Fire in a Haystack

By Gertrude Chandler Warner, 1956
An Introduction to Scene III

If your Women’s Group is looking for an easy program, this final scene from the Fire in a Haystack might be just the ticket. It lifts up the importance of giving by women to the early mission enterprise. It explains how the Haystack Prayer Meeting and the events that followed impacted those in the United States. It gives us a glimpse of how individuals look at mission work differently. This scene may be great conversation starter for your group as it considers God’s call, then and now.

By Gertrude Chandler Warner, 1956
An Introduction to Scene III

If your Women’s Group is looking for an easy program, this final scene from the Fire in a Haystack might be just the ticket. It lifts up the importance of giving by women to the early mission enterprise. It explains how the Haystack Prayer Meeting and the events that followed impacted those in the United States. It gives us a glimpse of how individuals look at mission work differently. This scene may be great conversation starter for your group as it considers God’s call, then and now.

This scene of Fire in a Haystack takes place in 1831, 25 years after the Haystack Prayer Meeting at Williams College. This meeting was the precursor to the establishment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the oldest Protestant foreign mission body in the United States. In this scene members of the local Female Cent Society have gathered together and recall the Haystack Meeting. During the 1800’s and early 1900’s members of Female Cent Societies and others like them donated, at first a penny a week, to aid the efforts of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in bringing the Gospel to the world. At this time a Bible could be purchased for about $.71. “By the 1820’s women were generally conceded the right to organize for fund raising, for prayer, and for educating themselves and their children with respect to mission.” (All Loves Excelling, Females Bring Their Mites, p.34)

Seven readers/actors are needed in this scene: the narrator, the host Hepzibah, guests Phebe, Marshy, Eunice, 16-year-old Adeline, and special visitor Rev. Francis Robbins, a participant in the Haystack Prayer Meeting. Chairs will be needed for the set.

To stage this scene the director may want bonnets for the women to wear. Adeline’s bonnet could be adorned with a piece of ribbon or lace. A tall hat, dark jacket, and a colonial style tie would be ideal for Rev. Robbins.

The dialogue used in Fire in a Haystack to speak of other cultures and people may be offensive to some. These words portray the thinking of the time. Fortunately, we no longer have such a limited and mistaken image of our global neighbors. Overseas missionaries communicated with those at home about the people they saw and met. They shared some of the earliest information we had about other cultures. Through their descriptions we learned about others.

United States and CanadaLatin America and the CaribbeanAfricaMiddle East and EuropeSouthern Asia East Asia and the Pacific

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