As we celebrate America’s 241st birthday, I thought about how religion has been part and parcel of the United State since our founding and even before. Religious belief is a part of the American psyche and deeply informed the Founding Fathers and their hopes for the new country they were creating.
The erroneous perception that there is this extreme line between church and state is simply wrong. The phrase never appears in any of the founding documents, but in a letter by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist church congregation ensuring that their free expression of religion in private and in public would be protected without any qualms or interference by the government. The separation of church and state simply means that the government of the United States of America shall not establish nor coerce any American to practice a particular form of religion as dictated by the state. That’s it.
In honor of America during her birthday celebrations, I thought of how interesting it would be to look at a few of the oldest church buildings and congregations on our shores. Not all of them, of course, will be Catholic. Some of them are even older than the country itself.
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista – San Juan, Puerto Rico (1521) – Catholic
Porta Coeli Church – San German, Puerto Rico (1609) – Catholic
San Miguel Mission – Santa Fe, New Mexico (1610) – Catholic
Jamestown Church – Jamestown, Virginia (1639) – Anglican
Old Trinity Church – Church Creek, Maryland (1675) – Episcopal
Third Haven Meeting House – Talbot County, Maryland (1681) – Quaker
Old Ship Church – Hingham, Massachusetts (1681) – Puritan/Congregational/Unitarian Universalist
St. Luke’s Church – Smithfield, Virginia (1682) – Anglican/Episcopal
Old Indian Meeting House – Mashpee, Massachusetts (1684) – Congregational/Native American
King’s Chapel – Boston, Massachusetts (1686) – Unitarian Christian