Thanksgiving Illuminate Can-dles of Hope

St Swithun’s Church, Retford – 12noon to 9.00pm, 18th November 2021

Help us to gather 4800 (or more!) cans for Bassetlaw Foodbank on Thursday 18th November 2021 – that is one can for every month since the first Thanksgiving in America, 400 years ago. We have over 400 cans already and are looking forward to receiving many more on the day.

From 12noon on Thursday 18th November at St Swithun’s Church, Retford, there will be a programme of performances and talks where everyone is invited to call in with their donations of cans for Bassetlaw Foodbank.

Programme

Here is the programme:

12 noon – 12.15pm John Coates and the bellringers will ring the church bells

12.30pm – 1.30pm Stephen Carey will play five organ pieces specially composed for the Mayflower Pilgrims commemorations, with an introduction and supporting narratives by Isabelle Richards, Heritage Engagement Officer, Pilgrims Gallery, Bassetlaw Museum.

1.30pm – 2.30pm The Elizabethan Academy Choir

2.30pm – 3.00pm Doncaster Waites (popular music at the time of the Pilgrims)

3.00pm – 3.45pm U3A Recorder Consort

4.00pm – 4.30pm Doncaster Waites (return)

4.30pm – 5.30pm Pilgrim Churches + Videos on screen – sit back and take a tour around local historic locations linked to the Separatists

5.30pm – 6.30pm Interval

6.30pm – 7.30pm Adrian Gray, historian & author – ‘Thanksgiving and other meals’ (talk)

7.30pm – 8.30pm Emma Spencer & David Warren (singers)

8.30pm – 9.00pm Jessica Mary Brett (singer)

9.00pm Thanks and Close

Donors are welcome to stay throughout or pop in for a few minutes – whatever works for them – refreshments will be available.

Let’s make this a great event for Bassetlaw Foodbank and the people it serves – no-one should go hungry in Bassetlaw!

Everyone who brings a donation for the Foodbank at St Swithun’s on 18th November will be given the opportunity to write a message of hope which will be given out by Bassetlaw Foodbank. To receive a positive message like this, especially in the run up to Christmas, can make a big difference.

This will be a fantastic way for people to give thanks for their own lives whilst helping others to survive in modern hardship – a brilliant way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving Meal held in North America.

The first 400 donors will be given an LED tealight, which they can display in their windows on Thursday 25th November (Thanksgiving Day) to remind them, and others, about giving thanks. We will be inviting people to take photographs of these tealights to reflect the theme of Illuminate and share them on social media with the hashtag #OneSmallCandle, or send by email to info@pilgrimroots.org.

The Illuminate activity is inspired by a quote from William Bradford, one of the Mayflower Pilgrim leaders who became the second and long-serving Governor of Plymouth Colony:

‘As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.’

– William Bradford, Of Plimmoth Plantation

Chair of BCH, Rick Brand said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for us to make a real difference to people locally by supporting Bassetlaw Foodbank, and to be able to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving.”

Background

November 25th 2021 will be the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving meal which was shared between the newly arrived settlers to North America – the Mayflower Pilgrims – and the local population who had formed an alliance with them – the Mashpee Wampanoag.

In the first year, half of the passengers from the Mayflower had died, having arrived at the start of winter, ill-prepared for what was to come. Members of the native population showed them which crops to grow, and how to go about it. A year on from their arrival a celebration meal took place with the settlers and the leader of the local Wampanoag people and one hundred of his warriors.

However the anniversary is not celebrated by the Wampanoag people today. The successful establishment of the Separatists was followed by large scale incursion by Europeans across the continent. Thanksgiving has been marked, since 1970, among many Native Americans as a National Day of Mourning.

Millions of Americans today mark Thanksgiving as a celebration of family and an opportunity to give thanks for what they have. People travel across the country to enjoy a meal together, usually featuring turkey. The original meal would probably have consisted of venison, shellfish and cereals.

The Thanksgiving/Illuminate activity in Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire has been organised by Bassetlaw District Council Pilgrims Gallery at Bassetlaw Museum, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and BCH (Bassetlaw Christian Heritage).

