Choice Church Quahog Chunks, Cuttyhunk

“Poocuohhunkkunnah”.

What a name for an island. For a very small island, at the western end of the Elizabeth Islands, which in their east to west string, separate Buzzards Bay from Vineyard Sound. The Wampanoag name, “Poocuohhunkkunnah”, means “point of departure” or “land’s end”. That jumble of native syllables was too much for invading English tongues, who reduced and altered the aboriginal sounds to  make the word “Cuttyhunk”.

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Entering the harbor, Cuttyhunk.

There is a little church on Cuttyhunk.

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A little Methodist Church.

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With a nifty weathervane.

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How many churches have a striped bass weathervane?

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Cuttyhunk is a very small island, with few people. As you see from the sign, the various denominations share. be sure to read RLS’s comment (below) on how the Catholics came to use this building also.

I especially like the date, 1881, because it’s palindromic.

Inside, the building is small, unfancy, with old-fashioned textured tin walls and ceiling.

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Inside the church may be found one of the folk wonders of New England.

The quahog shell (wampum) mosaics of Manny Sarmento.

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I know too little to tell you much about about Manny, except I was told that he was a caretaker in these parts. On small, isolated islands in the dead of winter, there isn’t much to do. So Manny made mosaics. Of shells picked up from the shore.

Some of these mosaics are religious, and have found their way to the Cuttyhunk Methodist Church.

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Detail of hand.

There’s a wonderful Saint Francis.

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Thank you, Manny, for your labor of patience and love.

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5 responses to “Choice Church Quahog Chunks, Cuttyhunk

  1. Manny was for many years caretaker on neighboring Nashawena and was farmer, shepherd and mosaic worker. With his wife Mary spent many years doing his job and doing it well.

  2. Manny and Mary moved to Cuttyhunk when Manny retired from care taking at Nashawena. Remind me to tell you sometime the story of getting Catholic Mass moved from the town hall to the church.

      • Many years ago, before the arrival of the MV Cuttyhunk with its multiple weekend trips and the Water Taxi on call, visitors to our beloved island arrived on a much smaller ferry which left New Bedford at 10 on weekdays, 9 on weekends, and Cuttyhunk at 3. Aside from a private boat, the only other way of getting to and fro was on Norman Gingras’ seaplane. The priest assigned to the island was one Father Phil–if I ever knew his last name, I’ve forgotten it–who flew in with Norman in rain, shine, wind, fog to celebrate Mass in the Town Hall. (Norman used to call the boarding house on the island’s party line and ask if the person who picked up the phone could see the fish dock–if so, he’d fly into the fogbound harbor, occasionally circling the island a few times to help clear the fog away before landing. But I digress…) Father Phil had to celebrate Mass in the town hall back in those pre-ecumenical days. One summer he (reportedly) told the Bishop of Fall River that he, Fr. Phil, would no longer take on the weekly journey if he had to celebrate Mass in a secular building when there was a perfectly good place for holy worship right across the street. Since then, Mass has been celebrated in the Union Methodist Church, right after Episcopal morning prayer and before Sunday School for all the kids of every denomination (or none). The schedule changed when Norman stopped flying, but Fr. Phil’s spirit and practice live on. (Sorry–no story about Cuttyhunk is short! Even if it is.)

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