The congregation that built the brick Old South Meeting House in 1729 was descended from the Puritans who founded Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century. The interior of the meeting house reflects their beliefs. The Puritans had left England in search of new lands and greater religious freedom. They believed in a direct relationship between the individual and God, and felt that the rituals used by the Church of England interfered with this direct relationship. Instead of the rituals, music and elaborate architecture of the Church of England, the Puritans emphasized Bible-reading, sermons, prayers and the unaccompanied singing of psalms in their services.
What does it mean to be “highly religious”? In our analysis, this includes any adult who reports at least two of four highly observant behaviors – attending religious services at least weekly, praying at least daily, believing in God with absolute certainty and saying that religion is very important to them — while not reporting a low level of religious observance in any of these areas, such as seldom or never attending religious services, seldom or never praying, not believing in God and saying that religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their life. We also define a person as “highly religious” if they report three highly religious behaviors and a low level of religiosity on a fourth measure.
All is the Lord's
In keeping with their beliefs that every area of life should be molded by Christian principles, the Puritans saw all honorable work as a means of glorifying God. All of life was God's, and there was no distinction between secular and sacred work. God calls each person to a particular vocation or occupation, and the Christian should act as a careful steward of the talents and gifts God has given him. Working in one's calling or vocation was a means of serving God and men. Idleness was considered a great sin; diligence in one's calling was a virtue.