Revivalism and the origins of Newfoundland Methodism, 1766-1774

Barrett, S. Dawn (Sylvia Dawn) (1993) Revivalism and the origins of Newfoundland Methodism, 1766-1774. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Laurence Coughlan, SPG missionary in Conception Bay from 1766 to 1773, published An Account of the Work of God in Newfoundland, North America (1776), containing his parishioners' first-hand accounts of their religious experiences. The thesis seeks to interpret these accounts in the context of the religious revival that produced them, with emphasis on its sociological, historical and theological horizons. -- Societal conflict, based on long-standing enmity between merchants and boat-keepers, was exacerbated in Conception Bay in the 1760's by a wave of Irish immigration. Harbour Grace merchants responded by building a church in order to control the populace. In neighbouring Carbonear, many of whose inhabitants originated from Poole in Dorset where dissenting religions predominated, steps were taken to have Laurence Coughlan, a former Wesleyan lay preacher, ordained for the Newfoundland ministry. - The dysphoria caused by social stress predisposed an emotional and ecstatic religious response. The needed catalyst was provided by Coughlan, whose sermon contrasting the agonizing death of a man who opposed his born again theology with the joyful death of a redeemed sinner initiated a religious revival in the winter of 1768-69. - The conversion narratives indicate that Coughlan was preaching an experiential heart religion in which justification was described in emotional and ecstatic terms. A comparison with the theology of John Wesley indicates that perfection, the central Methodist doctrine, received little emphasis, and the soteriological principles espoused approached those of the London enthusiasts whom Wesley had repudiated and with whom Coughlan had previously associated. -- Central to the community's religious experience was the sharing of conversion narratives and the relating of after-walk accounts at weekly class meetings. Conveying their personal experience of the grace of God to others marked a decision to surrender to a new ideal, and involved a change in self-concept and the emergence of a new social persona. The after-walk accounts illustrate the integration of the new ideal into the personality of the convert, a period marked by emotional disequilibrium, which the converts interpreted as attacks from the jealous Devil. -- Also interpreted as attacks of the Devil was opposition from Harbour Grace merchants who petitioned the Governor to remove Coughlan. The converts, mostly boat-keepers and their wives from Carbonear and surrounding villages, referred to the Anglican merchants as the Enemy. The polarization which resulted from their support of their ostracized religious leader formed a basis for the denominational strife which became a mark of religious life in Newfoundland in the ensuing years.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5917
Item ID: 5917
Additional Information: Bibliography: [277]-294.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Religious Studies
Date: 1993
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Coughlan, L. (Laurence), d. 1784?; Methodism; Methodists--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Revivals--Social aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador; Evangelistic work--Newfoundland and Labrador--History

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