Meanwhile, one, "The feeding of the 5,000" is the only miracle which is present in all four canonical gospels, and that is the one referenced here. Historians are able to establish a fairly accurate time frame for Jesus' ministry, and it is into that particular time frame they are able to establish when he performed the miracles. Meanwhile, his ministry lasted three years and so we cannot establish the actual date of any of his miracles, and that includes, of course, the feeding of the multitudes.
However, a similar miracle was reported and recorded to have happened in Fogo, and the actual date for that very occasion was on Thursday, January 27, 1881. (Just by the way on January 27, 1981, exactly 100 years after this event, the late Michael Jackson suffered second degrees burns to his scalp which hallows the anniversary day substantially!) A little background first to my real story.
Methodism, as a religious denomination, arrived in Newfoundland in 1776 with the Reverend Laurence Coughlan, a newly-ordained Church of England priest, who was a Roman Catholic in his youth but had converted to Methodism, which, at that time was an arm of the Church of England.
However, Methodism had separated from the Church of England in 1795 and became a separate religion, initially based mainly on itinerant preaching, evangelism, and disciplined commitment to holy living and social duty. After its establishment in Newfoundland its growth was rapid; first in Conception Bay, then St. John's and vicinity. It subsequently reached Fogo Island, and by the mid 1800's had established itself with several congregations on the island. As most of you are aware, it was the forerunner of the present United Church, which was formed from Methodism, Congregationalism, and the Presbyterian Church in 1925.
I remember the Methodist Church in Barr'd Islands and some of its strong adherents: Martin Brown, George Witcher, Edward Downton, Stewart Combden, and my next door neighbor William Brett. Methodism was synonymous with temperance, even abstinence. This brings me to this follow-up.
The date is Sept. 29, 1842 and there was formed in Teetotaler's Hall, New York, "The Order of the Sons of Temperance, by 16 "Pioneers" as they were to be called. Their motive in forming the order was ‘to protect ourselves and others from the evils of intemperance, afford mutual assistance, and elevate our character as men.' They signed their pledge of total abstinence from all intoxicates - spirituous, malt liquor, wine, and cider.
This organization began spreading rapidly after this throughout the United States and parts of Canada and Newfoundland, as Newfoundland was not at that time a part of Canada. I do not know when it reached Fogo but it was definitively established here by 1881, and was meeting in the Methodist School, and, seems to have had plans to build a hall or lodge. (They may never have got around to doing that.) It called itself ‘The Rising Sun Division.'
I am not able to ascertain if the organization was sponsored by the Methodist Church, but it seems to have been associated with it. At least the Methodist minister in Fogo at the time, Reverend Hill, was a member, as were other prominent Fogo Methodists, - the Scott"s , Duder's, Lucas', Haddon's, Waterman's, and Dr. Malcolm, the medical officer here at that time. In spite of this, or, perhaps because of this, the organization had a highly restricted membership. In order to become a member (called a brother), a man had to be nominated by an existing brother. Three other brothers would then investigate his life to determine if they thought he was worthy of membership. The Sons of Temperance required a $2 initiation fee, which at that time was an amount considered equal to a week's wages of an ordinary worker. In addition, the weekly membership fee was six cents. Like other later fraternal organizations, it had secret rituals - signs, passwords, hand grips, and regalia.
Now a report on the miracle as recorded on March 17, 1881:
"On Thursday, January 27th, the Sons of Temperance, Rising Sun Division, (Fogo) had a thoroughly good concert in the school house, their meeting place, pro-tem. It was a grand turn-out. Those admitted were the members of the Sons of temperance and their wives, and a few others who took part. About one hundred persons sat down to tea. There was enough, and to spare! Out of the ‘fragments which remained' we gave another tea on the following night to the Sabbath School children, (and some of them were rather big children, too!) And of the fragments which yet remained, we fed to the poor."
The Sons of Temperance was just one of a number of fraternal organizations that were active in Fogo and other communities on Fogo Island in past years. Others were the Society of United Fishermen, The Loyal Orange Society and the Star of the Sea Society.
The Feeding of the Multitude - Matthew 15-21, King James Version
"And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
He said, Bring them hither to me.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blesses, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled; and they took up the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children."