Pilgrim Roots is a regional partnership including Bassetlaw District Council, West Lindsey District Council, Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and other organisations in the Lincolnshire, Bassetlaw, North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire area.

Full Programme for Retford’s ‘Candles of Hope’

What’s on for this year’s Thanksgiving/Illuminate Candles of Hope

All the details about what’s happening in St Swithun’s Church, Retford from 12noon – 9pm, Thursday 18th November 2021:

  • 12 noon – 12.15pm John Coates and the bellringers will ring the church bells
  • 12.30pm – 1.30pm Stephen Carey will play five organ pieces specially composed for the Mayflower Pilgrims commemorations, with an introduction and supporting narratives by Isabelle Richards, Heritage Engagement Officer, Pilgrims Gallery:
    • Introduction
    • Plymouth Soundings by Carson Cooman
    • Four Mayflower Portraits by Clive Jenkins
    • Martial Music for Myles Standish
    • Lullaby for Peregrine White
    • Ballad for Priscilla Mullins
    • Toccata for John Howland
  • Additional organ pieces:
    • Gavotte by Padre Martini
    • Toccata in D Minor by Gaston Belier
  • 1.30pm – 2.30pm The Elizabethan Academy Choir
  • 2.30pm – 3pm Doncaster Waites (popular music at the time of the Pilgrims)
  • 3pm – 3.45pm U3A Recorder Consort
  • 4.00pm – 4.30pm Doncaster Waites (return)
  • 4.30pm – 5.30pm Pilgrim Churches + Videos on screen – sit back and take a tour around local historic locations linked to the Separatists
  • 5.30pm – 6.30pm Interval
  • 6.30pm – 7.30pm Adrian Gray – ‘Thanksgiving and other meals’ (talk)
  • 7.30pm – 8.30pm Emma Spencer & David Warren (singing)
  • 8.30pm – 9pm Jessica Mary Brett (singing)
  • 9pm Thanks and Close

Revd Mark Cantrill will MC the event and provide further pieces of interesting information throughout the day.

Donations of cans for the Bassetlaw Foodbank will be accepted throughout the event – please bring as many as you ‘can’ and help us raise 4800 cans – one for every month since the first Thanksgiving meal in America, four hundred years ago.

About the Performers

U3A Recorder Consort Retford

The recorder group has continued to grow and now has about 28 active members with around 20 attending most playing sessions. They are very grateful to their musical director, Janet Lewis, for providing them with a wide variety of music to enjoy. The group includes members with varying playing abilities from beginners to quite experienced players. Those new to the recorder have welcomed being given some one-to-one support by Janet to help develop their confidence. Between them they play most sizes of recorder (sopranino, descant, treble, tenor, bass and contrabass). Those who have been in the group from the beginning have noted how the overall standard of playing has improved so they can now play, reasonably well, pieces which they struggled with a few years ago.

The Doncaster Waites

A group of local musicians who have a passionate interest in music and history. Their interests have led them to perform early music on copies of original instruments and to wear clothes appropriate to the time of the music. Theirs is not the music of the courts and the aristocracy but the music of the common people. The waites were the original town band and played for civic events, feasts, weddings and in the streets. Doncaster had a band of waites from 1457 to 1832 and it is the spirit of these musicians that they try to re-create.

The Doncaster Waites are:-

  • Andrea Offord – bagpipes, recorders, pipe & tabor, rauschpfeife
  • Lynn Harvey – shawm, bagpipes, pipe & tabor, recorders
  • Norma Sharp – shawm, recorders, tabor pipe
  • Ray Harvey – sackbut, recorders
  • Roger Offord – shawm, hurdy-gurdy, curtal, recorders                 

The present group has been playing together now for over 12 years, but most of them have been playing together for a lot longer than that! The Doncaster Waites are members of The International Guild of Town Pipers.

