This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sunday in the Early Colonies

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

While religious services varied depending on the denomination, most early churches in the colonies were Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptists, Lutheran, Quakers, and Moravians. In spite of their differences in beliefs and the way they worshiped, all of them still had many similar characteristics.

Most early churches didn't have buildings. They would meet in court houses, forts, tents, open fields when weather permitted, barns, or wherever they could gather.

Meeting-houses were the first buildings for most early churches with no steeple. They were long houses with clay-filled chink, and thatched roofs with long grass and weeds.

Men and women sat on opposite sides rather than whole families sitting together. Once in a while, young men and women were allowed to sit in the gallery together, if there was a gallery. Little girls sat beside their mothers, and boys were seated together by themselves on staircases if there were any or off to the side. The tithing-men would watch over them to ensure they behaved in orderly conduct.

Services were long. Sermons could last two to three hours and prayers one to two hours. An hour-glass was turned to keep the passing of time at the pulpit.

Once church service began, no man, woman, or child could leave regardless of fatigue or restlessness. I can only imagine how hard this was on the children.

Songs were song by memory without notes and music by ear with no instruments. Most early churches had no organ or piano. These were ordered long after the colony was well established and could afford it.

Sunday was considered a day of worship and rest. Fishing, rowing, sailing, shooting, farming, riding for fun, all these and similar activities were forbidden.

If residents missed service, a group of members were assigned to go visiting the people in their homes to find out why they didn't show up at church. They would be reprimanded by the church without just cause.

Most of the above information, came from Children's Life in Colonial America by George Rice and from church minutes I've read from some early churches in the Carolinas.


I remember reading about Puritan church services. Yikes! It always reminds me of that story in the New Testament where Paul was preaching so long that the young guy in the window fell asleep, then fell to his death. He was healed, so now I can LOL, but can you imagine a church service that long?

Doesn't that sound like a rip-snortin' good time? Oh my!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. You have some very interesting blogs! My moms family name is Laird. We have quite a few Irish & Scots roots. Historical fiction is also a favorite of mine to read. Or at least it will be again when the kids get a bit older and my photo business not quite as busy.

Jessica, I had forgotten about that passage.

Beth, Or a rip-snorin' time.

Shannon, thanks for coming by. I hope you'll get a chance to read my novel, Highland Blessings when it comes out. I've love for you to join my Scots-Irish Blog. I'm just getting started with it.

How interesting! I don't think my kids could have made it through services like those.

I just read your interview over on Carolina Mama. I think I will enjoy reading your book when it comes out!

Church has changed a lot since those days! Wonder what they would think of today's praise worship?!

What did the children and the elderly do if they wanted to go to the toilet during the church service? It must have been impossible for some, it would have been, for me, especially with my 'Japanese bladder'!