Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 3 of 16

In another New York town the “Athoatys” complained of the violation of the Sabbath by “the Younger Sort of people in Discourssing of Vane things and Running of Raesses.” As for the city of New York, even at Revolutionary times a cage was set up on City Hall Park in which to confine wicked New York boys who profaned the Sabbath. I do not find so full provisions made for seating children in Dutch Reformed churches as in Puritan meeting-houses. A wise saying of Martin Luther’s was “Public sermons do very little edify children” — perhaps the Dutch agreed with him. As the children were taught the Bible and the catechism every day in the week, their spiritual and religious schooling was sufficient without the Sunday sermon, — but, of course, if they were not in the church during services, they would “talk of vane Things and run Raesses.”

Before the arrival of any Dutch preacher in the new settlement in the new world, the spiritual care of the little company was provided for by men appointed to a benign and beautiful old Dutch office, and called krankebesoeckers or zeikentroosters,— ”comforters of the Sick,”—who not only tenderly comforted the sick and weary of heart, but “read to the Commonalty on Sundays from texts of Scripture with the Comments.” These pious men were assigned to this godly work in Fort Orange and in New Amsterdam and Breuckelen. In Esopus they had meetings every Sunday, “and one among us read something for a postille.” Often special books of sermons were read to the congregations.

In Fort Orange they had a domine before they had a church. The patroon instructed Van Curler to build a church in 1642; but it was not until 1646 that the little wooden edifice was really put up. It was furnished at a cost of about thirty-two dollars by carpenter Fredricksen, with a predickstoel, or pulpit, a seat for the magistrates, — de Heerebanke, — one for the deacons, nine benches and several corner-seats.

The first church at Albany, built in 1657, was simply a block house with loop-holes for the convenient use of guns in defence against the Indians, — if defence were needed.


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