restricted access Confessional Spaces and Religious Places: Lutherans in America, 1698–1748
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Confessional Spaces and Religious Places Lutherans in America, 1698–1748 Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe P+++++++p European confessionalization culminated in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which codified the premise that geographical space required uniformity of political and religious practice to achieve peace. Although Puritan New England enforced uniformity, Dutch New York, Swedish Delaware, and Quaker Pennsylvania did not. As a result, a group of Lutheran ministers accustomed to the goal of religious uniformity across space and within individual places of religious practice arrived in the British North American colonies to discover a diversity of practice across space and within places of worship. Exactly one century after the Westphalian settlement drew religious violence in continental Europe to a close, these colonial Lutherans imposed order on perceived confessional chaos. In the half-century preceding 1748, they negotiated the decision to share confessional space across ethnic, political, and geographic boundaries. This agreement came with the simultaneous demand that individual places of worship not share their physical structures with Calvinists, Moravians, or others. Lutherans thus achieved American confessionalization by extricating it from a geographically based political process. In short, they overturned The Treaty of Westphalia one century after its creation and forty years before the Constitution. Cuius regio eius religio tidied European maps and insured that within a given political border, only one religion could merit recognition. However, Atlantic waves carried Lutheran migrants from confessional constraint to colonial chaos. Missionary ministers from across northern Europe followed fretfully behind in an attempt to connect souls scattered from the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York to the Susquehannah Valley of western Pennsylvania back across the ocean to synods ensconced on European soil. This distance in space and culture complicated missionaries’ ability to transmit and translate their experience, as they had been charged by the synod, to those whose wellbeing they had in mind. The differences among Anglicans, Calvinists, and Lutherans—let alone among Dutch, Prussian, Swabian, and Swedish Lutheranism—meant little to families for whom a pastor came as a passing luxury. No prince had the power to enforce Confessional Spaces and Religious Places 247 sectarian strictures in this region. Parents had their children baptized by whoever claimed to have the power to do so. Their standards and those of synods across the sea differed in the extreme. Most Atlantic world scholarship stresses the commonalities of political economy established upon racial and gender hierarchies that connected Bristol, Bermuda, and Boston, as well as Cadiz and Cancun. However, Protestant religious practice ruptured en route across the Atlantic. Where the descendants of Thomas Muentzer’s adherents made their transatlantic homes, the right of local choice, which Luther revoked following the Peasant’s Revolt of 1525, thrived in 1725.1 Lutherans lived throughout the mid-Atlantic colonies, and their preachers moved among them with little concern for political distinctions. The distances between shepherds and their scattered spiritual flocks meant long periods when Fig. 1. “Lutheran Europe 1698–1748,” courtesy of the author. Background: Fredericko de Ewit, Nova et Accurata Toutius Europu Descriptio. [S.I., 1700?]. Library of Congress, Map Collections. 248 Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe no pastor was present. In between visits from ordained ministers, Lutherans happily had well-spoken tailors or preachers from other denominations baptize their babies and soothe their souls. German Lutherans might reluctantly join forces with Swedes in the new world, but omitting ordination passed beyond the pale for those sent to shepherd Lutheran flocks back into the confessional fold. In the “new” world, defining “church” as a single confessional physical structure for “outward” worship became a central clerical task.2 Clergy had to reshape colonists’ spatial assumptions about religious practice from something done near home—when a cleric happened along—to a set of rites worth riding cross-country to complete. While Frederick the Great cleared Prussia’s woods in search of civility and the British strove to build Jerusalem on deforested fields, their transatlantic cousins lingered among Penn’s Woods and eluded European ministers’ attempts to confessionalize these later-day barbarians.3 These ministers had to tackle a shift in spatial and temporal frames not unlike those that John Gaddis has argued are endemic to the practice of history.4 For success in this larger confessional context, individual souls needed saving. This task could not wait for churches to rise and congregants to come. Ministers had to ride out, find languishing souls, and save them fast before a confessional competitor got there first. For the purpose of this analysis, “space” constitutes the distance between “places...


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