First Great Awakening

The Great Awakening, called by historians the First Great Awakening, was an evangelical and revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American Protestantism. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual, ceremony, sacramentalism and hierarchy, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.

The movement was a monumental social event in New England that challenged established authority and incited rancor and division between traditionalists Protestants who insisted on the continuing importance of ritual and doctrine, and the revivalists, who encouraged emotional involvement. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational church, the Presbyterian church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed denomination, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist Anglican denominations. It had little impact on most Anglicans, Lutherans, Quakers and non-Protestants. Throughout the colonies, especially in the south, the revivalist movement increased the number of African slaves and free blacks who were exposed to, and subsequently, converted to, Christianity.

Unlike the Second Great Awakening, which began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on "outpourings of the Holy Spirit". Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and spread the newly created evangelicalism into the early republic. Evangelical preachers "sought to include every person in conversion, regardless of gender, race, and status."

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