Saturday, February 03, 2018

my father died on friday night, january 19th, and i was there. i took over a week off from work, as family came and we had a memorial. i could still post the eulogy here, as i did for my mom, who died almost two years earlier. one result was that, afterwards, i put aside much of what i was writing, and delved into the ancestors.

the picture above is st. botolph's, in boston, lincolnshire. my ancestor thomas leverett (whom i was named after) was a regular at this church, and as far as i can tell one of the original puritans. but puritan meant something different back then, and in fact the word wasn't even used until much later, and finally came to be used derisively for people who are too pure, too sticky about something, who, for example, don't like people wasting tape. my wife accuses me sometimes of being a puritan, so i might as well figure out what it was all about. delving into 1600's religion is an interesting diversion and this era laid the foundations for what the usa is today.

so this thomas leverett was a regular in this church when along came a devout pastor, john cotton, who was a fervent christian but didn't like the restrictions placed on the church of england from above. it was like, this is why we split off from catholicism, we should just keep going in the direction we were, and make christianity simpler, more free of liturgical tradition. people like john cotton came to be known as puritans because they wanted to purify the church from within (unlike pilgrims or quakers, who simply dropped out of it and started their own). john cotton was to be known the rest of his life for having a fervent, charismatic style, but operating a bit outside of the confines of church liturgy, and, when pressured, always sticking with the church itself, in favor of perhaps dropping out, or being banned, as some of his followers were led to do.

so he goes about preaching in st. botolphs, and one of his allies is thomas leverett; another is anne hutchinson, who is really into the whole religious side of it. the king eventually comes down on puritan-leaning pastors like thomas hooker and john cotton; hooker flees to the netherlands, while cotton eventually goes into hiding, afraid of being arrested. john winthrop invites him to come to the new world, where the first church of boston (mass.) needs a fervent puritan like him. all these guys know each other; the founders of boston mass. named the town after boston, lincolnshire. to john cotton this is a way out. he agrees.

now it so happens that england is ruled by charles the first, who believes in the divine right of kings, to do such things as force people to register to loan money to the government, and a lot of these guys, including leverett and friends, really don't like this. so they have lots of good reasons to listen to john winthrop and just go.

the ship griffin is anchored out on norfolk downs, which i still haven't found, and it can be boarded at night or in the early morning hours. this is what cotton and his wife do; they also have a daughter. leverett also is on the ship, with his wife and three kids, two of them grown. thomas hooker sneaks onto the ship; he's returned from netherlands secretly, to put his affairs in order, to go to the new world. another good friend of theirs, atherton hough, is on there as well. a novel could be made of this, obviously; the ship sets sail in early june and lands in boston in september. a baby, seaborn cotton, is born on the ship. john cotton takes this to be a sign that he's done the right thing. in the new world, he comes to control the church for years; he has trouble with hooker and with anne hutchinson, who comes the next year; one of his daughters marries a mather, and cotton mather and increase mather shape puritanism in the new world for years to come. more later.


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