Friday, November 27, 2015

The Pilgrims and Community

The other night, we watched an episode of The American Experience that dealt with the Pilgrims and their settlement at Plymouth. It was interesting and brought out historical facts that will cause one to look at the whole story a bit differently.

According to the program, many of the things we have been taught about the Pilgrims, including some of their writings, are not totally accurate. It is true that we have tended to romanticize them and turn the settlement of New England into legend. It is also true that these settlers, whom we have made almost mythical characters, were actually frail humans with the same foibles and failings as the rest of us. Knowing that makes their story all the more interesting and inspiring.

One of the striking characteristics of the Pilgrims was their desire to live life together in community. They attempted to follow Jesus as the early church did and developed a love for and commitment to one another. The Pilgrims were not perfect in their attempt to be the church. They were suspicious of outsiders who did not see things the same. They were forced to accept non-Separatists as part of their settlement. Like most people of the time, they saw the Native Americans as savages. They succumbed to the temptation to close ranks and focus on themselves, rather than reach out to those around them and be a blessing to them.

Jan and I are part of a faith community that attempts to live our lives together and disciple one another. We too are not perfect and sometimes our attempts at being the church falter. Other times they move forward in fits and starts. It is a messy business and sometimes we hurt and are hurt. Most of us seem determined to stick with it because we believe it is the best way to live this life as followers of Jesus. Learning more about the Pilgrims' community helps me have hope.

In spite of the frailty and failings of the Plymouth settlers, some great things came from them. The Mayflower Compact was an example of people who thought differently coming together to form a community. The persistence of the Pilgrims made the later settling of New England possible. While they may have been fallible humans, their strong faith is inspiring. In spite of the messiness of their community, the Pilgrims were greatly used by God.

I need to remember that God can do great things in and through our community, as well as other communities, in spite of the times we fail and fall on our faces. Don't give up. You never know how God is going to us you.

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