Monday, September 8, 2014

Papist Doctrine Persisted in Colonial North America 'Protestant' Churches

A 'Protestant' Congregationalist Church in Massachusetts where guilt was felt for not believing in the Romish doctrine of infant baptism!

excerpted from In Church Attics, Clues to the Private Life of Early America
by Michael Paulson
The New York Times July 29, 2014
STURBRIDGE, Mass. — Sarah Blanchard was sorry she skipped a worship service. Sarah Wood apologized for denouncing infant baptisms. And as for the Cheneys, Joseph and Abigail? Well, “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” they acknowledged having had sex before marriage.
More than 250 years ago, their confessions of sin were dutifully logged by the minister of the church here, alongside records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, notes about meetings heated and routine, accounts of finances, texts of sermons, and, in some cases, personal accounts of conversion experiences from young adults.
Now, in a regionwide scavenger hunt, a pair of historians is rummaging through New England church basements and attics, file cabinets, safes and even coat closets, searching for these records of early American life. The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.
“I have seen them be destroyed, lost, covered with mold or just forgotten,” said the Rev. Janet Leighninger, the pastor of the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale here. “And as finances get tighter, as they are everywhere, and as congregations shrink, and they are doing that in many places, it becomes a matter of, ‘Do we do the ministry we are called to do, or do we preserve the past?’ ”
The historians — James Fenimore Cooper Jr., a professor of history at Oklahoma State University, and Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston — are trying to persuade small town church leaders to turn over their records for digitization and preservation. They are focusing largely on Massachusetts because the record keeping there was especially careful, and on congregational churches, or their successors, because those were the official churches in colonial Massachusetts.
“There is no other discrete set of sources that will similarly transport us into colonial America,” said Dr. Cooper, who has been searching for hidden church records for years. Among the treasures he has described: a 1773 application from a slave named Cuffee to join a church in Middleboro.

The records, especially those that are not bound into books, are often in poor shape. In Sturbridge, a church member in 1896 described a set of papers as “much worn and mutilated”; now, more than a century later, those same papers are in a faded yellow envelope marked “extremely poor condition.” The churches themselves, which are Protestant and are called Congregational because each is independent and has the authority to make its own decisions, are endangered as well. There remain 372 in Massachusetts affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the largest congregational denomination, down from 625 in 1932. ...

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