The Practice of Pluralism

Congregational Life and Religious Diversity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 17301820

By (author) Mark Häberlein

Hardback - £69.95

Publication date:

10 July 2009

Length of book:

288 pages

Publisher

Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271035215

The clash of modernity and an Amish buggy might be the first image that comes to one’s mind when imagining Lancaster, Pennsylvania, today. But in the early to mid-eighteenth century, Lancaster stood apart as an active and religiously diverse, ethnically complex, and bustling city. On the eve of the American Revolution, Lancaster’s population had risen to nearly three thousand inhabitants; it stood as a center of commerce, industry, and trade. While the German-speaking population—Anabaptists as well as German Lutherans, Moravians, and German Calvinists—made up the majority, about one-third were English-speaking Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Calvinists, and other Christian groups. A small group of Jewish families also lived in Lancaster, though they had no synagogue. Carefully mining historical records and documents, from tax records to church membership rolls, Mark Häberlein confirms that religion in Lancaster was neither on the decline nor rapidly changing; rather, steady and deliberate growth marked a diverse religious population.

“Thorough and persuasive. The people of Lancaster come across as devoted and essentially conservative, supporting their churches and attached to their ways of worship, even if individuals among them occasionally changed their minds. Häberlein persuasively shows that the laity provided the true continuity of the church.”

—Ned Landsmann, Stony Brook University