In Pursuit of the Almighty's Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism

By James Hudnut-Beumler | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE
Sunday Morning 1750

The most public day of the week arrives. From Massachusetts to Georgia, people in England's American colonies come together to spend the morning at their community's church. In all but the largest cities, there is no choice in the matter of which church to attend. There is but one church for the settlement, be it a rural Anglican parish in Virginia, or in an urbanized settlement of German Lutherans just outside Philadelphia. People do not choose their churches; their churches are closely bound up with what it means to be part of a community. Churches are public institutions in the way that schools would later be regarded. A church building itself is the largest, and usually only, public assembly space in a town. Decisions about fixing roads and dividing land are made in this meeting house. Men were elected to the vestry, or council, or as justices of the peace in this place. Taxes and rates are set to support the public's business, and no business is more universally important in colonial America than divine worship. On this day, other business affairs were left outside the church's doors, though their presence was evident even in worship.

The Lord's Day began in earnest with the sounding of a church bell or a town crier summoning the community to church. In New England most townsfolk live no farther than several hundred yards from the church, a practice required

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