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Thanksgiving: The Religious Freedom Holiday

As we think of the Pilgrims who established the first Thanksgiving Day, we need to recall the reason they left the land of their birth and come to the New World. The Puritan separatists were not allowed to worship freely in England. In August of 1620, they boarded two small ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower, in search of religious freedom in undeveloped America.

The Speedwell soon sprung leaks and most of the crew and passengers transferred to the Mayflower before the Speedwell turned back. There were 102 Pilgrims who suffered the 67 days of rough sailing before they finally landed in Plymouth Bay in November, 1620. What faith they must have had!

Their troubles were just beginning. No housing awaiting them. No reception group. No physicians or medical facilities. There were no stores. A cold winter lay ahead with sickness for most of them. At one point, only six people were well enough to help the sick and the dying.

By March 1621, not even a year after arriving, only 51 of the original 102 remained alive. It would be another two years before a ship arrived carrying supplies to help them. They were compelled to live off the land in whatever way they could. God sent them some Native Americans who taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, how to fish the waters, how to find game, how to live without the comforts of England or Holland.

The newcomers built houses. They farmed, They fished. They filled a storehouse with corn and other foods. At the end of the first harvest, they decided to hold a feast of celebration and have a time of thanksgiving to God for their freedom to worship. They invited their Native American friends to enjoy the occasion with them. Ninety came and stayed for three days.

The main point to remember is that the Puritans were willing to pay an enormous price for the privilege of freedom of worship. They were profoundly grateful to God! Here, in America, no established church harassed them, no government agency restricted them, and no one ridiculed them. They were free to worship in the manner they chose. And they did just that!

On Thanksgiving Day we will be grateful for our abundance, thankful for our manifold blessing. Let us also be profoundly appreciative of our freedom to worship accord.

Author Unknown


Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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