Monday, March 16, 2020

Who is John Lothropp?

In the New England Memorial by Nathaniel Morton (1669), John Lothropp was considered to be one of the five most important ministers to arrive in New England during the Great Migration.
Five United States presidents, as well as Princess Diana, descend from John Lothropp. So does a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Pierpont Morgan, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, Walt Disney, Joseph Smith and dozens of other famous individuals who helped shape the country.

Thirty years ago, my father-in-law introduced me to his 8th great-grandfather, Reverend John Lothropp, through a booklet published by the Institute of Family Research called John Lathrop 1584-1653: Reformer, Sufferer, Pilgrim, Man of God (1979). Interested in history, genealogy, and religion, I was captivated by this courageous reformer with such immense zeal and humility. I was also curious as to why a man would risk so much for the right to pray and worship the way his conscience dictated, so similar to the plight of the American Pilgrims and other religious martyrs and reformers.

Against the backdrop of the 17th century Church of England’s religious suppression, my novel, The Pulse of His Soul: The Story of John Lothropp, a Forgotten Forefather, begins shortly after Reverend Lothropp takes his orders to become a perpetual curate in Egerton, England in 1610. I felt it was here we needed to start his journey and understand his character in order to follow him through his change of heart and separation from the Church of England to join with the Independent Church in London. Hannah Howse—his wife and the daughter of a vicar—was a strong and loving woman who did not make the same choices as her husband. Because of this, the religious conflict and fervor of the kingdom entered their home, even though both believed in a powerful and individual relationship with God that could be mastered through faith and unification. The Pulse of His Soul unfolds through the eyes of both Reverend Lothropp and his wife. His personal decision to renounce his orders affected his whole family when he fell out of favor with the Church and lost his social standing.
Saint James Church in Egerton, England

The turbulence of living under King James forced John to fight for his deep-seated principles, his family, his life, and the truth of his convictions in a world filled with hypocrisy, tyranny, and betrayal. John was tortured and imprisoned, and then lost his home and country.

When the Reverend John Lothropp came as an exile to America in 1634, he settled with thirty-two of his congregants in Scituate, but by 1639 he founded Barnstable, Massachusetts, a coastal town on Cape Cod. Here he became known as the minister of the Congregational Church. (It survives in customs and worship to this day, now known as West Parish Church). And just as his congregation had done in London, they covenanted together “to walk in all God’s ways as He had revealed or should make known to them.” They believed that each church was to control its own affairs. The town prospered under the spiritual guidance of Lothropp and for seventy-eight years it was the only church in Barnstable.

Amos Otis was a historian who lived in Barnstable a hundred years after John. He studied the lives of Reverend Lothropp and his contemporaries. Otis wrote, “Mr. Lothrop was as distinguished for his worldly wisdom as for his piety. He was a good businessman, and so were all his sons. Where every one of the family pitched his tent, that spot became the center of business, and land in its vicinity appreciated in value. It is men that make a place, and to Mr. Lothrop in early times, Barnstable was more indebted than to any other family.”
John Lothropp home, now Sturgis Library

Reverend Lothropp’s will left real property in Barnstable and money valued at 72 pounds 16 shillings and 5 pence. But that was not the true inheritance John left behind. He was a man who lived hardships most could not fathom. He journeyed through doubt, disbelief, impoverishment, death of his most beloved, torture, imprisonment, losing his home and country, and still through it all grew a testimony of Christ that could not be shaken. In America he found a place to rest and keep his commitment to walk in all of God’s ways.

Following are quotes extolling the Reverend John Lothropp:

“He was a man of a humble and broke heart and spirit, lively in dispensation of the Word of God, studious of peace, furnished with godly contentment, willing to spend and be spent for the cause of the Church of Christ.” Nathaniel Morton, 1669.

He is described in Governor John Winthrop's journal as “rejoicing in having found for himself and his followers a church without a Bishop... and a state without a King.”

“[Lothropp] was an independent thinker. He received no doctrines on the faith of others, he examined for himself, decided for himself. Though bold and decided in his denunciations of the arbitrary acts of the bishops, he was as meek as the lamb in reproving the faults of his brethren, and the children of his church. Creeds and confessions of faith he rejected. The Bible was his creed . . . Whatever exceptions we may make to Mr. Lothrop’s theological opinions, all must admit that he was a good and true man, an independent thinker, and a man who held opinions in advance of his times.” Otis, Amos, historian.

“…he was endowed with a competent measure of gifts and earnestly endowed with a great measure of brokenness of heart and humility of spirit.” Walter R. Goehring, historian.

“Mr. Lathrop was a man of deep piety, great zeal and large ability.” Charles Henry Pope

“A man of a tender heart and a humble and meek spirit.” Burrage Champlin

John Lathrop, a descendant of John Lothropp, also a minister
At present, I’m shopping my manuscript to agents, and I plan to announce the release date here and on my website. I believe I descend from Hannah Lothropp’s brother, Samuel Howse, and hope to make that connection before the book’s release. My husband is the 9th great-grandson of Reverend Lothropp. If you’re a history buff, you might recognize some other characters in the novel, such as Samuel Hinckley, Nathaniel Tilden, and Robert Linnell. I also share how the Pilgrims played into Reverend Lothropp’s life. This may interest those celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in America this year.

