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“The Meeting House,” by David D. Hall

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Chapter 3, “The Meeting House”

by David D. Hall

in Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England

(Knopf, 1989) pages 117-65

David Hall is a Professor of History recently relocated from Boston University to Harvard Divinity School. The hundred years, roughly the mid-17th to the mid-18th century in New England set down the forms of church life and how they were carried forward in practice.

This document confronts the meaning of covenant and how it played out, not just in organized churches but also in how the covenant was “inherited.” This came to influence not only church membership but extended to meanings beyond purview of polity (e.g. witchcraft). For an understanding of the soil upon which both Unitarianism and Universalism were to later bloom this reading is helpful.

  1. How does the “passing” of membership generation to generation still affect UU’s today” How do we bring our children “to the faith” today (or do we)?
  2. Are the seeds of contemporary lay/ministerial struggles present in some of the early colonial church practices? Does covenant polity tend to destroy the power of clergy?
  3. How do the tensions between “faith” and “works” and how they are made manifest have lasting import on how churches are organized?
  4. Does the early covenant emphasis on unanimity, even consensus, affect major decisions in contemporary UU churches? (For example, what is a sufficient percentage of affirmative congregational vote for a minister to accept a call?)
  5. Does the early colonial attitude regarding the church and its role in the state relate in any relevant way to the same issue today?

The text is not included here as the book in print (1992) and available in paperback via Amazon.com.