Thomas Shepard (5 November 1605 – 25 August 1649) was an English, afterwards American Puritan minister and a significant figure in early colonial New England.
Shepard was born in Towcester, Northamptonshire.His devout mother died when he was four and he lived a difficult life under his stepmother. His father died when he reached ten, at which point he lived with his grandparents and later an older brother, whom he held in high and grateful regard. A schoolmaster ignited in him a scholarly interest, which ultimately led to entry into Emmanuel College in Cambridge University at the age of fifteen. He accounts in his autobiography that he lived a dissatisfied and dissolute life, which led him to pray out in a nearby field, at which point he underwent the beginnings of a conversion experience.
In 1627 he became assistant schoolmaster at Earls Colne Grammar School in Earls Colne, Essex. He became a minister whose sermons and Puritan ways drew the ire of Church of England Archbishop William Laud, and he was forbidden to preach. Following the death of his eldest son, he left England in 1635 with wife and younger son on a difficult voyage for Massachusetts in colonial America where he became minister of one of the leading churches in the colonies, the First Church in Cambridge (Congregational, currently UCC), Massachusetts and also of Harvard University, then a very new school charged with training men for the Christian ministry in the Puritan colonies of New England. From 1637 to 1638, during the Antinomian Controversy, he sat with the other colonial ministers during both the civil and church trials of Anne Hutchinson, and was a very vocal critic of hers during the latter.His wife died shortly after his arrival in New England, as did his second wife and other children, though he framed these experiences, if not without difficulty, into the perspective of his theology.
Shepard died of quinsy, a Peritonsillar abscess, which is a complication of tonsillitis at the age of 44.
Shepard was regarded as one of the foremost Puritan ministers of his day, esteemed in the company of individuals like Richard Mather and John Cotton. He took special interest in Puritan ministry to the Massachusetts Native Americans. His written legacy includes an autobiography and numerous sermons, which in some measure of contrast with others of his day, tended to accent God as an accessible and welcoming figure in the individual life. Today a plaque at Harvard University, in the words of Cotton Mather, records that it was in consideration of the salutary effect of Shepard's ministry that the college ultimately came to be placed in "Newtowne", known today as Cambridge, Massachusetts.
While Thomas Shepard ministered nearly a century and a half before the Congregational/Unitarian split, both First Parish in Cambridge and First Church in Cambridge Congregational consider him to be their founding minister. While it is difficult to judge in a modern context with which church Shepard would have maintained an affiliation, it is safe to say that his trinitarian beliefs would have aligned him with the Congregationalists not the Unitarians. Thus any portrayal of Shepard must take into account his theological convictions when placing him in a congregation's lineage that was merely a permutation of dissatisfied Unitarian Congregationalists.
Three of Shepard's sons followed him into the ministry; Thomas Shepard II, Samuel Shepard, and Jeremiah Shepard. Thomas Shepard II was an ancestor of U.S. Presidents John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt.[ citation needed ]
The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more Protestant. Puritanism played a significant role in English history, especially during the Protectorate.
Solomon Stoddard was the pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Northampton, Massachusetts Bay Colony. He succeeded Rev. Eleazer Mather, and later married his widow around 1670. Stoddard significantly liberalized church policy while promoting more power for the clergy, decrying drinking and extravagance, and urging the preaching of hellfire and the Judgment. The major religious leader of what was then the frontier, he was known as the "Puritan Pope of the Connecticut River valley" and was concerned with the lives of second-generation Puritans. The well-known theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was his grandson, the son of Solomon's daughter, Esther Stoddard Edwards. Stoddard was the first librarian at Harvard University and the first person in American history known by that title.
Increase Mather (1639–1723) was a powerful Puritan clergyman in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was president of Harvard College for twenty years (1681–1701). He was influential in the administration of the colony during a time that coincided with the notorious Salem witch trials.
John Eliot was a Puritan missionary to the American Indians who some called "the apostle to the Indians" and the founder of Roxbury Latin School in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645.
William Perkins (1558–1602) was an influential English cleric and Cambridge theologian, receiving both a B.A. and M.A. from the university in 1581 and 1584 respectively, and also one of the foremost leaders of the Puritan movement in the Church of England during the Elizabethan era. Although not entirely accepting of the Church of England's ecclesiastical practices, Perkins conformed to many of the policies and procedures imposed by the Elizabethan Settlement. He did remain, however, sympathetic to the non-conformist puritans and even faced disciplinary action for his support.
