What were the religious practices at Jamestown?

Historic Jamestowne church tower

Historic Jamestowne church tower

The acknowledged religion in England was the Church of England, whose services rigorously followed the Book of Common Prayer. The Jamestown settlers brought this form of religion with them, and practiced it in Virginia. The Church of England was central to the lives of the Company leadership, with all of the men required to take an oath acknowledging the supremacy of the King and the lack of authority over him by the Pope before they set sail to Virginia. There was no separation of church and state in 17th century England.

Several churches were erected in Jamestown between 1607 and 1610. The settlers built a temporary structure upon landing at Jamestown in 1607. It was made from a sail stretched among the boughs of trees with sides of rails and benches made of unhewed tree trunks. Later in 1607, a barn-like structure was built and used for worship services.

After it was destroyed by fire in January 1608, the church was rebuilt. When Lord De La War arrived as governor in 1610, he found that the church had fallen into a state of disrepair and had it restored. In 1617, Captain Samuel Argall built another version of the church on the site where the present church stands at Historic Jamestowne. This church was the site of the first General Assembly in July of 1619.

Services were held fourteen times a week, with sermons preached at services on Sunday and on either Wednesday or Thursday. Two prayer services, one in the morning and one in the evening, were held Monday through Saturday. An afternoon catechism was also held by the minister on Sunday. After the introduction of Martial Law in 1610, attendance was required at all services with punishments for violators ranging from loss of food rations to execution.