Newark’s Spiritual Foundation
Mayflower Voyage of 1620
After disembarking a few times and repeatedly returning to the nearest port for ship repairs, finally on Sept 6th in the year 1620 the ship Mayflower departed Plymouth England with about 102 pilgrim passengers on their voyage to the New World. After sixty-six days of voyage, on they spotted what is now Cape Cod Massachusetts. They decided to land, though their initial destination was a warmer location further south on the Hudson in the newly established Virginia colony. So they decided to remain in the area of Massachusetts and build their plantation there. They referred to the place where they disembarked Plymouth Rock.
Since conditions were colder than they had anticipated, the crew and passengers remained housed on the Mayflower awaiting the cold season to subside. Unfortunately, the lengthy journey and prolonged period housed on the Mayflower, with harsh weather and inadequate diet, several succumbed to scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. When on Mar 21, 1621 the passengers finally disembarked the Mayflower, there were only 53 of the 102 passengers still alive. And only about half of the original twenty-five to thirty crew members were still living.
While housed on the Mayflower, and in the midst of harsh conditions and disappointments, the Pilgrims felt compelled to agree on a compact and covenant to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, which during that time extended far north to the Hudson River. To solidify their resolve and commitment to the mission a covenant compact was drafted and signed by all the men. It was referred to as the Mayflower Compact. A contemporary English version of the compact reads:
Mayflower Compact Modern English Version
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these present, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission.
Departure from Massachusetts
Twenty years after the landing of the Mayflower, in the year 1640, a group of Pilgrims departed Lynn Massachusetts to Southhampton Long Island. In the same year Abraham Pierson had arrived from England to make New England his home. Abraham Pierson, who became a strong spiritual leader of those who departed Lynn Massachusetts had graduated Trinity College, Cambridge England in 1632. The year following his graduation Pierson was cited for being an unlicensed curate. Later that year he did become ordained as a deacon. Then in March 1640 he was summoned to appear before the religious Court of High Commission. He did not appear and was fined. He then took the journey across the Atlantic to make New England his home.
After the brief period of just four years after their move, in the year 1644, Southampton was annexed to Connecticut and Pierson removed to the town of Branford in the New Haven Colony. In Branford Pastor Pierson, the people of Branford with others from the town of Weathersfield founded the church society. Then twenty-two years later they departed Branford. The departure from Branford was prompted by the termination of a military conflict between the British and the Dutch with the British being victorious. Out of that came the 1662 charter from the British king Charles II granting the New Haven colony to the Connecticut Colony. The pilgrims began discussing and planning another departure. They were convinced that under the Connecticut Colony they would be restricted in the liberty to function under the biblical form of government they were determined to have. The New Haven annexation was finalized in 1665, so from Branford Connecticut they again departed in 1666. That voyage was to the area they ultimately referred to as NewArk.
Laying Newark’s Spiritual Foundation
With that New Haven departure Pierson and the group met with Robert Treat, who with a similar group having the same discontentment, departed from Milford Connecticut. Treat, born in Pitminster Somerset England emigrated to New England at age 15 in 1639. His family settled in Wethersfield Connecticut. It was these dissidents under the leadership of Abraham Pierson and Robert Treat who voyaged to New Jersey, down the Passaic River to establish a colony governed by church rules, similar to the one they had established in the towns of Branford and Milford in the New Haven Colony. They disembarked and began their settlement.
Within a year they had finalized their trade purchased the property from the Hackensack Indians. Robert Treat wanted the new community to be named Milford New Jersey. But Abraham Pierson, the devout Congregational Puritan, insisted on the name New Ark to represent the new ark of God’s covenant being reestablished in the new settlement community.
The discontented church society founders were now content. They began to do and govern as they had purposed to do. They convened and drafted laws and ordinances to govern the city directly from the Bible. In addition their whole theory and practical working scheme of government came from Scripture. They chose seven men who had civil authority in governing the new community and charge over the affairs of the church. The seven also chose the first governor and chose the four deputies who were to assist the governor. Those seven men also functioned as magistrates over legal violations and/or disputes. In seeking compliance with the functioning of Mosaic Law there were neither juries nor verdicts from a panel of peers. The foundation was laid, formed and functioning.
That foundation thrived and continued relatively unhampered under the Bible based form of government for a period of eighty years. It continued until in the year 1733 a prominent member of the community named Josiah Ogden was reported to have harvested wheat on a Sunday following a lengthy rainstorm. He was disciplined by the Puritan Church for violating the Sabbath. He then left the church and corresponded with Episcopalian missionaries who arrived and in 1746 built an Episcopal church.
The new church began to compete with the Puritan church in eloquence, principles and practices. That action with its residual competitive dynamics resulted in dilution, and ultimately erosion, but only after approximately one hundred years of Bible based spiritual governance as envisioned by its founders.
Where Do We Go from Here
Yet and still even today, where there is King there is kingdom. From the founding of the city and the original spiritual heritage of the city, the government was on the shoulders of the church, the body of Christ the King. That city has now dismissed her original spiritual heritage, and has since lost her way. The extent of the diversion is not minor. And the spiritual leadership baton has now changed from those of European descent to those of African and Hispanic descent.
It is incumbent upon the new leadership to stand up, line up and rebuild the spiritual walls of the city. We rebuild spiritual walls by restoring and aligning with the city’s original spiritual heritage. We do not expect it to occur by harsh laws, but in compliance as the Lord says: Yea … with loving kindness have I drawn thee (Jer 31:3). We do understand that ethos has changed. Culture has changed. Church protocol has changed. But the Word has not changed. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He reigned then. He reigns now. He reigns forever. And He reigns in Newark. For where there is King there has to be Kingdom.
*Information provided by Pastor Bernard Wilks