The Puritans were a Calvinist movement in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, espousing an extreme form of Protestantism and advocating "purifying" the church of all remnants of Roman Catholic theology and ritual in order to return to what the considered a more purely Biblical Christianity. Although they began as a movement within the Church of England, after the Restoration, many refused to conform, and became Dissenters. Puritans who emigrated to the United States became especially important in the history of New England.
In worship, the Puritans emphasized that there were only two sacraments, baptism and Eucharist. Because they were Sola Scriptura Protestants, and believed in salvation by grace through faith, their services emphasized sermons over more elaborate elements of liturgy. Strongly opposed to idolatry, and often taking the Biblical prohibition against graven images literally, they destroyed stained glass windows and opposed most use of art in churches. They were also opposed to what they considered Romanizing elements
- they forbade use of candles on the altar,
- favored a communion table set away from the east wall of the church (as opposed to an altar against the east wall)
- the preacher faced the congregation rather than the altar
- they used the term "minister" rather than priest, and opposed episcopacy
- services were spoken rather than sung
- no incense was used