Academic Programs 

Religion in New England: Socio-Historical Perspectives*   
Winter/Spring 2010

Despite great change over time, New England's religious culture has always been at the heart of one of America's strongest regional identities. This course will examine the evolution of New England religion socially and historically, starting with the Protestant Standing Order of colonial days, through the epic contentions of Protestants and immigrant Catholics, to the complexities of the present day, in which the historically dominant groups are weaker, the religiously non-affiliated (the so-called "Nones") are more numerous, conservative Protestants are reviving, and global flows of migration are bringing "new" religious bodies to the scene in some strength. The ways in which religion shapes communal identity and is in turn shaped by life in the community will be a topic of special interest, as will be the question of whether New England has evolved its own civil religion.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Thursdays, 7 p.m. - 9:20 p.m., beginning Jan. 28

Andrew Walsh

Adjunct Professor of Religion and Visiting Assistant Professor of History and Religion at Trinity College. He is Associate Director of Trinity's Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and co-editor of "Religion and Public Life in New England."

(860) 297-5354 (o)


Course Syllabus

Note: This is still a draft syllabus. Some assignments may change before the first class on 1/28/10. The changes will not involve the two required texts. aw

Aims of the Course:

  1. To learn the basic facts, players and problematic of the history of New England religious life.
  2. To understand the role religion plays and has played in helping to shape this region of our country.
  3. To explore the relationship between American culture and its religious life as well as to identify the changes that are taking place in society and in the expression of religion in relation to these changes.
  4. To examine in depth one religious tradition or problematic in New England.
  5. To employ this knowledge of the contemporary American religion to speculate on the future role of religion in region.

Required Books:
Andrew Walsh and Mark Silk, Religion and Public Life in New England: Steady Habits, Changing Slowly. (2004) Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press; Lanham :; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated [Distributor) ISBN: 0759106290 (Trade Paper)

Philip Lawler, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture (2008) New York: Encounter Books, Perseus Distribution [Distributor] ISBN: 1594033749

Course Requirements:

  1. Class presentation on a New England religious tradition in its setting: 25 percent.
  2. Attendance, class and online forum discussion participation: 20 percent
  3. Five brief reading summaries posted to class forum: 25 percent
  4. 15-page paper exploring the history of a particular religious tradition in or problematic in the region: 30 percent

    Further instruction on requirements will be given in class as the due dates approach. The final paper should conform to the Seminary’s “General Guidelines for a Research Paper.”

Grading Scale (within letter grades there will be +’s and –‘s)

90-100% A
80-89% B
70-79% C
below 70% F

Expectations - Students are expected to attend and participate actively in all class sessions. If circumstances prevent your attendance, please contact Prof. Walsh ahead of time at Those who do not attend class regularly will receive a full letter grade or more off their final grade.

Please come to class well prepared. The class readings are a mixture of scholarly analysis and what historians call primary sources.

During the first class session, I will introduce everyone to the web site and discussion board. I expect everyone to use it to extend our classroom conversation between the times that we meet face-to-face. I understand if some persons have less free time, or are less inclined, to interact online. Nevertheless, I expect that at least five times over the course of the semester everyone to post, at minimum, a reading summary 3-4 days prior to a class meeting. Each week I expect each student to post at least one or response to a classmate’s comment related to our continuing discussion questions.

If anyone has any questions, suggestions, difficulties, or comments I would love to hear them and am always available by email at or during my office hours posted on my office door.

The standard Seminary policies regarding plagiarism and writing style apply to this course. For more information about these policies see the student handbook or the Seminary’s web site.

Research project - Each student will choose one religious tradition or problematic (the problem of diversity, for example) to focus on throughout the course of the semester. During the appropriate week of class each student will gather information about this religious phenomenon or group for presentation to the class. The purpose of this presentation is twofold: 1) to uncover primary sources related to this phenomenon, and 2) to introduce more information about the phenomenon or trend to the class. The primary source might include a group’s confessional statements, published materials from the organization, sermons, videos, news reports, web material and other items that furnish information about the phenomenon.

Students will use this material, plus other scholarly sources to write a 15 page research paper on a topic related to this phenomenon or tradition and the place of this tradition in the contemporary or historic religious context in the New England This paper must explore information about the phenomenon in relation to larger patterns of culture and societal changes that have taken place in the region. Please be prepared to sign up for a presentation topic by the second week of class and a preliminary idea of your final paper topic by mid-February. I’d be happy to consult with you.

