What was the role of preachers in forging American colonial culture?
The specific responsibilities of preachers in different colonies varied, depending upon the predominant religious beliefs of the particular colony. However, all religious leaders were very influential in establishing many of the cultural patterns and expectations of their respective areas.
Roman Catholic priests approached the colonization of areas such as Florida territory (which included what is now Alabama and South Carolina) and eventually across much of what would become the southern United States with the very definite aim of converting the indigenous Indians to the Catholic faith. Their missions introduced education through formal schools, hospitals and health care practices, and agricultural innovations as well as teaching the practices of the Roman Catholic faith. These practices were frequently mixed with native Indian religious rituals, creating a cultural conflict that strained relationships between newcomers and natives as time went on.
In the middle colonies, the Anglican Church was the most influential religious body. It served primarily the upper class of settlers, providing them with opportunities to gather and socialize as well as worship, while emphasizing to the lower classes the importance of respecting their superiors. The pastors of these churches supported those who were establishing the business basis of the colonies but did little for the small farmer or laborer.
In the New England colonies, followers of the Puritan religion emphasized the importance of hard work and individual responsibility. Education was highly valued, as was conforming to the expectations of the church leaders. Reflecting the values preached in the sermons of Puritan meeting houses, the culture valued serious application of labor to good works, industrious endeavors to advance the community, and restraint in all personal relationships.