“With mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them...but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.” William Bradford
In 1608, a small band of discontent, reform-minded people left the British shores. They felt that old dead religion had corrupted the state church, and they wanted something more “pure” and “separate.” The congregation found religious freedom across the sea in Holland. But after ten years of living with the Dutch people, they again found themselves troubled and discontent. Their children were forgetting their English heritage and adopting instead the Dutch customs and language. By gosh, they were even wearing wooden shoes!
By 1620, fifty discontent, reform-minded English Separatists were setting out again. This time they left the shores of Amsterdam and joined up with another group—fifty merchant adventurers from England. The Separatist “saints”—as they called themselves—and the adventuring “strangers”—as they were named by the “saints”—journeyed together to the New World. It was a motley crew. One group was driven by protecting biblical doctrine and their cultural heritage. The other group was driven by the allure of wealth and discovery.
But an amazing thing happened on their journey across the Atlantic. Together, the hyper-religious “saints” and the thrill-driven “strangers” grieved over loved ones lost and left behind. Together, they fought against the sea. Along the way, they ceased being “saints” and “strangers.” They became one. Today, we rarely think about these travelers for where they came from. Instead, we use a new name—one that highlights their unity and common destination. They were sojourners to a new land, and we call them… pilgrims.
Whether or not we sail across troubled seas, Christians are all pilgrims. We are a motley crew of travelers with diverse backgrounds and temperaments. Some of us have been rebels. Some of us have been religious. We need to be reminded that we have a common destination. As you eat turkey and watch football today, don't forget that this world is not our home. We're travelers on our way. We're still pilgrims.