Adrian Gray

Adrian Gray was born in Grantham and now lives at Laneham, Notts. He graduated in history from Cambridge and is the author of twenty-five history books including several in Nottinghamshire. His books cover a range of historical topics including folk tales, crime and railway history, as well as titles of regional interest. He also contributes regularly to a number of magazines. After a career in education, Adrian now combines his writing and historical interests with a role as a national and international education consultant. He is also historical advisor to Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and is a director of Pilgrims & Prophets Christian Heritage Tours, which helps people get to know the secrets and treasures of Bassetlaw.

Emma Spencer

Emma has been singing and dancing since she was a little girl. She has always had a passion for all things musical theatre. Emma graduated from The University Of Central Lancashire in 2019 with a BA Hons degree in music theatre. More recently, Emma has qualified as a primary school teacher, working at a local primary school. Emma wants to stay linked with the theatre industry and definitely doesn’t want to give up singing. She loves it too much. 

David Warren

David is originally from Southport, where he was heavily involved with the theatre from a very young age. David graduated from The University of Central Lancashire in 2019 with a BA Hons degree in music theatre. More recently, David has qualified as a music secondary school teacher, working at a local secondary school.

Jessica Mary Brett

Jessica is a lady who has been singing since she was just 12 years old and now sings professionally across the country. Jessica takes her role in community seriously and recently set up a brand new Community Interest Company with her Business partner Vicky Waring. Let’s for the Community has an objective is to generate projects to help the socially isolated, vulnerable, and multigenerational community. Creating groups and activities to breakdown inequalities within communities, keep the community active, provide music and song and focus on positive mental and physical well-being. 

JMBSINGER – 07867430104 https://m.facebook.com/JMBSINGER/
LET’S SING – https://m.facebook.com/letssingcommunity/

Thanksgiving Illuminate event 18th November 2021

St Swithun’s Church Event

On Thursday 18th November 2021, we will be working with Bassetlaw Foodbank to deliver an opportunity for people to provide gifts of food to help those less fortunate. This will be a way for people to give thanks for their own lives whilst helping others to survive in modern hardship. We think this would be a good way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving Meal held between the Mashpee Wampanoag native American people and the Mayflower Pilgrims in North America.

Donors will also have the opportunity to leave messages of hope on postcards which will be forwarded via Bassetlaw Foodbank to people receiving their parcels. To receive a positive message like this from other people, especially in the run up to Christmas, can make all the difference.

From 12noon on Thursday 18th November at St Swithun’s Church Retford, there will be a programme of performances and talks where everyone is invited to call in with their donations for Bassetlaw Foodbank (normal rules – cans, sealed packs etc). Donors are welcome to stay throughout or pop in for a few minutes – whatever works for them. Let’s make this a great event for Bassetlaw Foodbank and the people it serves – no-one should go hungry in Bassetlaw!

We will be giving donors battery tealight candles to display in their windows on 25th November (Thanksgiving Day in 2021) and will be inviting them to take photographs of these to reflect the theme of Illuminate and share them on social media with the hashtag #OneSmallCandle, or send by email to info@pilgrimroots.org. We will also support schools in creating their own Illuminate features and will invite them to send photographs for our online display.

The Illuminate activity is inspired by a quote from William Bradford, one of the Mayflower Pilgrim leaders who became the second and longest-serving Governor of Plymouth Colony:

‘As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.’

Background

On 25th November 2021, the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving meal will be commemorated. This was shared between the newly arrived settlers to North America – the Mayflower Pilgrims – and the local population who had formed an alliance with them – the Mashpee Wampanoag.

In the first year, half of the passengers from the Mayflower had died, having arrived at the start of winter, ill-prepared for what was to come. Members of the native population showed them which crops to grow, and how to go about it. A year on from their arrival a celebration meal took place with the settlers and the leader of the local Wampanoag people and one hundred of his warriors.

However the anniversary is not celebrated by the Wampanoag people today. The successful establishment of the Separatists was followed by large scale incursion by Europeans across the continent. Thanksgiving has been marked, since 1970, among many Native Americans as a National Day of Mourning.

