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Amos Munson: A Puritan Preacher and Troublemaker

May 15, 2017

There have been four “Great Awakenings” in American Protestant religious history. Amos Munson, son of Stephen Samuel and Lydia (Bassett) Munson, and the great-grandson of Captain Thomas Munson, was a leader in the First Great Awakening (1730 – 1755) in the American colonies during his short life (9 April 1719 – 1748).

The traditional Puritan religious experience emphasized orderly ritual and theology in worship. The traditionalists became known as the “Old Light” way of faithfulness. Amos Munson, having graduated from Yale College (now Yale University) in 1738, at the age of 19, was educated in the way of traditional “Old Light” theology. His association approved him for preaching in congregations on 30 Sept 1740.

Jonathan Edwards, also a Yale graduate, was a key figure in this first “Awakening.” He emphasized personal experience, an emotional connection to the faith, and genuine repentance of one’s sins. Amos Munson believed in the value of this “New Light” theology and began preaching it in his sermons.

The “Old Light” church was run by an association of leaders, something like a modern day diocese or synod. The leaders made decisions about who was fit to preach and how to meet the needs of the congregations. The Congregationalist “New Light” churches wanted to have direct control over their decisions and allow their pastors similar freedom.

Only months after getting his license to preach, in May 1741, Amos Munson, found by the overseeing association of the “Old Light” congregations to have been preaching in New Haven

“in a manner which we think disorderly, and also contrary to the advice and direction of Rev. Mr. Noyes” appointed the Rev. Timothy Allen to talk with him and to direct him to go to Mr. Noyes and to give him satisfaction.*

However that conversation unfolded, if it did, a year later, in May 1742 Amos was a charter member of the New Light Separatist congregation in New Haven now called the “North Church” or “United Church.”

Amos was never ordained, but continued to preach. He proclaimed the gospel to the people of West Suffield in 1744-45 and in 1746 the “Old Light” leaders admonished a Mr. Robbins for “improving strolling or traveling  preachers and those who were most disorderly . . .” including a meeting “carried on by Messrs Wheelock and Munson.”*

I do not have any record of a wife or children for Amos. He died at the age of 29 from a cause I do not know. The few years of his ministry were powerful and courageous and most certainly impacted the faith of the people whose lives he touched.

 

* 1637-1887. The Munson Record: A Genealogical and Biographical Account of Captain Thomas Munson (a Pioneer of Hartford and New Haven) and His Descendants.   January 1, 1896.  Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press

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