A People Reaching for Ecstacy. The growth of Methodism in Newfoundland

Hollett, Calvin (2008) A People Reaching for Ecstacy. The growth of Methodism in Newfoundland. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The thesis reappraises the growth of Methodism in Newfoundland finding that it was a populist movement energized by the religious dynamic of a quest for spiritual ecstasy. This is in contrast to an historiography that has presented a top-down history of Methodism as a moral rescue by clergy of a degenerated populace encased in isolation and a cruel environment. That historiography has fixed upon the administrative formation of the Newfoundland District in 1815 and the consequent increase in clergy as the turning point in its history. -- Instead, Methodism was a lay spiritual movement of a people searching for ecstasy. It spread as a dynamic personal religion, facilitated by the migratory nature of its population. The most prominent characteristic of the residents was not isolation, but mobility, expediting the spread of Methodism as a religion of experience. Transhumance included both dual residency and further family movement to the northeast coast and Labrador for the summer fishery. There was also the vocational mobility of fishing voyages along the southeast coast and sealing voyages on the northeast coast. It was this lay zeal and mobility which were the primary means for the spread of Methodism in Newfoundland, not the organizational efforts of British missionaries. -- Populist Methodism in the bays of Newfoundland, continually energized through revivals, was in sharp contrast with the extremely hierarchical 19th-century versions of Anglicanism and Catholicism--Tractarianism and ultramontanism--emanating from St. John's. Methodism presented a vision of man, not in contrast to the cruel land, but in contrast to clerical mediation, through its proclamation of direct access to God. The vernacular religious impulse was trusted to such a degree that deference to clergy gave way to popular freedom and self-assurance. In this way Methodism, which grew to over a quarter of the population, gave a third dimension to Newfoundland society, the capability and acceptability of the vernacular.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8604
Item ID: 8604
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 473-496).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Ecstasy--Newfoundland and Labrador--History--19th century; Methodism--History--19th century; Proselytizing--Methodism--History--19th century; Newfoundland and Labrador--Religion--19th century

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