The Church of the Pilgrimage Presents “Celebrating 400+ Years of Pilgrimage”

Rev. Gary Marks at Burial Hill for a Pilgrim Blessing, courtesy image
Gary Marks at Burial Hill, Pilgrim Blessing

Weekend-long celebration welcomes all for history, faith and community-minded events spanning the church’s history – The Church of the Pilgrimage, Plymouth’s United Church of Christ (UCC) parish, presents a quadricentennial commemoration weekend “Celebrating 400+ Years of Pilgrimage,” on Saturday, October 29, 9:30 am to 5 pm, continuing for a worship service and celebratory reception on Sunday, October 30, beginning at 10 am, at 8 Town Square, Plymouth. A concert, on Saturday at 3:30 pm, is dedicated to the memory of Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, friend and founding Chair of the Celebration Committee, and Rev. Gary Marks, former minister. Admission to many of the weekend’s events are free with registration at, tickets to the performance of “A Pilgrim Canticle” are $20, available at

In 2020, The Church of the Pilgrimage marked the 400-year anniversary of the landing of its Colonial ancestors in Plymouth, the settlers who started a colony with the aid of Indigenous people, and a new church. True to its heritage, the Church celebrates that occasion this fall with Church members, friends, the Plymouth community and beyond, “This celebration is not only for our own, but for all who recognize the significance that the lighting of one small candle in Plymouth was to the founding of our nation,” says Transitional Senior Pastor, Rev. Dianne Arakawa.

The late Rev. Gary Marks and Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, courtesy image

“Celebrating 400+ Years of Pilgrimage,” traces history, gathers community, and recollects and affirms faith through the series of events over its celebration weekend.  A highlight of the offerings is a performance of  “A Pilgrim Canticle,” an abridged version of a collection of anthems, hymns, narration, and readings that follow the journey, arrival, and challenges of the first settlers in the new world.  The work is rooted in the writings of Reverend John Robinson, the first pastor of the Pilgrims as they arrived in Plymouth, and Governors William Bradford and Edward Winslow, derived from original sources. The piece was assembled by the late Rev. Gary Marks, a John Robinson scholar, William B. Richter and Elizabeth Chapman Reilly, both former Church music staff. 

Revisions have recently been implemented into the original version of “A Pilgrim Canticle” to ensure it focuses on the early parts of the story — the desire and subsequent pilgrimage for religious freedom and the building of a society based on a shared covenant. This vital update to the original work is implemented by Kelley DePasqua, Music Department Chair at Silver Lake Regional High School, and Richard Dower, Chair of the Music Team.  A newly commissioned choral anthem “Out of Small Beginnings,” composed by Carson Cooman, concludes the performance, with text drawn from the writings of Governor Bradford.  The work was first performed in 1996 as a facet of a community-wide celebration of the 375th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, and several times since.  Rev. Dr. Gomes, for whom this performance is dedicated in part in memoriam, was instrumental in championing the inscription of this work’s text on a tablet at the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth.  The new commissioned work is dedicated to both Rev. Gomes and Rev. Marks.

The performance is directed by Kelley DePasqua, with accompaniment by Church Organist Michael Eaton, featuring a festival chorus comprised of the Church’s Sanctuary Choir and alumni singers, and select readers.

“Celebrating 400+ Years of Pilgrimage,” is organized by the 400+ Committee, which includes Co-Chairs Kathy Marks and Linn Peterson, Mark Coombs, Richard Dower, Brian Payne, Rev. Dr. Doug Showalter, Rev. Stephen Washburn, Rev. Dianne Arakawa.

For more information about the event, the church or its community and beliefs, visit, call the church office at 508-746-3026, email [email protected], or follow The Church of The Pilgrimage on Facebook.

Rev. Gary Marks at Burial Hill for a Pilgrim Blessing, courtesy image

Celebrating 400+ Years of Pilgrimage Schedule of Events

Saturday, October 29

9:30 am to 12 noon     Coffee and Cider;  Childcare to age 9, and Sign Ups, Allerton Hall, 1st floor

10 to 11 am                 Opening Session – Devotions with Church Covenants, Sanctuary, 2nd floor

                                    “The Shame and Scandal of Christianity,” Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister/President, UCC

11:00 am to 1 pm        Breakout Sessions

  • Questions and answers with Rev. Dr. Dorhauer
  • Community Exchange, Allerton Hall

Featuring local organizations including No Place for Hate, Task Force to End Homelessness, Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Plymouth Antiquarian Society, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Friends of Burial Hill, Plimoth Patuxet, Mission Committee with its Habitat for Humanity and Heifer projects, Christian Education, Membership Committee, The Mayflower Museum, Herring Pond Wampanoag, 1749 Courthouse, Plymouth Public Schools

Rev. Gary Marks in a processional, courtesy image
  • Tours of Burial Hill or Howland House, meet at front entrance
  • Video of Church History, John Robinson Center, Conference Room

12 noon to 1:30 pm     Light lunch of soup and sandwiches by RSVP to church,  John Robinson Center, Great Hall

2-3 pm                         “An Indigenous View of the 400th,” Great Hall

3:30 to 5 pm                Performance of “A Pilgrim Canticle,”  Sanctuary, with premiere of Carson Cooman’s “Out of Small Beginnings,” a commissioned work

Ticketed event:  Admission $20, at

Sunday, October 30

10 am                          Worship. “That They All May Be One,” led by Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, preacher, Sanctuary

11:30 am                     Reception, Allerton Hall

About The Church of the Pilgrimage

Tracing its roots in more than 400 years of history, The Church of the Pilgrimage originates in the covenanting, separatist church in Scooby, England in 1606, which moved to Leiden, Holland in 1609 to practice their religion freely from the restraints of the Church of England.  In 1620, these brave men and women sailed to the New World to protect their English heritage and started a colony.  While our theology is a bit different from our Pilgrim ancestors, we remain committed to their Trinitarianism, Congregationalism, now the United Church of Christ and the fervent belief that “we strive to know the will of God and to walk in his ways, known or to be made known to us”.

As an Open and Affirming Congregation, we invite all into our faith, to fully share in all church life, including our work, worship, rites, and Sacraments, with the assurance that we are all created in God’s image, reconciled by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The Church of the Pilgrimage is located at 8 Town Square, Plymouth.  To learn more, visit, call the church office at 508-746-3026, email [email protected], or follow The Church of The Pilgrimage on Facebook.

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