Pilgrim Embroidery installed by Doncaster Civic Mayor at St Helena’s Church, Austerfield

Cllr Allan Jones, Civic Mayor of Doncaster, accompanied by Civic Mayoress, Mrs Liz Jones, installed one of five Pilgrim Embroideries at St Helena’s Church in Austerfield on Sunday, 22nd August 2021.

Civic Mayor, Cllr Allan Jones with Civic Mayoress, Mrs Liz Jones

Five large embroideries have been made for the Mayflower 400 commemorations by a small group of North Nottinghamshire embroiderers, known as The Pilgrim Embroiderers.

The works are being donated to the churches at Austerfield, Babworth, East Retford, Scrooby and Sturton le Steeple, that can be found along the Pilgrims Trail.

Civic Mayor, Cllr Allan Jones with Jenny King

Designed by Jenny King, they represent the church leaders and typical 17th century congregations, many of whom sailed on the Mayflower.

The embroideries were worked on large frames using specially woven woollen cloth and threads.

The figures on the St. Helena’s embroidery were mainly worked by Fay Evason, the church and background by Jenny King.

Civic Mayor, Cllr Allan Jones with Fay Evason

The embroidery focuses on the story of Austerfield born William Bradford, one of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ leaders.

A book, ‘The Pilgrim Embroideries Made in Retford, Nottinghamshire’, has been published explaining the processes undertaken and the embroidery stitches used, and especially highlights the development of community involvement during the two years of construction from inception to completion. Copies are available from Bassetlaw Museum, and Retford Arts Hub.

Cllr Allan Jones, Civic Mayor of Doncaster said: “I was delighted to install this prestigious Pilgrim Embroidery and to congratulate the Pilgrim Embroiderers on their skill and commitment to producing such an exciting piece of work.”

Rev Becky Hancock, Vicar of The River Idle Benefice which includes Austerfield, said: “We are delighted to receive the embroidery to display in St Helena’s Church. The connections that Austerfield has with history are remarkable, reaching back to the Synod of Austerfield in 702, which debated the fate of St Wilfrid and decided the date of Easter. More recently, local man William Bradford, who was baptised in St Helena’s, became a leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims, signed the Mayflower Compact, was Governor of Plimoth Colony for many years, and recorded the definitive story of the Mayflower Pilgrims from 1606-1646, in his book History of Plimoth Plantation.”

Churchwarden Mrs Kay Beckett with the St Helena’s Embroidery

Jenny King, lead Pilgrim Embroiderer said: “It is a pleasure to donate the embroidery to St. Helena’s Church in Austerfield, and hope it brings interest to many people in the future.”

Isabelle Richards, Heritage Engagement Officer, Pilgrim Roots Project, Bassetlaw Museum said: “It’s fantastic to see the St Helena’s Pilgrim Embroidery installed in the church. This will be a great addition to the attractions of St Helena’s for Pilgrims Trail visitors and a positive sign of the 400th anniversary commemorations for years to come.”

Mayflower Quilt, part of the Quilt Festival at St Helena’s Church

Pilgrim Embroidery installed by East Retford Mayor at St Swithun’s Church, Retford

Cllr Carolyn Troop, Town Mayor of East Retford, at her first official event, installed the first of the five Pilgrim Embroideries at St Swithun’s Church in Retford on 1st July 2021.

East Retford Town Mayor, Cllr Carolyn Troop with Jenny King

Five large embroideries have been made to commemorate the Mayflower 400 commemorations by a small group of North Nottinghamshire embroiderers, known as The Pilgrim Embroiderers.

The works are being donated to the churches at Austerfield, Babworth, East Retford, Scrooby and Sturton le Steeple, that can be found along the Pilgrims Trail.

Designed by Jenny King, they represent the church leaders and typical 17th century congregations, many of whom sailed on the Mayflower.

The embroideries were worked on large frames using specially woven woollen cloth and threads. The figures on the St. Swithun’s embroidery were mainly worked by Beverley Naylor, the church and background by Jenny King.

