In 1620, 102 people left England on board a crowded Mayflower in search of a new country. After suffering years of persecution from the Church of England and living as aliens in Holland, they sacrificed everything to find a land where they could live their lives according to the Bible. Everyone on board that ship came to be known as Pilgrims, but it was the faith of the Separatists in the group that initiated the beginning of this new colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What was the motivating factor that caused this group to give up homes, family, friends, fortunes, and even their lives to worship God the way they wanted?

The Separatists were English Protestants who would have been considered "radical" Puritans of their day. They referred to themselves as Saints, and believed that they had been elected by God for salvation. They were afraid to be contaminated spiritually with the world and called others who worshipped outside their congregation Strangers. They disagreed strongly with the established church's practice of ecclesiastical courts, clerical vestments, altars, and the practice of kneeling, and believed the church had failed to observe the Sabbath in a proper manner.

The Separatists never intended to withdraw, but they believed these differences were irreconcilable with the Church of England. According to the LIFEPAC® history and geography curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications®, the added persecution of suffering through fines, imprisonment, and hangings forced the Separatists into finding a new place to worship God.

Many Christians today enjoy the freedom to worship the way they want because of the sacrifices made by these Separatists. Every Sunday we sit in the church of our choice because of their faithfulness in doing what God asked. Our country's government - from the Pilgrim's Mayflower Compact to our present day Constitution - has been founded on this principle of the right to worship as we see fit. This Thanksgiving, don't forget to remind your homeschooled children of the godly heritage they've received that began with this small group of people who were willing to be led by God.