Happy first thanksgiving

Modern history books are not clear on the subject of the first American Thanksgiving. So I pulled together this brief note to share the truth of early America.

The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Massachusetts in 1621. They were fleeing England due to religious persecution, and they came to the new world on a ship called the Mayflower.

It was their hope to establish a place of religious freedom where they could worship God according to their own convictions and not the government or king.

The Pilgrims were also known as Puritans because they practiced a form of Christian faith that wanted to purify Christianity from the rule of the Pope and the King. They felt only Jesus could be their King, and that the Bible should be available to everyone in their own language.

This was not a new idea for the Pilgrims, as it was a growing movement across Europe known as the Reformation by Martin Luther. However, this became the basis for much of the persecution of the Pilgrims by the Church of England.

The initial objective of the Pilgrims was to sail to Virginia where flourishing English settlements had already been formed. But northern winds forced them off course and they had to winter on the undeveloped shore of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Following a dreadful first winter during which over half of the 121 Pilgrims died, the remaining settlers were able to secure the help of a local Indian tribe, the Wampanoag’s, who sent them Squanto to teach them how to plant crops, farm, and fish. Squanto had previously been taken captive and transported back to Europe where he learned to speak English. His kindness and language skill made it possible for the Pilgrims to survive.

The Wampanoag leader Massasoit also gave food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.

The next year at their first Summer harvest time, the Pilgrims called for a special time to thank God for His blessings and celebrate with their Indian benefactors a special feast of thanksgiving. This feast lasted three days, and was attended by 90 Indians and 53 Pilgrims. This feast was made official two years later when Governor Bradford issued the following proclamation.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, 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 daytime, on Thursday, November 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”

For the following 168 years, the tradition of a harvest Thanksgiving to give thanks to God for His blessings was typically a local or regional event in various locations, as a nation had not yet been formed. But the ripples from Plymouth Plantation continued until George Washington issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789. Abraham Lincoln issued Thanksgiving Proclamations in the spring of 1862, also making it a Federal Holiday.

Several important events occurred as a result of the Pilgrims coming to America in 1620:

1. Before leaving the Mayflower, a representative form of government was organized and put into writing, known as the Mayflower Compact. This became the first such document of both American independence and democracy in American History.

2. Unlike some other settlements, the Pilgrims lived in peace with the neighboring Indians, showing a more Christian attitude of common respect than had been offered by the Spanish that came before them.

3. Governor William Bradford wrote a book, “Of Plymouth Plantation” in which he chronicled the first thirty years of the Pilgrims colony that eventually grew to about 7,000 members. This first hand account became a roadmap for many that followed, and left an invisible footprint in the history of America that cannot be denied.

4. Because of this, in small, almost undetectable ways today, we have all inherited some of the ideals and practices of those first pilgrims, including our desire for independence, our belief in religious freedom, our concern for others with whom we share this country, and even to the keeping of the tradition of an annual Thanksgiving tradition.

5. May we, like those first Pilgrims, take time to humble ourselves and give thanks to Almighty God for all of His many blessings today.

God bless, George Black

Leadership Principle #37 – Write The Vision

Leadership Principle #37: People can’t do their job if they don’t know what their job is.

Leaders must “write the vision.”

Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV “Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.””

Seems simple enough, but pastors and church leaders are sometimes weak when it come to recruiting for a ministry with very little guidance. The “training” is usually a sit-down discussion with no written guidelines, objectives, accountability, etc.

It is imperative that every person in your church or ministry that has been asked to serve, knows what is expected of them. If we think we can just soft-ball it to them, we are sadly mistaken. They are hearing something different than you are saying because they have different filters. Write the vision. If you don’t, they will “write” their own, and it usually will not look like what you have asked for.

The leader must cast the vision AND the process. You can’t have one without the other, or else you will promote frustration. Clear and simple instructions on how the ministry or department works is necessary. This provides the tools for a person to measure themselves as to whether or not they are accomplishing what is intended. And if you don’t know, then you are not the leader.

In the past I used to insist on lengthy job descriptions (I call them ministry descriptions) that covered way too much detail, and became counter productive. Now I strive to have an overview of everything on one page. If additional detail is needed, then fine. But they can know what is being asked by looking at just one page. The nuts and bolts are sometimes more involved.

There is a reason it is called “the work of the ministry.” Ministry requires work, preparation, planning, organizing, etc. Once you have done this, then you can enjoy the fruit of your labor.

God bless, George W. Black