It began with this studious German monk, Martin Luther. He’d grown so troubled by the Roman Catholic Church’s ways of doing things that he wrote out a detailed protest statement. It’s said that he nailed his statement, his 95 Theses, onto the door of Wittenberg, Germany’s All Saints’ Church on All Hallow’s Eve, October 31, 1517. This was very bold of him. In his time, there was no separation between the Catholic Church and European governments. His action made him a history-changing outlaw! PLUS, Luther and other religious revolutionaries translated the Bible from Latin into the common languages—right when printing presses and moveable type came along— so LOTS of people could read the Scriptures for themselves. This was the start of the Reformation, a tremendous protest movement. At first, people wanted to reform the Church. In time, many left it to form Protestant churches of their own, Lutherans, for instance.
The Reformation shook up society! Upset the authorities! As more people gathered to study and worship as they saw fit, they got fired, jailed, tortured, and even executed. It got so bad for English Protestants, including William Brewster, his family, and 17-year-old William Bradford, that they fled to Holland for safety, in 1608.
They ended up in a congregation of other like-minded English folks in the Dutch city of Leyden. “[We] continued many years… enjoying much sweet delightful society and spiritual comfort together in the ways of God,” William Bradford wrote later on. But it was hard, being foreign followers of an unpopular faith in a world full of trouble. The Protestant/Catholic conflicts were building into WAR! (30 years of it, 1618 to 1648, all over Europe!) So, in 1617, the men of the little fellowship of “Saints,” as they called themselves, began looking for investors, ships, and other folks willing to go to America.
On September 6, 1620, after boatloads of trouble, the passengers and crew the Mayflower sailed off and away west from Plymouth, England. Their hard adventure at Plymouth, Massachusetts lay beyond the far horizon.
Cheryl Harness is not only a nonfiction author and an illustrator, but she has also written a novel called Just for You to Know. If you would like to read an excerpt from her book, click here.