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Pilgrims, All of Us

As we approach the US Thanksgiving celebration, the fact that this celebration was established by our Pilgrim ancestors has never been more salient for me.  

According to a pilgrim is: “a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion: a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place; an original settler in a region;…a newcomer to a region or place…”

Think for a moment about the fact that we in the United Church of Christ trace our religious heritage to the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock on November 11, 1620. 

The Pilgrims are credited with hosting the first intercultural thanksgiving celebration in North America. They are remembered as forming a new denomination by breaking away from the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. And, they are celebrated for forging the Mayflower Compact, which was an early, successful attempt at democracy that contributed to the colonists’ independence from Britain. 

Although the Pilgrims fell far short of their desire to become “a city on a hill and a light to the nations,” US citizens and lifelong Congregationalists have been raised to take pride in our Pilgrim heritage and to participate wholeheartedly in Thanksgiving celebrations.  

Is it just me, or do others find it ironic that many in our nation speak very favorably of our Pilgrim ancestors and quite disparagingly of the pilgrims at our borders today, even though they all came to North America for similar reasons? 

Note, for example, that the pilgrims living in Eden’s Sunday School, like the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, are Christians who fled political persecution in their homeland and traveled to this land to participate in a democracy. 

Whether we are the direct descendents of Mayflower passengers or we are newcomers to the US, we are all pilgrims. The only questions are whether we recognize this fact, and whether will we demonstrate the same degree of respect for each other. 

If we can say “yes” to both questions, then we are well on our way to enjoying the Great Thanksgiving to which God has invited all of us. 

Happy Thanksgiving, 

Pastor Arlene