QMUL CRLE seminar – Alison Searle – ‘Spirit and Body in C17 English Nonconformist Women’s Writing’

All are welcome to the inaugural seminar of the Centre for Religion and Literature in English at Queen Mary University of London:
Time: Wednesday 1 June 2016, 5.15-6.45pm
Place: Lock-Keeper’s Cottage Graduate Centre, Westfield Way, Queen Mary University of London, E1 4NS

Dr Alison Searle (Sydney), ‘Spirit and Body in Seventeenth-Century English Nonconformist Women’s Writing’

This paper will examine the spiritual and corporeal experience of nonconformist women in seventeenth-century England as recorded in their diaries, letters, biographies and prophecies, focusing specifically on the role attributed to the Holy Spirit. Subjects will include Briget Cooke, Mary Franklin and Anne Wentworth amongst others.

InvenCaP Blog – The church records of White’s Alley, London – (1) – Principles and Pastors

By Mark Burden

Despite having been almost completely ignored by historians, the records of the General Baptist church at White’s Alley in London, 1681-1714 provide one of the fullest sets of disciplinary cases surviving for a dissenting church of the period. They also allow scholars to explore the relation between theological discussion and the Realpolitik of church government in almost unparalleled detail. Between 1681 and 1761, and again from 1797 to 1841, the church recorded minutes of its meetings in four lengthy folio volumes, usually writing on the recto side of the page, with extra notes or relevant documents copied onto the facing verso sheets. The minutes for 1681 to 1714 alone occupy two and a half volumes, making them one of the most comprehensive sets of minutes of a dissenting church in the period. The church kept other records also which have since been lost: the surviving minutes suggest that there were three ‘old church books’ in evidence by 1707, although the only ones known to have survived up to this date are the two volumes 1681-1700 and 1700-8. A very considerable proportion of the first three extant minute books relate to disciplinary cases, detailing the processes by which members who were considered negligent in their attendance or scandalous in their behaviour were sanctioned. These disciplinary cases will be studied in both quantitative and qualitative terms in my next blog. The purpose of the following introductory essay is to consider my other claim: that we can use dissenting church records to show the relation between theology and church practices. In the first part of the discussion I outline some of the general areas and principles which provoked discussion at White’s Alley, as indeed they did at many other churches during the period, dissenting or otherwise. In the second part of the blog, I explore the impact of some of these ideas on the changing fortunes of the church’s ministers.

The Principles and Practices of Dissenting Churches

Any discussion of the interaction between dissenting principles and practices should be alert to the connections between churches as well as within the membership of each individual church. One way to identify such connections is to map out the locations from and to which the church sent and received letters; this process of cultural geography may then enable us to identify the interactions which give rise to cultures of knowledge and experience. When applied to dissenting records, this method tends to provide supporting evidence for the argument that churches tended to communicate most comfortably and extensively with other churches of similar views. In the case of White’s Alley, the congregation was in frequent dialogue with other Baptist churches, particularly those believing in general redemption; it was furthermore one of the self-styled ‘five parts’ (later six) of the London General Baptist community, the others being Glasshouse Yard (Goswell Street), Goodman’s Fields (Mill Yard), Shad Thames (Dockhead), Southwark (‘The Park’), and – from 12 April 1692 – Covent Garden (Hart Street). The church provided advice to the Goswell Street congregation during its merger with the Bell Lane Baptists in 1681 and again when it sought to elect deacons in 1686. Within London, the church also had extensive dealings with the 7 Baptist congregations at Barbican, Virginia Street, Horsleydown (Fair Street), Deptford, West Smithfield (High Hall, Cow Lane), and Dunning’s Alley. It exchanged letters with at least 12 Baptist churches in southern England, including those at Cirencester, Salisbury, Westbury, Newbury, Berkshire, Maidenhead, Buckingham, Stony Stratford, High Wycombe, Portsmouth, Arundel, Chichester; 11 churches in the east of England, including those at Burnham, Rainham, Berkhamsted, Oxney, Brabourne, Canterbury, Ashford, Chatham, Norwich, and Smallburgh, and a church in Bedfordshire; 10 churches from the midlands and north, including Leicester, Wymeswold, Weston and Weedon, Nantwich, Leominster, Lichfield, Coventry, Warwick, Worcester, and Sheffield; and 2 churches in Ireland (at Dublin and Cork).

Continue reading InvenCaP Blog – The church records of White’s Alley, London – (1) – Principles and Pastors

Dissenting Experience – Draft Inventory of Puritan Records

We are pleased to inform readers that our project inventory, providing bibliographic details of around 350 early dissenting church books and registers, has been submitted to our advisory board for comments. Revisions will be made across the next month and online publication of the inventory will follow in May of this year. We are grateful for the help provided by numerous repository staff, researchers, and other academics to enable us to reach this point in such good time.

