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Class Year

2011

Abstract

On December 24, 1699, a small gathering of men and women met "for public Worship in [their] pleasant new-built house," a simple wooden structure in Brattle Close, a section of Boston near the town dock. The newly appointed Reverend Benjamin Colman preached from Chronicles 2, chapter vi, verse 18, "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built." This first public meeting of the Brattle Street Church occurred amidst a heated theological debate among New England Congregational clergymen, which began a year earlier when the foundation of the church had first been conceived. Brattle Street‘s foundation was in reaction to theological, political, and cultural transformations that affected the whole of New England in the latter half of the seventeenth century, all of which converged in the 1690s. While the foundation of Brattle Street Church did not make any radical departures from contemporary theological consensus, its foundation did represent the first concrete fragmentation of a theretofore unified New England Congregational community. In this sense, the foundation of the Brattle Street Church is representative of a radical development in the evolution of colonial Congregationalism.

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