A book, ‘The Pilgrim Embroideries Made in Retford, Nottinghamshire’, has been published explaining the processes undertaken and the embroidery stitches used, and especially highlights the development of community involvement during the two years of construction from inception to completion. Copies are available from Bassetlaw Museum, and Retford Arts Hub.

Cllr Carolyn Troop, Town Mayor of East Retford said: “I was delighted to unveil this prestigious Pilgrim Embroidery and to congratulate the Pilgrim Embroiderers on their skill and commitment to producing such an exciting piece of work.”

Rev’d Dick Lewis, Priest at St Swithun’s Church said: “We are delighted to receive the tapestry to display in St Swithun’s Church. Here we recall that many Separatists chose to stay behind whilst the Pilgrims were making their journey to America. People like George Turwyn, who was Vicar of St Swithun’s and later Rector of Babworth, decided to remain in England to try to reform the Church of England from within.”

Jenny King, lead Pilgrim Embroiderer said: “It is a pleasure in donate the embroidery to St. Swithun’s Church, East Retford, and hope it brings interest to many people in the future.”

Jenny King with Beverley Naylor

Isabelle Richards, Heritage Engagement Officer, Pilgrim Roots Project, Bassetlaw Museum said: ‘It’s fantastic to see the St Swithun’s Pilgrim Embroidery installed in the church. This will be great addition to the attractions of St Swithun’s to Pilgrims Trail visitors and be a positive sign of the 400th anniversary commemorations for years to come.”

Thanksgiving: 26th November 2020 – Illuminate – “One small candle”

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims in North America. For this year’s Pilgrims Festival, we are inviting people to safely display battery-powered lights in their windows on the evening of 26th November (Thanksgiving), photograph them, and share them on social media with the hashtag #OneSmallCandle, or send by email to info@pilgrimroots.org.

Make your own lantern (Image credit: Electric Egg)

The ‘One Small Candle’ initiative has been inspired by a quote from William Bradford, a Mayflower Pilgrim from Austerfield, who was a long-term friend of local Separatists, William Brewster from Scrooby, Richard Clifton from Babworth, and John Robinson from Sturton-le-Steeple. He became the longest serving Governor of Plymouth Colony, and wrote: ‘As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many.’

Templates for creating lanterns at home have been circulated in the November editions of Retford, Worksop and Gainsborough Life magazines and are available here.

Heritage Engagement Officer for the Pilgrim Roots Heritage Project Isabelle Richards said: ‘I am delighted that we are working together to ensure the momentum of previous Illuminate events is not lost in this 400th anniversary year. The One Small Candle project is a great opportunity for people to share hope and solidarity safely, and personally give thanks for whatever reason, while we are not able to join together in the usual way.’

To Take Part:

Simply shine a light or place a battery operated candle in your window on the evening of 26th November.

Or, if you are feeling creative, craft your own lantern safely using the templates in the Life Magazines or here.

Spread the light further by using #OneSmallCandle to share a photo of your window/lantern with us on social media on Twitter or Facebook!

Commemorating Clifton’s 400th – BCH touring exhibition and talks in May

Bassetlaw Christian Heritage is involved in a series of events this coming May to commemorate 400 years since the death of Richard Clifton – leading Separatist and preacher who inspired the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Events are taking place in Austerfield, Gainsborough, Babworth and Retford.

BCH are pleased to be taking part in the Doncaster Heritage Festival, the West Lindsey Churches Festival and the Retford Arts Festival to stage an exhibition on Clifton and the Pilgrims and offer talks on the history by Adrian Gray.

May 20th 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Clifton, who died in Holland before the Pilgrims left for America via Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth.

What’s on and when?

