Several years ago, some distant cousin in my Dad's family decided to trace the Williams family tree. Once finished they sent copies to all the living relatives. Dad, in turn, made copies and gave to us girls so we would have a record of our family history and genealogy.
Reading through such a list can be quite interesting. After several pages of names including the usual outlaws and in-laws, Indians and gypsies came a name that I vaguely recalled from history. That name belonged to none other than Roger Williams.
For those of you, who like me, have seen many moons since you studied early American history, let me refresh your memory.
Roger Willliams was one of the thousands of Puritans who departed from England in the 1630's to escape religious and political repression at the hands of the King and the Church of England. Even though he had been privy to the planning of the exodus, he did not make the trip to America until 1631. When Williams, an ordained minister, learned that the established churches in America did not want to break ties with the Church of England he refused to accept offers to pastor churches in Boston and Salem. He settled in the Old Plymouth colony where he found a church to attend that had completely separated from the Anglican church.
In 1633 Williams returned to Salem and accepted an Assistant pastors position, later becoming the minister upon the former ministers death. He began to preach his concept of "soul liberty", separating church and state and removing the government from religious matters. He believed they were founded on two different principles with the church based on the love of God and the state being based on the sword.
By 1635 the magistrates had had enough of Williams radical ideas. He was arrested, tried and convicted on charges of sedition, heresy, and refusing to swear allegiance in God's name. Before Williams could be banished to England, he fled to Narragansett territory where he puchased land from the Indians to start his own settlement. He called it Providence where everyone could have freedom of religion, completely separate of Anglican rule. Providence became part of Rhode Island.
Williams held church services in his home several times a week and after about 2 years they became the first Baptist Church in the New World.
I didn't grow up in a Baptist Church. I married into one in 1972 and have been a Baptist ever since. I guess you could say it's in my genes.
Until next time...that's my view.