Beliefs, values of Pilgrims, Puritans found in modern-day churches. LOCALIZE churches in opening graphs.
If you want to see some modern-day Pilgrims and Puritans, head to Peoria Heights Congregational Church or Parkview United Church of Christ. Or check out Northminster Presbyterian Church. Or even the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria. The members probably won't be wearing buckled hats, but they are members of organizations and traditions which descended from the original Christian groups that helped build the New England part of the New World. "The Congregational Church is based on many of the beliefs and values that formed this country," said Rick Picl, moderator of Peoria Heights Congregational. Churches aren't the only places preserving the legacy of Puritans and Pilgrims, though. There's also Harvard University, the University of Michigan and Oberlin College in Ohio, representing the Puritans' emphasis on knowledge. And, said scholars who have studied the legacy of the groups, there is the New England sense of community and accountability. "It's been a 250-year, 300-year journey," said Barbara Brown Zikmund, a historian who teaches at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "It's not that they're gone, it's that they're assimilated into the pluralistic religious landscape of America." When they first arrived, though, the Pilgrims and Puritans stood out. The former group, of course, is known for its journey to America on the Mayflower in the 1600s and the now-disputed first Thanksgiving feast. "The Pilgrims live on as a kind of mythic, gentler people," said David D. Hall, Harvard professor of American religious history. "They didn't persecute witches or dissenters. As it happens, much of that myth was the creation of religious liberals, Protestant liberals, people who became Unitarians, who came out of Puritanism. They wanted a historical past" which would give them legitimacy, Hall said. "It's really kind of an imagined Plymouth that lives on very powerfully," Hall said. The Puritans were a much larger group, though some of them were among the Pilgrims who set up Plymouth Colony. "We use the word Puritan to describe a range of Protestants who hoped to continue the Reformation by 'purifying' the Church of England of those elements that still connected it with Catholicism," said Robert Fuller, religion professor at Bradley University. "Puritans wanted to rid the church of much of its ritual and return the church to plain Bible reading, plain Bible preaching." The Puritans set up four model colonies in New England, most famously the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Eventually, however, Puritans were absorbed into Congregationalist and Presbyterian traditions. Zikmund said the Puritans have gotten a raw deal from history and an unfounded reputation of narrow-mindedness. "I think one of the things that both the Puritans and Pilgrims exhibited was a strong personal piety," she said. Members were examined by congregational leaders and "were asked to testify to your own spiritual experience with God, your prayer life," Zikmund said. Both men and women were "involved in this pious way of wrestling with the fate of their soul," she said. More recent emphasis on personal spiritual renewal, Zikmund said, "is very consistent with what the Puritan-Pilgrim legacy is - to keep the faith and test it personally, to be in constant self-examination." "Sometimes it was almost pathological, but it was also very legitimate and created a sense of self and social responsibility, which the nation benefited from," she said. "I think it's not any accident that the population in New England developed a kind of civic responsibility for the wider community." But there's another legacy that isn't as widely recognized, Zikmund said: "the recognition of human limitations." "They were extremely convicted by the biblical mandate about sin," she said. "They really had a kind of humility about how to live their lives convicted of their own limitations and their only source of survival beyond their own limitations was God's grace." Still, as time went on, there were certain expressions of Puritanism "which became overly self-serving and zealous, and there was a reaction against that," Zikmund said. Thus the term "puritanical." The Puritan emphasis on education, though, may be the group's most widely experienced legacy. "They took education extremely seriously," Zikmund said. She said that was mostly due to their desire to have well-educated leaders. "They wanted people who were learned, who studied Scripture, who understood the heritage of the faith and could relate it to the people," Zikmund said. Michael Miller can be reached at email@example.com.