Thanksgiving (November 2017)

Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday which remembers the Pilgrims, who landed in the New World in 1620. The Pilgrims hold a special place in my family, because they’re part of my ancestry on my father’s side. I’m in the 14th generation from John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, who were 21 and 18 years old when they arrived in Massachusetts.

The Mayflower Compact

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.

The Pilgrims were distinct from the Puritans. The Puritans wanted freedom of religion for themselves; the Pilgrims wanted freedom of religion and belief for everyone. The Pilgrims were a Separatist group who didn’t agree with the doctrines and practices of the Church of England – unlike the Puritans, who wanted to remain within the system and “purify” the church.

The Pilgrims were persecuted under the Act of Uniformity, which required everyone to attend church on Sundays and holy days or be fined twelve pence (worth about $8 today). Those who led unofficial services could also suffer heavy fines.

In a very real sense, the Pilgrims were the spiritual ancestors of the Quakers, who came along a generation later. Like the Pilgrims, the Quakers were seekers, who worshiped God in their own way and suffered for their beliefs.

The Pilgrims’ founding pastor, John Robinson, was too old to make the voyage. As the group gathered to leave the Old World, “he charged us to follow him no further than he followed Christ; and if God should reveal any thing to us by any other instrument of his, to be as ready to receive it as ever we were to receive any truth by his ministry; for he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy word.”

We all have many things to be thankful for, of course – our health, friends, homes and families. But the freedom to believe in God and to worship God as our experience guides us, and not as the government or anyone else tells us, is one of the greatest freedoms of all.

It was a long and terrible struggle for the little group when they arrived in the New World. Half of them died the first year, and my family would not have survived without help from the Native Americans. They had much to be thankful for!

Let’s be thankful for our many blessings, and share whatever we can.

– Josh Brown

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