Contents Previous Page Next Page
ORANGE CONG. CHURCH
The Old-time Meeting-House
Old Church Customs of New England
Rev. Joseph Anderson, D. D.
IN the mother country, the men who settled New England were as familiar as we are to-day with the word "church" as the designation of an edifice. But when they crossed the sea, and began to build on American soil, it was no longer a "church" ; it was a "meeting-house." So strong was their spirit of protest against the old order that they could hardly tolerate even the old names connected with ecclesiastical life. We must remember, too, that the Congregational Puritans reserved the word "church" for another and more important use. They designated by it, not the edifice where Christians worship, but the organized body of Christians, the local assembly of worshippers. In the early New England days, the church was the congregation of Christian disciples; the place where they met was simply a "meeting-house"; and, as Bushnell somewhere says, we may accept the term as a "good translation, whether meant or not, of what is older and more venerable than 'church,' namely, 'synagogue'". It is only of late years that the name "meeting-house" has gone out of fashion; and some have protested quite vigorously against displacing it by a term which has far too many meanings already, and which moreover smacks so strongly of that churchly system from which the fathers so completely severed themselves. I remember how a