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American History Glossary
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
Daily Life in the 13 Colonies
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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Religion and Church in the Thirteen American Colonies

The American colonies had houses of worship, but what the people learned in those church services depended on where they lived.

Most New Englanders went for church services to the meetinghouse, where they often for other things as well. The meetinghouse was a large building in the center of a town area and was used for town meetings as well as religious services.

Inside the meetinghouse were hard wooden benches. People sat on these benches for most of the day because that's how long the church services usually lasted.

People who lived in the Middle and Southern colonies went to more familiar-looking churches. They, too, would sit in church for most of the day. Back then, going to church was a very important affair, and people believed that it should be an all-day event.

What people believed depended on where they lived:

  • The New England colonists were largely Puritans, who led very strict lives.
  • The Middle colonists were a mixture of religions, including Quakers (led by William Penn), Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, and others.
  • The Southern colonists had a mixture of religions as well, including Baptists and Anglicans.

In the 18th Century, the Great Awakening swept the colonies. This was a movement to refocus people's thoughts and minds on the church and religion. Famous preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards brought many people into church.

More on Life in the 13 Colonies

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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