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th May 2016 11am-4pm St Helena’s Church, Austerfield

  • Open Church Weekend as part of the Doncaster Heritage Festival, including a Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists, including William Bradford and William Brewster.
  • Refreshments will be provided.
  • Talk by author and local historian Adrian Gray on Sunday 8 May 8 at 2pm, providing an engaging insight into the Bradford, Brewster and Clifton story with an overview of the times that they lived in and their importance to us today.
  • Adrian’s new book From Here We Changed the World will be available, which provides an outline of the story and a detailed commentary on fascinating insights into some of the key places in the region. It is a story of martyrdom, sacrifice and unbelievable bravery; of shipwreck, cannibalism and yet extraordinary service to others.
  • Read a short history of Austerfield church below.
Saturday 14th May 2016 Pilgrims & Prophets Clifton Tour
  • Tour of churches with connections to Richard Clifton and the Pilgrim Story, with a heritage commentary, (itinerary subject to confirmation) starting at The Crossing in Worksop going on to The Well in Retford then Marnham, Fledborough, Babworth, Scrooby, and Everton before returning to The Well and The Crossing.
  • Departures from from The Crossing in Worksop and The Well in Retford.
  • Led by Adrian Gray and Rev. Geoffrey Clarke – for further information contact Adrian Gray (tel./text 07470 366689), or The Crossing in Worksop, or The Well in Retford.
 Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th May 2016 United Reformed Church, Gainsborough
  • Open Church Weekend with organ recitals as part of the West Lindsey Churches Festival – including Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists.

Saturday 28th, Sunday 29th & Monday 30th May 2016 10am-4pm All Saint’s Parish Church, Babworth
  • Open Church Weekend as part of the Retford Arts Festival;
  • Exhibition of paintings by local artist Gerry Fruin;
  • Bassetlaw Christian Heritage exhibition on Richard Clifton and the Separatists.
  • Refreshments will be provided and car parking is available.
Saturday 28th May 2016 11am St Swithun’s Parish Church, Retford
  • Talk by author and local historian, Adrian Gray on ‘Retford’s Christian Heritage’ as part of the Retford Arts Festival.

Spotlight on Austerfield

The Clifton commemorations begin at historic St Helena’s Church at Austerfield, now over one thousand years old. The structure of the building alone is worth a visit, but when you consider the people who have lived and worked here, and the events they have shaped, influencing the lives of millions across the world – you will wonder why you haven’t visited before.

St Helena’s Church was built in 1080 by John de Builli, using stone from the Roche Abbey quarries. Over the centuries the church has seen new sections built and renovations completed to make it the church you see today.

The tympanum over the south doorway depicts a serpent-like dragon. An article published in 1954 suggests it is 8th century and relates its symbolic meaning to the calculation of the incidence of Easter Day.

In 702AD Austerfield was the location of a Synod, where a dispute between the King of Northumbria and Wilfrid, Bishop of Ripon was resolved. The Synod also discussed and agreed was the way that Easter is calculated.

The church has several windows by one of England’s greatest stained glass artists, Charles Earner Kempe.

In the nave is a Sheila-na-gig of which there are only 16 recorded in England! This is a quasi-erotic stone carving of a female figure sometimes found in Norman churches. This carving had been blocked into a wall in the 14th century, and was only rediscovered in 1898 during restoration work.

In 1897 the north aisle was built in memory of William Bradford.

Austerfield is perhaps best known by its connections with the Mayflower Pilgrims. William Bradford was born in Austerfield and was brought to be baptised on 19th March 1589.

In front of you, when you enter the church, is the stone baptismal font where Bradford was baptized and a beautiful stained glass window on the north side of the church commemorates the 400th anniversary of this event.

William Bradford went on to become the second Governor of Plimoth Colony in America and was the second signer of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor.

Bradford was just 18 when he left for Holland with the Scrooby Group of Separatists in 1608, and only 30 when he arrived in America. As a young man he had often been unwell which led him to read and develop an interest in religious issues.

He became a close friend of William Brewster, who was Master of the Post at Scrooby, which is where the Scrooby Group met after Richard Clifton was forced out of Babworth.

Clifton was an important preacher and Bradford and Brewster regularly walked to Babworth to hear his sermons, even though it was illegal at the time.

[As featured on Heritage Inspired]

 

 

 

Helwys commemoration event highlights the need for religious tolerance as much today as in 1616

Religious intolerance and state oppression pose real dangers to personal freedom. And some 77% of the world’s population live under government restrictions on their beliefs.

