Going to Church – 10 February 2020
This is an illustration of Plymouth pilgrims going to church. The Pilgrims had settled in Massachusetts looking for freedom to worship as they desired. Couples and family groups are making their way up a hill to a stockade, where inside they have their church. They are an ethnically uniform, and are guarded by a single man well armed with a musket. There is no sign of any person or beast that might threaten them or do them harm. To the right there are a number of tree stumps, indicating that the wild forest is being cleared under the civilising influence of these settlers.
Although it illustrates an episode from American history, this picture is stylised and shaped by religious sensibilities from the first half of the 20th century. This is the picture of a community that feels threatened and under siege, forming its identity through worship. The illustration captures how white religious sensibilities shape the role of the church and its place in society. What is a safe place for some will be a threat towards others.
The picture is by Newell Convers Weyth (1941), the father of the better known artist Andrew Weyth. N C Weyth was an artist and illustrator working in the first half of the 20th century. The Weyths were descended from a stonemason, who came to Massachusetts from England in 1645.
With fellow-pilgrims meeting,
Who seek the rest to come,
‘Tis sweet to sing together,
“We are not far from home.”
And when we’ve learned our lesson,
Our work in suffering done,
Our ever-loving Father
Will welcome every one.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility….. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.