Source: Faith of the Pilgrims | Plimoth Plantation
William Brewster (my 11th great-grandfather) served as the Ruling Elder of the Pilgrim church from its days in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England to Leiden, Holland and finally Plymouth Colony.
Ruling Elders were responsible for the government of the congregation, but as they were laymen and not ordained ministers, they could not deliver the sacraments. Elders were often referred to as the “eyes of the church,” governing and admonishing the congregation. In the absence of Pastor Robinson, who remained in Holland,The Separatists’ faith experience was part of the larger English Reformation of the 16th century.
This movement sought to “purify” the Church of England of its corrupt human doctrine and practices; the people in the movement were known as “Puritans.” Separatists were those Puritans who no longer accepted the Church of England as a true church, refused to work within the structure to affect changes, and “separated” themselves to form a true church based solely on Biblical precedent.
Puritans rejected Christmas, Easter and the various Saint’s Days because they had no scriptural justification, and in their worship services, they rejected hymns, the recitations of the Lord’s Prayer and creeds for the same reason.
The Separatists believed that the worship of God must progress from the individual directly to God, and that “set” forms, like the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, interfered with that progression by directing one’s thoughts down to the book and inward to one’s self. The only exceptions were the Psalms and the Lord’s Supper, both of which had scriptural basis, and possibly the covenant by which individuals joined the congregation.
As Pastor Robinson expressed it, even two or three “gathered in the name of Christ by a covenant [and] made to walk in all the ways of God known unto them is a church.”
To read the entire article, follow this link – https://www.plimoth.org/what-see-do/17th-century-english-village/faith-pilgrims