DSCN2119

Cllr Jo White, Baroness Berridge, Rev Tony Peck and Adrian Gray

These were among the key messages at an event at The Well in Retford last week (Saturday 12 March), commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of local Separatist, Thomas Helwys, who first advocated universal religious freedom.

Addressing an audience from across the UK, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, member of the House of Lords and Co-Chair of the All-Party Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief, outlined examples from history – and today – of religious intolerance and state oppression.

She cited the reigns of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I when, to be a loyal subject to the Crown, religious allegiance to Catholicism and Protestantism respectively was required, and the penalty for failure to conform was severe.

More recent history from the Balkan conflict showed the aligning of loyalty to the Serbian state with belief in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church are forming the same relationship with Russian identity.

In Burma, the Buddhist majority is suspicious of Christian and Muslim minorities, translating into persecution. Iran and Saudi Arabia both practice similar forms of theocracy from opposite sides of Islam. The most extreme current example is that of the so-called Islamic State where religious persecution is being used to attempt to impose a form of government.

Baroness Berridge went on to say that the Pew Research Centre (US)* had estimated that 77% of the world’s population live under governmental restrictions on their beliefs. She explained that an all- party group in Parliament with support from both houses and all parties was trying to raise the profile of the need to stand together to defend the rights of religious freedom for all.

She ended by highlighting that we are today benefitting from the fruits of the sacrifice of Thomas Helwys, who died for his belief in universal religious freedom – for all faiths, and none.

Rev Tony Peck
Rev Tony Peck

Rev Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, described the life of Thomas Helwys, including his time spent in Gainsborough with John Smyth, from Sturton. They left for Amsterdam in 1608 and established a Baptist principle of belief in A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam in Holland (1611). Helwys returned to England and set up the first English Baptist Church at Spitalfields, London.

He then published A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, containing the first English language plea for universal religious freedom – for all faiths, and none. He denied the King’s right to impose laws requiring religious conformity and the King responded by imprisoning him in Newgate prison, where he died in around 1616.

Deputy Leader of Bassetlaw District Council and Portfolio Lead for Regeneration, Cllr Jo White, opened the event to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Thomas Helwys. She acknowledged the importance of the area around Retford where the founders of the Baptist, Quaker and Methodist denominations had originated, together with leaders of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

Bassetlaw District Council is proud of this unique aspect of our heritage, she said, and has created an annual Festival of Stories leading up to 2020, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims reaching America. This weekend (Friday 11 and Saturday 12 March) was the start of the Rebels and Religion Festival, with the first national Christian Heritage Conference held at The Well on Friday, which was a great success. She also looked forward to this becoming an annual event.

Local historian, Adrian Gray’s book was launched at this event, entitled From Here We Changed the World. Cllr White commented that this is “a bold statement, but it is a fact, and one we are very proud of”. She thanked people for attending and encouraged everyone to “work together to make positive changes for our future and the future of our children”.

A Release International representative and an Open Doors representative were interviewed by Richard Warren (Assistant Pastor, The Well). They confirmed that 200 million Christians around the world today suffer some form of persecution. The Christian church has become a target for people wishing to express their disapproval of the actions of Western democracies, especially where Christian peoples form minority groups in other cultures.

The event was brought to a close by Adrian Gray. Forty-five visitors joined him for a guided tour of churches relevant to the Helwys story in Askham, Sturton, Saundby and Glentworth; and Gainsborough Old Hall.

Music was provided during the event by Dan Bailey and Lynn Clapperton.

*The Pew Research Centre (US) Latest Trends in Religious Restrictions and Hostilities:

“Looking at the overall level of restrictions – whether resulting from government policies or from hostile acts by private individuals, organizations and social groups – the study finds that restrictions on religion were high or very high in 39% of countries. Because some of these countries (like China and India) are very populous, about 5.5 billion people (77% of the world’s population) were living in countries with a high or very high overall level of restrictions on religion in 2013, up from 76% in 2012 and 68% as of 2007.”