Edward Winslow had been a lay leader in the congregation English exiles at Leiden, Holland (1617-1620), one of four who wrote to agents in London to arrange for a voyage to America. He was a Mayflower passenger, along with his wife, Elizabeth, who arrived upon our shores in 1620. Winslow was a signer of the Mayflower Compact, third Governor of Plymouth Colony, and would serve in the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell’s government in England. He authored, among other works, The Glorious Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England (1649).
Edward Winslow wrote a letter to a friend in England. He dated it 11 December 1621. In it we see the reflections on the First Thanksgiving:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
It is good to remember our beginnings as a People. So let us silence our hearts before Almighty God and render thanks unto Him who guided our spiritual forefathers and mothers to the shores of the New World and covenanted with God in Christ to raise up a nation that would proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let us pray:
A Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Fruits of the Earth and all the other Blessings of his merciful Providence.
MOST gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew; We yield thee unfeigned thanks and praise for the return of seed-time and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of the fruits thereof, and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence bestowed upon this nation and people. And, we beseech thee, give us a just sense of these great mercies; such as may appear in our lives by an humble, holy, and obedient walking before thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honour, world without end. Amen.—The 1928 Book of Common Prayer (U.S.).