Green Gate: A Pilgrim Minestra




I frequently use the word “minestra” interchangeably for the concept of community. The idea is a community in the mix of life. With that in mind, each year I read something new about the Separatists of the 1600’s known as the Pilgrim Fathers. And, with today being Thanksgiving, I learned about a Pilgrim Minestra that I thought would go well for this blog.

The band of Separatists were led by a pastor named John Robinson. The Robinsons would travel to Leyden (Holland) to seek religious freedom from penalty and persecution. As their young family arrived in Leyden, one of the great burdens they encountered was to have a place where their community could share life together. Here is a description of their deep Christian community at a special place called Green Gate:

“One immediate objective was to locate a place where he and his people could meet for worship and discussion. Separated from one another and facing hardship, they needed fellowship. They did not appeal to the municipal court for aid but made out the best they could on their own until Robinson bought, on January 16, 1611…a ‘spacious’ old house…known as Green Gate…

…Behind the Green Gate House was a garden and beyond this an open square where some twenty-one small houses were erected by William Jepson, the carpenter, to form a compact community…

…The people of the Green Gate fellowship loved to sing. They had come from a land that was at the forefront in music. They looked forward to their gatherings and crowded into the friendly house for their psalm sings. The tunes they sang were not as doleful as many suppose. The congregation mingled their voices with fervor, and were lifted out of their anxiety and loneliness…It was pleasure to listen to the reading and interpretation of Bible messages…They were comforted to hear the prayers spoken in understandable words…After the benediction the chatter of conversation exploded. They talked about their struggles with jobs, house-hunting, tussles with the Dutch language, where to shop, and the price of potatoes and cheese…

…Newcomers of good character were welcome. There were no class distinctions that disbarred the humble, nor were there Pharisaic doctrinal requirements. The Green Gate company was quite a family at its peak, numbering 300 or more…

…One reason that his [John Robinson’s] Pilgrims succeeded in New England was due to the fact that the community they sought to create was their third home. They were adept at adapting. Robinson had taught them to love two countries and to pray for and believe in a third…His leadership created a strong feeling of comradeship and idealism in the Pilgrim company…they clung together and helped each other in all worldly and ecclesiastical affairs because they believed in God and in John Robinson and in one another…”

-various excerpts from The Pilgrim Way by Robert Bartlett, pages 100-215 

After reading a good deal about the Pilgrims, it is my impression that one of their main motives for risking so much of life, family, and fortune was not just because of the religious intolerance or secular influences of Leyden, but rather, it was their earnest desire to live in a deep, shared-life community like they had at Scrooby and Green Gate. They were transplanting holy minestrone into different soil. 

It is also my impression that once you taste something like that, you become a pilgrim for life until you can drink from it again and again. You began to plan and even risk your life for it because it comes from your missional identity. My heart is for Green Gate Italia (Serenissima) to be just such a place and people.



pictured above: (top) The Green Gate House after it was rebuilt and expanded in 1863 for an elderly care center. (bottom) The departure point of the Pilgrims and monument with the names of the people who left that day in 1620 to board the Speedwell and eventually the Mayflower.




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