I'm posting this story today in honor of Mayflower Day! The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England on 16 September 1620 with many of my ancestors on board (eleven total ancestors from my family tree, plus many cousins and in-laws).
The First Parish Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts
The church at Plymouth was founded by members of the Separatist faith in Scrooby, England in 1606, led by the same people known as the Pilgrims. This congregation fled to Leiden, Holland in 1608 to escape persecution, under the leadership of Reverend John Robinson. When the Separatists arrived in Massachusetts in 1620 on board the Mayflower, they established the church which eventually became a church member of the Massachusetts Congregational churches. In the 1800s some of the churches in Massachusetts became Unitarian, which was a schism in the state run church system. By 1834 the state of Massachusetts dissolved their system of churches.
In Plymouth the Congregational and Unitarian churches stand side by side at the foot of Burial Hill at the end of Leyden Street. The stone building of the First Parish Church, Unitarian, was built in 1899. It considers itself to be the oldest continuous church in New England.
The stained glass windows in the church were made by Tiffany Studios in New York. They were donated to the First Church by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the state of New York. The three windows below are located above the altar of the church. The center panel shows the signing of the Mayflower Compact. The figure on the left is labeled "Civil Liberty: The Vital Air of Social Progress" and it must depict Captain Myles Standish with his red hair and sword. The figure on the right must depict Elder William Brewster and is labeled "Religious Liberty: True Fruit of Pilgrim Sowing".
There are forty stained glass windows in the church, all showing scenes of Pilgrim History, and even several panels with all the signatures on the Mayflower Compact. Not all the windows are from the Tiffany studios, but the ones I have included on this post are among the windows attributed to Tiffany. The town of Plymouth granted $307,000 towards the restoration and preservation of these windows at their April 2012 town meeting. There is still an ongoing campaign towards raising donations to preserve and protect these beautiful windows. See the website posted below for more information about supporting the Campaign for First Parish Meetinghouse. One million dollars are needed to restore the stone building and the windows.
This set of windows is at the north end of the sanctuary in Plymouth. and it shows Reverend John Robinson on board the Mayflower, bidding goodbye to his flock as he gives his farewell sermon. The Reverend John Robinson is my 12x great grandfather on both my maternal and paternal lineages. He never joined his flock in Massachusetts, but died in Leiden, Holland. He is buried under the floor of the St. Peterskirk, where he worshiped with the Pilgrims while they lived in exile in Holland. There are about thirty members of the Pilgrim congregation buried at Leiden.
First Parish is at the top of Leyden Street in Plymouth, a short 5 minute walk from the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock. It is right next to burial hill, where many of the Pilgrims and their descendants are buried an memorialized. You can take a tour of the church by calling the office at (508) 747-1606. There are many attractions for tourists to visit in Plymouth, including the Pilgrim Museum and the living history museum at Plimoth Plantation, but the First Church in Plymouth is a hidden treasure!
The link to the windows page http://restorefirstparishplymouth.org/stained_glass_windows/stained_glass_windows.html
First Parish in Plymouth
19 Town Square, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo