It seems appropriate that the first wedding official wedding for the re-launch of the American Wedding Project would be documented in Rhode Island. This is the home of religious freedom.
In 1631, Roger Williams, an English preacher, arrived in Boston. Unlike the other Puritans of Massachusettes Bay, Williams believed in complete religious freedom. He believed that individuals should be free to worship God however they desire and that the laws of the church and government should be separate. In addition, Williams, who had made friends with American Indians and respected their way of life, thought white settlers should treat them fairly and pay them for the land taken by settlers.
Williams’s beliefs conflicted with those in power and not only found himself arrested a number of times, but he was banished from the colony. He fled south before they could send him back to England and he arrived at the eastern side of Narragansett Bay, where the Wampanoag and their leader, Massasoit, welcomed him.
Soon others followed him seeking religious freedom. In June 1636, he purchased land from Massisoit and two Narragansett leaders, Canonicus and Miantonomo. There, Williams created the first permanent settlement in Rhode Island and named it Providence as he felt that God’s providence, or “watchful eye,” had kept him safe and guided him there.
Anne Hutchinson challenged the religious views of Puritan leaders as well with her preaching. Women were not allowed to preach, and she was banned from the colony. With the help of Williams, she and her followers founded present-day Portsmouth in 1638. Newport and Warwick would also be settled by people looking for religious freedom.
The first Baptist church in America was established in Providence in 1638, Quakers built a meeting house in 1657, and the first U.S. Jewish Synagogue opened in 1763.
One of the primary goals of the American Wedding Project is to share the beauty of religious freedom in America. The fact that people can live here peacefully and honor God, or choose not to believe, was a foreign concept when Europeans came to the shores of this country. The reality that today, every group of people regardless of culture, still choose to celebrate the decision to get married, makes the topic of weddings one that we can all have a conversation about.
Enjoy the ride.
Resource of information on this History of Rhode Island came from: It’s My State, Rhode Island; R. Petreycik & L. Herrington; Cavendish Square, NY; 2014.