February 5: Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, Prophetic Witnesses, 1683, 1643
February 5, 2011 18 Comments
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About this commemoration
Born in London in 1603, Roger Williams was ordained and served as a priest in the Church of England. Williams found that he could not abide by the rigorous, high-church policies of Archbishop William Laud, and in 1630, he sailed to New England in search of religious liberty.
Upon his arrival in Boston, Williams encountered further obstacles to religious freedom. In particular, Williams objected to the ability of the civil authorities to punish religious offenses, and he advocated for a “wall of separation” between civil and religious powers. He believed also in the fundamental right of all people to follow their consciences in matter of religious belief. He left Massachusetts and founded a nearby settlement called Providence, believing God had guided him to this new land. He was eventually granted a charter for the colony of Rhode Island, the new constitution of which granted wide religious latitude and freedom of practice. Williams founded the first Baptist Church in Providence, though he refused to be tied to the tenets of an established church.
Like Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson also immigrated to Massachusetts in hope of finding religious freedom. She was an outspoken advocate of the rights and equality of women, challenging the dominant views of the Puritan leadership. She held Bible studies in her home for the women of her community, at which she welcomed critical examination of the faith. As a result of her activities, she found herself at odds with not only the religious authorities, but with the state civil authorities as well, and in 1638, she was tried by the General Court of Massachusetts, presided over by Governor John Winthrop, and was branded as a dangerous dissenter and banished from the colony. Anne eventually relocated to what is now Bronx, New York, where she and her family were killed, save one daughter, by a group of Siwanoy Indians in 1643.
Today, both Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson are remembered as early champions of religious liberty in this nation and as prophets of the individual’s freedom of fellowship with the Creator.
I O God our light and salvation, we offer thanks for Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ made them brave prophets of religious tolerance in the American colonies; and we pray that we also may follow paths of holiness and good conscience, guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O God our light and salvation, we thank you for Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ made them brave prophets of religious tolerance in the American colonies; and we pray that we also may follow paths of holiness and good conscience, guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Kings 17:1–16
1 Peter 1:13–16
Preface of God the Father
Text from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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