To learn more about John Lothropp

Check out The John Lothropp Foundation (some of the website is under construction at present) and also read about John Lothropp on Wikipedia, where it states: “Perhaps Lothropp's principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called "Freedom of Religion"). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of John Lothropp and others.”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

America 400

I learned something while writing my recent novel about John Lothropp. The Pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were Separatists, not Puritans. How many times have we seen paintings of the Pilgrims in Puritan clothing? When in reality they probably wore the colors of everyday-people in England. All over the internet you can find learned people calling the Pilgrims Puritans. I’m wondering if I was taught this in school. How did the false information get into my brain?

 Here’s a brief description of both of these groups of people 

English Protestants who denied the Church of England altogether. They separated themselves from the perceived corruption of the Church and formed their own congregations. They felt true Christian believers should seek out other Christians and together form churches that could determine their own affairs without having to submit to the judgment of any higher human authority. (In the early 1600s it would have been the king and his archbishops/clergy.) Some believed the Church failed to promote faith because of lascivious living and greed of the hierarchy. Because Separatist congregations were illegal in the early 17th Century, many of its adherents were persecuted by the High Commission. They were often labeled as traitors and many left England.

Held the belief that the Bible—and not traditions—should be the sole source of spiritual authority, holding that the pattern for organization of the church was laid down by the New Testament. They were also at the fore of the campaign for reform. The key ideas of the Reformation were a call to “purify” the Church of England from its Catholic practices—thus the believers called themselves “Puritans.” They insisted on significant changes in the Book of Common Prayer but were reasonably satisfied with the Church’s Calvinist teachings on predestination and the Eucharist as well as its hostility toward images. Although they didn’t leave the Church, they maintained that the Church of England was only partially reformed. They called for ethical and moral purity, believing true reformers should remain in the Church, working for this purification. They adopted a literal reading of the Sabbath commandment (Sabbatarianism) that called for both worship and rest on the seventh day of the week. They believed Paradise would occur on Earth prior to the final judgment (millennialism). Because their ministers made it their purpose to interpret scripture for the people, they became a central role in their society.
The biggest difference between the Separatists (Pilgrims falling into this group) and the Puritans is that the Puritans believed they did not need to abandon the larger Church of England. Their culture of thrift and industry fostered prosperity for themselves and their community. Puritans were known to wear simple clothing that was black or dark brown. They felt it ungodly to laugh or have fun. Puritan’s preferred to call themselves "the godly." They developed a colony in America which they wanted to be a model to the world. In 1630 a famous Puritan, John Winthrop, wrote of settling the Massachusetts Bay Colony: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

In 2020, America will be celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims and formation of the Plymouth Colony. 

In commemoration of the event, there will be many festivities in Massachusetts.

Visit the Plymouth 400 website to learn more about the many commemorations, including the Commemoration Opening Ceremony in Plymouth on April 24th; the Official Maritime Salute with regatta, lobster and military fanfare on June 27-28th; the August 1st Wampanoag Ancestors Walk; the Official Massachusetts State House Salute on September 14th; the Embarkation Festival on the 19-20th of September; the Indigenous History Conference and Powwow on October 29th; and finally, Illuminate Thanksgiving from November 20-25th.

 Visit Plimoth Plantation Museum where they provide personal encounters with history and teach of the Mayflower’s arrival into Cape Cod.

 To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing the Pilgrims Massachusetts Society of MayflowerDescendants will host a naturalization ceremony featuring Pilgrims escorting new citizens to their swearing-in ceremony! Because there were 102 passengers on the Mayflower, 102 Mayflower members in Pilgrim dress will walk arm in arm with 102 recent immigrants as they get ready to be sworn in as US citizens at a naturalization ceremony.

 General Society of Mayflower Descendants events include the Mayflower II Anniversary Gala in Provincetown; a reenactment of the signing of the Mayflower Compact; a sure-to-be memorable Pilgrim Progress march through Boston, culminating in the official State House salute to the 400th anniversary; and the Mayflower Society’s 400th Anniversary Black Tie Gala, in addition to tours and other activities.

The New England HistoricGenealogical Society will commemorate the Mayflower’s 400th anniversary with Mayflower Heritage Tours—exclusive tours directed by NEHGS experts that explore the sites of the Mayflower's inception and journey.
    In June 2020 NEHGS will lead a tour to the United Kingdom for a visit to Plymouth, Southampton, and Dartmouth, England, with world-renowned NEHGS Great Migration scholar Robert Charles Anderson as our guide. The tour will focus on the events leading to the embarkation of the Mayflower in 1620—a journey that would change the world.
    “A New England Sojourn” in June 2020 and again in September 2020 will be two exclusive, three-day visits to historic sites in Massachusetts associated with the Pilgrims, including Plymouth, Provincetown, Duxbury, and elsewhere.

In England, the commemoration focuses on the key towns and cities that make up the national Mayflower trail. On the Mayflower 400 website you can explore the sites, attractions and places on the trail using maps and destination links.

 Even in Holland you can take a walking tour that makes it easy to imagine how life was in the 17th century. Guidedvisits to the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pieterskerk and the University will allow you to understand why the pilgrims ended up in Leiden, and why it was such a dynamic place to be back then.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April is National Poetry Month

Poetry scares me. When someone asks me to write a poem, my first thought is “I can’t do it,” and my mind closes down. Yet, I know if I were better at poetry, it would affect my writing style and storytelling. I desire to achieve lovely metaphors and thoughtful prose that make a reader stop in their tracks and savor the words.
On the blog Stephanie Says So, one can learn a different style of poem writing every day for the month of April. Today, Stephanie posted instructions on how to write The 5 W’s Poem. I have followed her instruction and this is what I wrote:

Helped form my identity
With the way they lived their life
When they had trials, made choices, allowed circumstance, finished achievements, and followed talents
Because they too desired happiness and fought to survive