John Cotton was a clergyman in England and the American colonies and was considered the preeminent minister and theologian of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied for five years at Trinity College, Cambridge, and another nine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He had already built a reputation as a scholar and outstanding preacher when he accepted the position of minister in 1612 at St. Botolph's Church, Boston in Lincolnshire. As a Puritan, he wanted to do away with the ceremony and vestments associated with the established Church of England and to preach in a simpler manner. He felt that the English church needed significant reforms, but he was adamant about not separating from it; his preference was to change it from within.
The Reverend Richard Mather was a Puritan minister in colonial Boston, Massachusetts. He was father to Increase Mather and grandfather to Cotton Mather, both celebrated Boston divines.
King's Chapel is an independent Christian unitarian congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association that is "unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and congregational in governance." It is housed in what was for a time after the Revolution called the "Stone Chapel", an 18th-century structure at the corner of Tremont Street and School Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The chapel building, completed in 1754, is one of the finest designs of the noted colonial architect Peter Harrison, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 for its architectural significance.
English Dissenters or English Separatists were Protestant Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Half-Way Covenant was a form of partial church membership adopted by the Congregational churches of colonial New England in the 1660s. The Puritan-controlled Congregational churches required evidence of a personal conversion experience before granting church membership and the right to have one's children baptized. Conversion experiences were less common among second-generation colonists, and this became an issue when these unconverted adults had children of their own who were ineligible for baptism.
The Cambridge Platform is a statement describing the system of church government in the Congregational churches of colonial New England. It was written in 1648 in response to Presbyterian criticism and in time became regarded as the religious constitution of Massachusetts. The platform explained and defended congregational polity as practiced in New England and also endorsed most of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The document was shaped most directly by the thinking of Puritan ministers Richard Mather and John Cotton.
First Parish in Cambridge is a Unitarian Universalist church, located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a Welcoming Congregation and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The church is notable for its almost 400-year history, which includes pivotal roles in the development of the early Massachusetts government, the creation of Harvard College, and the refinement of current liberal religious thought.
James Freeman was the minister of King's Chapel in Boston for 43 years and the first clergyman in America to call himself a Unitarian. Unlike New England liberal Congregationalist ministers, who approached Unitarianism through Arianism, he was Socinian in theology and developed links with Unitarians in England.
James Janeway (1636–1674) was a Puritan minister and author who, after John Bunyan, had the widest and longest popularity as the author of works read by English-speaking children.
Robert Bolton was an English clergyman and academic, noted as a preacher.
First Church in Boston is a Unitarian Universalist Church founded in 1630 by John Winthrop's original Puritan settlement in Boston, Massachusetts. The current building is on 66 Marlborough Street in Boston. The church has long been associated with Harvard University.
In the early 17th century, thousands of English Puritans colonized North America, mainly in New England. Puritans were generally members of the Church of England who believed that the Church of England was insufficiently reformed, retaining too much of its Roman Catholic doctrinal roots, and who therefore opposed royal ecclesiastical policy under Elizabeth I of England, James I of England, and Charles I of England. Most Puritans were "non-separating Puritans", meaning that they did not advocate setting up separate congregations distinct from the Church of England; a small minority of Puritans were "separating Puritans" who advocated setting up congregations outside the Church. The Pilgrims were a Separatist group, and they established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Non-separating Puritans played leading roles in establishing the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629, the Saybrook Colony in 1635, the Connecticut Colony in 1636, and the New Haven Colony in 1638. The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was established by settlers expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of their unorthodox religious opinions. Puritans were also active in New Hampshire before it became a crown colony in 1691.
Congregationalism in the United States consists of Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition that have a congregational form of church government and trace their origins mainly to Puritan settlers of colonial New England. Congregational churches in other parts of the world are often related to these in the United States due to American missionary activities.
George Phillips led, along with Richard Saltonstall, a group of English settlers up the Charles River to settle in what is now Watertown, Massachusetts in 1630. A Puritan who was part of the Great Migration from England to New England, Phillips was a contemporary of, and often shared differing views with, John Winthrop. He established the first Congregational Church in Watertown and was one of the early influencers of the Congregational Church in North America. His descendants number in the thousands and are well represented in American history in the clergy, local and national politics, business, and social justice arenas.
Zechariah Symmes was an English Puritan clergyman who emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England and became pastor of the First Church in Charlestown, an office he held continuously from 1634 to his death in 1671. Although not one of the original Charlestown founders of 1629, on arrival in 1634 he swiftly found his place among them in the church they had convened two years previously. One of the many emigrant ministers who emerged from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, he was a close fellow-worker among the leading lights of the "Bible Commonwealth".