Optional Background Sources.


John Butler, Grant Wacker, Randall Balmer, Religion in American Life: A Short History
(2003) Oxford University Press

Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters, eds., Encyclopedia of New England (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2005).

George Marsden, Religion and American Culture (1990) Harcourt Brace
Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters, eds., Encyclopedia of New England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).

Specific Religious Traditions:

Randall Balmer, Protestantism in America, (2002) Columbia University Press
Arthur Hertzbeg, Jews in America: Four Centuries of an Uneasy Encounter (1997)
Columbia University Press

James O’Toole, Faithful: A History of Catholics in America (2008) Belknap Press
of Harvard University Press.

Sarah Pike, New Age and New Pagan Religion in America (2004) Columbia University

Richard Seager, Buddhism in America (1999) Columbia University Press
Jane Smith, Islam in America (2004), Columbia University Press

Schedule of Class Meetings

Jan. 28: First Meeting. Introduction of the course and of one another.

Feb. 4: Bible Commonwealth. The Standing Order in Connecticut:
Walsh and Silk, Religion and Public Life in New England, Introduction
John Winthrop. A Modell of Christian Charity (1630)
Michael Wigglesworth, God’s Controversy with New England (1662)
Preface to the Fundamental Orders (1638)
The Connecticut Establishment and Provision for Dissent (1708)
Petition to the General Assembly of Connecticut (1758)

Feb. 1: Evangelical Empire: Coming to Terms with Protestant Diversity
Sidney Mead, The Lively Experiment, (1963) Excerpt
Lyman Beecher, On Disestasblishment in Connecticut (1833)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Divinity School Address (1838)

Feb. 18: Yankees and Catholics: Collisions Over Diversity: Nineteenth Century Immigration
Andrew Walsh, “At Home in Hartford: Catholic Assertions and Protestant Responses”
John McGreevy, “A Catholic World in America” from Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth Century Urban North. (1996). Excerpt
Josiah Strong, Our Country (1885) Excerpt
Graham Taylor, A Religious Census of Hartford, Taken by the Connecticut Bible Society (1889)

Feb 25: Mid Twentieth Establishments
W. Lloyd Warner and Paul S. Lundt, The Social Life of a Modern Community, (Yankee City, v. 1) (1941) Yale University Press. Excerpt

Irving Howe, “Spruceton Jewry Adjusts Itself: Portrait Sketch of a New England Community,” Commentary, 6/01/1948.

N.J. Demerath and Rhys Williams, A Bridging of Faiths: Religion and Politics in a New England City (1992) Princeton University Press. Excerpt

Mar. 4: Accounting for the Present:
Walsh and Silk, Chapters 1 and 4

Mar. 11: African-American and Jewish Presence:
Walsh and Silk, Chapter 5
James Jennings, “Black Churches and Local Politics: Black faith-based coalitions in Boston: civic advantages and challenges.” In R. Drew Smith and Frederick C. Harris, eds, Black churches and local politics: clergy influence, organizational partnerships, and civic empowerment, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005

Mar. 18: Catholic Dominance:
Walsh and Silk, Chapters 2-3.
Andrew Walsh, “Breaking Boston’s Heart,” Religion in the News, Summer 2004.

Mar 25: Latino Presence
Peggy Levitt, “Local-level Global Religion : The Case of US-Dominican Migration” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37 no 1 Mr 1998, p 74-89.

Peggy Levitt, God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape (2007) Excerpt

April 1: Vacation Week

April 8: Contemporary Religious Change
Philip Lawler, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture (2008)

American Religious Identification Survey, March 2009

April 15: More Diversity:
Regine O. Jackson, “After the Exodus: the new Catholics in Boston’s old ethnic neighborhoods” Religion and American Culture (June, 2007), 192-212

Stephen Prothero, "Asian Religions," in Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters, eds., Encyclopedia of New England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).

Rob Moll, “Boston’s Quiet Revival,” Christianity Today, 50 no 4 Ap 2006

Karen Chai, “Intra-Ethnic Religious Diversity, Korean Buddhists and Protestants in Greater Boston,” in Korean Americans and their religions, p 273-294. (University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001)

April 22: Final Class Session:
Wrap up and reports on papers.

May 4: Scheduled Make-up class in case a class is canceled because of weather or other reason.


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