A Great Awakening
Churches, often in the center of town, were central to colonial life. Here, churchgoers sing as they wait to enter their church.
In the 1730s and 1740s, the Great Awakening shook up the English colonies. This religious movement caused an outpouring of Christian faith. It also prompted new ways of thinking about the church and society. As a result, it helped lay the foundations for political changes to come.
Nathan Cole was working on his farm on the morning of October 23, 1740, when he heard the news. George Whitefield was coming.
A famous preacher, Whitefield was known for his powerful sermons. He had traveled all over the colonies, drawing huge crowds wherever he went. Now he was in Connecticut. In fact, he was preaching in nearby Middletown that very morning. Cole knew he had to move fast.
Thousands of people were rushing to Middletown to hear Whitefield speak. “I saw no man at work in his field,” Cole wrote, “but all seemed to be gone.” When Cole and his wife reached the town, they found a large crowd gathered there. The mood was electric as they waited for Whitefield to appear.
What was behind all this excitement? Why would a preacher's arrival cause a commotion like that of a rock star or a Hollywood celebrity today?
In fact, Whitefield was a superstar of his time. He was the most famous figure in a religious revival that was sweeping the colonies. People were seeking a deep spiritual experience and a direct connection to God. They found that connection in preachers like Whitefield.