Thank You, Pilgrims, for Religious Freedom

jenny erikson
Jenny Erikson
This is the first of a three-part series on Thankfulness for the Pilgrimage to America.

It’s Thanksgiving week. Which means that I’m frantically grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and generally trying not to go insane. One trick I’ve employed over the years to preserve my sanity is to take a deep breath and remind myself of what I’m thankful for.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?

This year, I find myself ironically thankful that my life is nothing like the lives of the Pilgrims before they ventured to the new world. I have the freedom to work, play, and worship how I want, but 400 years ago, the Pilgrims didn’t.


Before the Reformation in the 16th century, everyone in the western world was Roman Catholic. The pope controlled religion, philosophy, morals, education, politics, and art. The church claimed to control salvation too, demanding indulgences (payments) for entrance into Heaven. Basically, it was a mess.

King Henry VIII hopped on board the Reformation Train when he wanted to divorce his wife to marry his mistress. The pope would not grant the divorce, so Henry split from the Roman Catholic Church to create the Anglican Church, also known as the Church of England.

This sounds good at first. A split from the corrupt religious leaders of the time had to be a good thing, right? Except that the king replaced the pope with himself as the head of the church, and declared all Englishmen to be Anglicans.

Now that brief bit of history brings us to the Pilgrims, part of a Separatist group in the late 16th century. The Separatists were called such because they wanted to separate completely from the organized religion of the Anglicans and the Catholics. They wanted small, locally governed churches that did not put themselves above the law.

They just wanted to be themselves and worship God their own way, yet they lacked the freedom to do so. Eventually, they decided to make the long, hard journey to the New World, for which I am incredibly thankful.

Without the Pilgrims and their perseverance for religious freedom, I might not be able to take my Bible off the shelf and flip through it for verses on patience, endurance, and loving one another this holiday season.


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