Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
400 years ago the Mayflower carried the first English Puritans to the New World.
At the time England had a state church that everybody was expected to attend. Failure to do so meant breaking the law and so facing fierce state persecution.
Puritanism emerged under the Protestant regime of Elizabeth I. They believed that the Bible gives a blueprint as to what the church should look like, so that as church decorations, priestly robes, using the sign of the cross, or even bishops were not mentioned in the Bible these should be dispensed with. They wanted to focus on sermons and the Bible. Initially the state church tried to persuade people back to the 'right' way of thinking using relatively gentle methods but when these did not work harsher forms of coercion were used. To escape this persecution the Pilgrim Fathers, as they became known, chose to take huge risks by sailing across the Atlantic to North America. They were right to be afraid since half of them died in the first winter.
Christopher Martin and his family were among those Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower. As they once lived in our town a series of events will be held this year to commemorate the event. A Civic Service will be held at Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church on 6 March whilst we will hold our own memorial service at St Mary Magdalene later in the year.
Sadly Christians, and indeed those of other religions around the world are still suffering persecution for their religious beliefs. In this country we are perhaps a little more tolerant of other Christian traditions than 400 years ago but there are still factions and divisions.
Let us remember : yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Cor 8:6 NRSV. But perhaps more importantly Jesus' words at the Last Supper: Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another John 13:35. Please let us hold in our prayers those persecuted for their faith, but also let us pray for peace and concord within the churches of the Christian community.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK