The Church of England in North Carolina: Documents, 1742-1763

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The Church of England in North Carolina: Documents, 1742-1763. Edited by Robert J. Cain and Jan-Michael Poff. (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2007, Pp. lxvi, 643. $55.00.)

The North Carolina Colonial Records Project's latest volume on the Anglican Church carries the documentary record forward from 1742 to 1763. During the two decades covered by this volume, the church in North Carolina moved from having the most tenuous of presences to a more substantial one, although with foundations still more on sand than rock.

Growing from two beleaguered missionaries to approximately seven clergy, each with a home base including a slightly more secure salary, glebe allowance, and actual church buildings, the church was still spread too thinly to meet all the spiritual and religious needs of the colony. Clergy traveled a daunting number of miles each year. In 1751, for example, Clement Hall reported covering 557 miles in 36 days during which he preached 25 sermons, churched 146 women, served communion to 248, and baptized 556 people.

The clergy letters, official reports, summaries of Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) meetings, and the minutes from the two surviving vestry books from the period, together illustrate the difficulty the S.P.G. had in overseeing missionaries on the other side of the Atlantic. The society struggled to separate gossip from fact; letters went astray; missionaries gave up waiting for permission to move or take a leave. The S.P.G. seemed unable to grasp the actual conditions in North Carolina. Thus they pursued plans for a school for slave children in a parish where the priest suggested a school for white children might be needed more.

Although the editors were unimpressed with efforts to evangelize slaves, every missionary report includes baptisms of black adults and children. …