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Thankful for the Freedom to Worship God (by Lou Gentry)

(originally posted November, 24, 2010)

The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
In this season of Thanksgiving, I was led to read once again the words of the official Thanksgiving  Proclamation issued by Governor William Bradford on November 29, 1623. Bradford was the leader of the Pilgrims and was elected as Governor of the Plymouth Colony in 1621, and reelected every year until his death in 1657, except for five years in which he declined. Here is his proclamation issued three years after the Pilgrims’ arrival and two years after the first Thanksgiving:

“To all ye Pilgrims:

In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and  clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence  and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting  house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye  Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings. 

William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony.”

[William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia Of Quotations (Coppell, Texas: FAME Publishing, Inc., 1994), p. 66]

As I consider all that I have to be thankful for during this season of the year, I am led to include the courage of the Pilgrims and their desire for “freedom to worship God.” It would benefit all of us, I believe, to contemplate whether we would have anything to celebrate during this season had it not been for their courage and belief in God.