The year is 1620, we are on board the Mayflower, anchored at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Several ladies are sitting on the deck beside their possessions, waiting to disembark. Suddenly there is an intrusion from the 20th century, several young girls dressed in the manner of young girls in 1990.
The ladies gasp in shock, “Were you shipwrecked?”
“No,” they reply, somewhat mystified.
“Then where are your clothes?”
“We’re wearing them. This is how we always dress.”
“And your mother allows you to go around half naked like that?”
The girls have no answer.
A while later we are walking through Plimoth Plantation, the town site as it was in 1627. All the people we have read about in history books are here, speaking with the authentic accent of their county of origin in England.
We stop and talk to a young couple seated on a bench in front of their small home. We ask about the singing in their church services and they oblige by singing a Psalm.
Later a man falls in step beside me and introduces himself as Samuel Fuller. i recognize the name, he is the physician, deacon and church leader at Plymouth. He complains about how the church leaders in England say Plymouth doesn’t have a proper church, because they don’t have a minister.
“Who made them ministers and bishops? A church is made up of Christian people, they don’t even have a church. Who made them ministers and bishops?”
A little later my wife and I come across a group of tourists questioning William Bradford. He tells them emphatically, “If you know that something is wrong and you continue to do it, that is sin!”
That evening we were at a supper of the Goodenow – Goodnough cousins from all over North America. Cousin Cynthia, who is part of the cast at Plimoth Plantation, came dressed as Mrs. Edmund Goodenow and spoke of the reasons they had left England in 1638. “We wanted to be free to worship God the way the Bible teaches, rather than the way man teaches.” Edmund had been brought before the courts in England for going to worship at a neighbouring parish of the Church of England where the minister was more evangelical than the minister of his home parish. That was illegal in England in those days.
Cynthia is a descendent of Edmund and his wife, I am a descendent of Edmund’s brother Thomas, so we cannot be any closer than tenth cousins. After the supper we asked her about the other role players at Plimoth Plantation. Everything seemed so genuine, the buildings, the clothing, the accents, the faith. But I had to ask, do the people playing those roles put on their Christian convictions with the costume, and then take them off again when they remove their costumes at the end of the day? I especially asked about the man playing the role of Samuel Fuller.
She thought just a bit, then said, “I believe he has it in his head, but not in his heart.”
It would be worthwhile to ask myself that question. After more than forty years of being a Christian, have I grown comfortable in living a Christian life in the way that I know will be considered acceptable in my setting? Or am I free to live and speak as the Bible and the Holy Spirit speak to my heart?