Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Woody Holton

Abstract

This thesis analyzes catechisms and catechizing in New England religious culture from 1628-1662. These question and answer documents were intended for comprehensive religious instruction of both children and adults, and thus provide a direct window into the worldview of New England laity. In the hands of ordinary men and women, catechisms became a profound tool of religious and ecclesiastical empowerment. This thesis argues that catechisms held an indispensable role in equipping early New England men and women to participate in the government and rituals of their nascent Congregational churches. Ministers wrote catechisms to equip laity for their responsibilities of structuring new churches and calling church leaders. Catechisms also played a part in shaping the process of church admissions, both by providing theological content and emotional expression of one’s religious experience that would be deemed sufficient to enter a particular church. Once in the church, laity turned again to their catechisms to learn a robust sacramental piety that was focused on the physical elements and their attendant actions. In early New England, catechisms were not merely instructional tools for children, but functioned as handbooks on how laity participated in church life.

Share

COinS