Two tiny ships took the tide of pietism in the 1760s, the time when the Sons of Liberty were gathering the kindling for the American Revolution. The first ship was a Methodist group that came together in New York City in 1766. The second ship--a forerunner of the United Brethren movement--was a religious meeting held in a barn in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, probably in 1767. These ships took one of pietism's ebbing tides, one that had been retreating since a wave of revivalism had swept over New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies in the 1730s and 1740s.
The tide of pietism had ebbed and flowed in Western Europe and North America since the last decades of the seventeenth century. When it was high, it carried forward religious groups that emphasized seven things: the need for individuals to have an authentic personal experience of God; the religious life as a life of loving God and humans; the testing of the biblical message in the white waters of everyday life; the true church as an interdenominational community of God's people; the participation of the laity in all aspects of the Christian enterprise; the training of clergy to respond to the needs of the age; and the willingness to change church structures to meet new occasions for mission. Although the religious tide defined by these characteristics was ebbing in the 1760s, it continued to wash North America with new spiritual life--the sort of life that appeared in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and New York City.
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