Annisquam Village Church in Gloucester. Modern-day Hindu pilgrims visit the historic Village Church to pay homage and walk in the steps of Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk in America. Vivekananda spoke from the Church's pulpit in 1893, just before he made history at the first meeting of the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago (an adjunct event to the Columbian Exposition) as representative of Hinduism.  It is said that on this sojourn, the 30-year-old monk brought Yoga to the West.

Eloquent and, at the time, exotic, Vivekananda mesmerized his audiences both here and in Chicago, winning new respect for and interest in the religions of the East. He established the Vedanta Societies in America to spread his message of harmony of religions and the inherent divinity of the soul. Vivekananda remained in Gloucester for several weeks, first as a guest of John Henry Wright, a Greek professor at Harvard who helped make the arrangements for his Parliament of Religions appearance. On a later visit, he stayed at the Annisquam residence of Alpheus Hyatt, whose marine biology station on Lobster Cove was the first iteration of the present-day Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Hyatt was the father of Gloucester's renowned sculptor, Anna Hyatt (later Huntington), who would have been 17 at the time of the Swami's visit.  More than 100 years later, devotees of this visionary Hindu man make annual pilgrimages to the Village Church, to touch the stone doorstep and to meditate in the serene space where their leader spoke.

For the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Vivekananda's birth, the Vedanta Societies of Boston and Providence will join with the Annisquam Village Church in an Interfaith Service July 28 at 4:30 pm.  The service will include brief addresses by Swami Yogatmananda of Providence (Hindu Chaplain at Brown University and UMass Dartmouth), and Swami Tyagananda of Boston (Hindu Chaplain at Harvard University and MIT), and the Rev. Deirdre Greenwood White, Pastor of the Annisquam Village Church. Music from both traditions will include preludes of sitar and tabla.  The children of the Village Church will perform a skit portraying the arrival of Swami Vivekananda in Annisquam. A simple Indian meal will follow the service and will include a partial screening of a new documentary about Vivekananda's sojourn in America.

The public is cordially invited to attend the service. Reservations are required for the supper.  To learn more about this historic event, please visit

WHAT:  Historic Interfaith Celebration: Vedanta Societies and the Annisquam Village Church
WHERE: Annisquam Village Church, 820 Washington Street, Gloucester 
WHEN:  July 28, 2013 4:30 PM
978.281-0376 or email

Swami Vivekananda’s first public speech in the USA

The talk given by Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in September 1893 is now part of history. Most Indians relate Swamiji to this talk and historians agree that it was possibly a key milestone in introducing Swami Vivekananda to the world stage. Many also know of Prof Wright’s contribution in getting Swamiji an opportunity to attend and present his thoughts at this Parliament. But very few people know of Swami Vivekananda’s first public discourse in the United States of America. It was August 25th, 1893 and many professors, artists, clergymen and writers from Boston and other cities including Chicago had come to a quite village called Annisquam on the Massachusetts coast. They were assembling in one of the village’s largest boarding houses called Miss Lane’s Boarding House which had many spacious rooms and a large dining room. People here were coming at the invitation of Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University. Prof Wright had mentioned that he would be coming with a young Hindu monk whom he had recently met. He knew that he was in the presence of a force, the dimensions of which he could barely fathom but which had captivated him. The melodious voice, the leonine bearing, the spiritual glow in the great dark eyes of this young man of twenty-nine attracted all who approached him and when he spoke, there was a strange and compelling reverberation felt within all who heard him. Mrs Wright recording this visit to Annisquam wrote, “He walked with a strange, shambling gait, and yet there was a commanding dignity and impressiveness in the carriage of his neck and bare head that caused everyone in sight to stop and look at him; he moved slowly with the swinging tread of one who has never hastened, and in his great dark eyes was the beauty of an alien civilization…”
On that chilly Sunday, the Hindu monk was asked to speak at the Annisquam Universalist Church at the invitation of its pastor, Rev G W Penniman. Elva Nelson who researched this visit of Swami Vivekananda had this to say of his first public discourse in America. “It marked the beginning of his unprecedented work in the West. It was in this quiet village, Annisquam, from where ships had sailed to China and India before revolutionary times that another revolution was so quietly begun.” This first talk given on that Sunday in a little church was to mark the beginning of Swami Vivekananda’s work in the West. This heralded the approach of a spiritual storm which spread across the entire country. It lasted less than five years in all, but history will one day record how this quiet revolution was to lay the foundation for the beginning of the regeneration of people who were called upon to find their true inner selves.