Monthly column featuring Moderator Cynthia Bolbach and Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons
September 9, 2010
Michael Fisher was my great grandfather to the fifth power. The Fishers were German. To show you how German, I can only point to Michael’s birth in Heidelberg, Penn., and his wife’s in Germantown, Penn.
Michael enlisted with the Pennsylvania Troops when he was fifteen. He fought in several battles, including Yorktown where Hessian (German) troops fought on the British side. Afterward, he migrated to Tennessee where he and Christina had many children and descendants like me.
Lots of Germans came to Pennsylvania. It was not always a warm welcome they received, as the following quote illustrates:
“In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.”
Now, it may surprise you to know that the quote is from Benjamin Franklin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, inventor, ambassador, and so forth. That quote does not square with the Benjamin Franklin I read about in history books.
We all continue to need to hone the skills of sharing and accepting the other. To quote the great John Calvin: “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.”
In Calvin’s formula, the “advantages” that Franklin and his circle enjoyed were given for the purpose of sharing with neighbors – even German neighbors like the Fishers.
We are in a rough economic period. Much abounds that frightens us, causing us to be defensive and anxious. People and religions from other countries push us when we are the most fearful of being pushed. But the gospel calls us to be good stewards of our hearts where the love of God dwells. It’s a love that should be dispensed for the benefit of our new neighbors.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons is Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).