Rally the Scattered Believers

Rally the Scattered Believers

Northern New England’s Religious Geography
Shelby M. Balik
Distribution: World
Publication date: 5/30/2014
Format: cloth 316 pages, 3 b&w illus., 9 maps
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-01210-4
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Winner, 2014 Phi Alpha Theta First Book Award
Northern New England, a rugged landscape dotted with transient settlements, posed challenges to the traditional town church in the wake of the American Revolution. Using the methods of spatial geography, Shelby M. Balik examines how migrants adapted their understanding of religious community and spiritual space to survive in the harsh physical surroundings of the region. The notions of boundaries, place, and identity they developed became the basis for spreading New England's deeply rooted spiritual culture, even as it opened the way to a new evangelical age.

Author Bio

Shelby M. Balik is Assistant Professor of American History at Metropolitan State University of Denver.


"In this beautifully written and richly researched work, Shelby Balik shows how the travels of early nineteenth century Methodists, Universalists and freewill Baptist itinerant missionaries and congregations recreated the geography of New England Protestantism, setting in motion (literally) a tension between religious rootedness and religious uprootedness, center and periphery, that endures to today. Early American religious history in Balik’s retelling of it is one of bodies in constant movement in and out and around the city on the hill. The delight Balik takes in maps and journeys is infectious. This is a wonderful addition to American religious historiography." —Robert Orsi, Northwestern University

"[A] deeply researched and meticulously sourced book. . . [R]eading Rally the Scattered Believers helped me to consider anew the centrality of place—and the differing ways that religious organizations organize space—in understanding religious history." —Religion in American History

"The book's meticulous coverage of the spread of these faiths and its interpretation through the lens of geography is a strength. . . . Recommended." —Choice

"[A]n ambitious and engaging piece of scholarship. . . Rally the Scattered Believers promises to complement classic and much-respected works on Vermont’s religious communities during this period. . . More significant than the book’s engagement with that earlier scholarship is its contribution to recent and ongoing scholarly discussion about the place of religion in early American life. Balik’s New England is a religious place. . . [H]er interesting new book provides an alternative to other recent books that see more of the secular than the sacred in America’s past." —Vermont History

"Using church and town records, the personal writings and correspondence of laity and clergy, books, pamphlets, and religious periodicals, Balik has written an engaging, ground-level religious history with larger implications." —Journal of the Early Republic

"Shelby Balik’s deeply researched 'Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England’s Religious Geography' offers a finely grained picture of that era of burgeoning development.

. . . Balik’s book delivers one of the best histories of precisely what the 'Second Great Awakening' amounted to in northern New England." —
American Historical Review

"Balik’s exhaustively researched book represents the most comprehensive and important study of northern New England’s religious history published to date. It is also a significant contribution to a small body of scholarship on the spatial study of religion. . . . In sum, this is a major work of extraordinary scholarship." —Church History

"Rally the Scattered Believers is an important new interpretation of how religious change shaped American cultural identity in the early republic." —Journal of American History

"I strongly recommend Balik’s book for those studying colonial religious landscapes and heritages not only in New England, but in the nineteenth-century religious diasporas that swept the continent with varying mixes of European colonials and also African and Asian heritages." —Stanley D. Brunn, University of Kentucky, The Geographical Review

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein
A Note on Places
Introduction: Churching the Northern Wilds
1. No Schism in the Body: The Town Church in Crisis
2. Zion Travels: The Itinerant Enterprise
3. Scrambling for the Right: Disestablishment and the Town Church
4. ’Tis All on Fire: Landscapes of Religious Community
5. Fairly Missionary Ground: The Congregationalist Turn to Itinerancy
6. A City Set on a Hill: Northern New England’s New Religious Geography
Conclusion: A Place of Paradoxes
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