History Matters: Food and Spirituality in Early Boston
The physical hardships of creating the Massachusetts Bay Colony were extreme, especially for unprepared English colonists, most of whom were from urban areas. Hunger and even starvation was a constant part of their lives, and in this crucible of suffering the colony was transformed. Unlike other English settlements, Massachusetts became a place where people deliberately sought transformation and redemption by a powerful combination of physical suffering and pure religion. As conditions improved, the Puritans of the colony found new ways to recreate the intensity of those early years; one was requiring prospective a church member to relate a convincing story of soul-searching, trial, error, and woe in conversion narratives before being allowed to partake in the most important meal of all, the Lord's Supper.
The New England's Hidden Histories program at the Congregational Library & Archives holds one of the extensive collections of conversion narratives (relations) in the world. Take a look at the Middleboro and Haverhill First Church collections in particular to learn more.
Lori StokesLori Stokes received her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. She studies the founding decades of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, focusing on the 1630s and '40s when the forms of church and state were put in place that would shape Massachusetts and American history for centuries to come. Dr. Stokes is a volunteer for the NEHH program's Church Records Transcription Project, a digital history project of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston led by Puritan scholar Dr. James F. Cooper, a director of NEHH.