This study approaches the Puritan experience in church government from the perspective of both the pew and the pulpit. For ten years, James Cooper immersed himself in local manuscript church records. These previously untapped documents provide a fascinating glimpse of lay-clerical relations in colonial Massachusetts, and reveal that ordinary churchgoers shaped the development of Congregational practices as much as the clerical and elite personages who for so long have populated histories of the period. Cooper's new findings both challenge existing models of church hierarchy and offer a new dimension to our understanding of the origins of New England democracy.

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