04 November 2011

The Oldest English Church in North America

While looking at another blog today, I saw a link to an excavation that has been underway in Jamestown (Virginia, not North Dakota).  In 1607 the Virginia Company started the first permanent English colony in the New World at what became known as Jamestown (after King James I, the king who had the Bible translated).

This colony has often been described as unruly, individualist, communist, and all sorts of other things.  The religious sentiments of the settlers has often been downplayed by arguments that wealth was the only concern.  There cannot be any doubt that obtaining wealth was an important reason for the colony's founding in light of massive Spanish extraction of gold and silver from Central and South America.  I've read some conservatives slam the colony for their communistic tendencies because everyone expected to share in the food stock.  However, with everyone looking for gold, it seems a bit more greedy than a communist utopia.  The settlers did not really concern themselves with food or shelter because of this thirst for gold.  However, their religion was still a big deal to them.

The current excavation involves the Fort's church, which housed the wedding of John Rolfe and Pocahontas.  The church, according to the article, was built in 1608.  The outline of the structure that the archaeologists have uncovered was about 24 x 64, which would be a massive structure in comparison to the rest of the structures in the early fort.  This indicates the importance of the Christianity of these earliest English settlers.  As I've recently mentioned in a recent post on Perry Miller's Errand into the Wilderness, the Virginia settlers were not completely worldly-minded as many would have us think.  Of course, they weren't on the same level as Puritans in New England, either.

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