Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons

Transcribing Early American Manuscript Sermons, or TEAMS, is a collaborative scholarly effort to make the voluminous archival record of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ecclesiastical worship more accessible to academic researchers, pastors, and the general public. This digital archive houses dozens of sermons transcribed from the papers of Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Congregational ministers who preached up and down the Atlantic coast of North America.

Many of these sermons combine theological instruction, public reporting, and political persuasion. Early American preaching brought communities together in public assemblies and is an invaluable resource in reconstructing the prevailing religious beliefs and social attitudes of the British colonies of North America and, later, the nascent United States of America. While scholars have long had access to a relatively small and homogenous selection of published sermons, the preaching record made available in this database provides a new and invaluable perspective on early American history and culture. As Yale University historian Harry Stout has argued: notwithstanding the popularity of printed sermons, “Only from the vantage point of unpublished sermons, however, can the full range of colonial preaching be understood.”

Using the TEAMS Database

The search page allows users to browse our full collection of sermons, which appear in the order they were uploaded to the TEAMS database; newly-transcribed sermons will always be located at the top of the search page, so be sure to check it regularly for updates to our collection. Users can also narrow their browsing by searching for sermons preached

In addition, users looking for sermons dealing with a particular theme (love) or figure (Eve) can utilize the full-text search option to mine the archive for relevant entries. Each sermon can be viewed in three different formats. The default viewing option for all sermons is HTML, but users can also view a PDF file of the original transcription, with its misspellings and line breaks, or an XML file formatted according to standards developed by the Text Encoding Initiative.

The Future of TEAMS

The first fifty sermons to be digitized represent a wide range of denominational perspectives and geographical locations; our initial goal was to transcribe and publish a selection of sermons indicative of the rich diversity of manuscript sermons available in archives. Future additions to the database will be made according to the research interests of contributors; because the archive of early American sermons is voluminous and largely unread, TEAMS collaborators are continually imaging, transcribing, and encoding additional sermons. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please contact the project’s editor-in-chief, Zach Hutchins, by email: zach-dot-hutchins-at-colostate-dot-edu.