Crawford Gribben, Scott Spurlock (eds.) – Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World 1600-1800

As part of the Palgrave Macmillan series, ‘Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500-1800’, Crawford Gribben and Scott Spurlock have recently edited a collection of essays titled Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1600-1800 (2016).

Publisher’s note: ‘This volume explores the complex and surprisingly similar experiences of puritans and Catholics in the early modern Atlantic world.’

British Academy / Leverhulme Small Research Grant

The Dissenting Experience research group is delighted to announce that we have been successful in our application for a BA/Leverhulme small research grant, 2016. The application was made by Joel Halcomb (UEA) with Anne Dunan-Page (Aix-Marseille) and Michael Davies (Liverpool) for a grant to fund the research and travel required to compile A Calendar of British and Irish Dissenting Church Records, c.1640-1714.  Scattered in over 40 locations, including county archives and churches, these records comprise minute books (containing church covenants, confessions of faith, letters), financial accounts, church histories, and registers of members. They provide an unparalleled view into the daily lives and collective experiences of ordinary dissenting men and women. The grant will fund a series of research trips, mostly to be undertaken by the project’s research assistant Mark Burden, and will also fund graduate assistance for the preparation of the calendar for publication.

Francis J. Bremer – Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism

Francis J. Bremer’s account of ‘the role played by countless named and unnamed women in the story of the shaping of puritanism’ has now been published as Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Publisher’s note: ‘A study of the rise and decline of puritanism in England and New England that focuses on the role of godly men and women. It explores the role of family devotions, lay conferences, prophesying and other means by which the laity influenced puritan belief and practice, and the efforts of the clergy to reduce lay power in the seventeenth century.’

Dr Williams’s Library Seminar, 16 March 2016

Readers are reminded of the details of the next Dr Williams’s Library seminar:

Valerie Smith (University of Kent), ‘Theology and the Identity of Rational Dissent c.1770-1800′

Wednesday 16 March 2016, Dr Williams’s Library, 5:15-6:45

To view a poster containing further details of this event and the other lectures and seminars in the series, please click on the link below:

DWL Seminar – 16 March 2016

Dr Williams’s Library Conference, 21 May 2016

Readers may be interested in the following one-day conference to mark the tercentenary of Dr Williams’s Trust:

Dissent and Philanthropy

Saturday 21 May 2016

Dr Williams’s Library, 14 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0AR

10.00 Arrival, registration, coffee

10.25 Welcome David Wykes, Director of Dr Williams’s Trust and Library

10.30-11.30 Hugh Cunningham (University of Kent), ‘John Howard and the birth of philanthropy in Britain’

11.30-12.15 David Wykes (Dr Williams’s Library), ‘Daniel Williams, a remarkable benefactor’

12.15-1.00 Sandwich lunch and coffee

1.00-1.50 Grayson Ditchfield (University of Kent), ‘Rational Philanthropy: Unitarian responses to poverty, c.1770-c.1820’

2.00- 2.50 Elizabeth Gow (The John Rylands Library), ‘Enriqueta Rylands, founder of the John Rylands Library: Private devotion and public piety’

3.00-3.50 Clyde Binfield (University of Sheffield), ‘The patronage of nineteenth-century Congregational Church building: The Example of Joshua Wilson’

3.50-4.30 Tea

Attendance is free but registration is essential as numbers are limited

For further details, please email conference@dwlib.co.uk

Dr Williams’s Library: 020 73873727

NEH Summer Seminar Announcement: ‘Postsecular Studies and the Rise of the English Novel, 1719-1897’

Lori Branch and Mark Knight are delighted to be co-directing a 4-week 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in Iowa City on ‘Postsecular Studies and the Rise of the English Novel 1719-1897.’ Examining the role that religion and secularization play in the rise of the novel, the seminar has places for 16 scholars (two of whom may be graduate students), and will run from 11 July  – 5 August 2016. During the seminar, participants will meet together to discuss common readings and spend the rest of the time working on their own related research projects. Further information about the seminar, including the application guidelines and the NEH eligibility criteria, can be found at http://www.uiowa.edu/postsecular-novel/. You can also contact Andrew Williams (andrew-williams@uiowa.edu or postsecular-novel@uiowa.edu).

InvenCaP Blog – Forgotten Voices from the Lothbury Square Church Book: Baptist Wives and their Jewish Christian Husbands

By Mark Burden

In a previous blog, ‘Sabbatarianism, Literary Form, and the Lothbury Square Church Book’, I explored various misconceptions which have arisen from historians’ interpretations of the so-called More-Chamberlen church book of 1652-4 (Bodleian Library Rawlinson MS D.828). Critical readings of the church book have been greatly indebted to the early twentieth-century debate between J. W. Thirtle and Champlin Burrage about the extent to which it provided evidence for the Sabbatarian beliefs of the congregation’s most distinguished member, the Royal physician Peter Chamberlen. Through his abridged edition of the church book, Burrage determined that the church was not Sabbatarian in its practices, and proceeded to transcribe those church acts which seemed to him to provide the most important reasons why the congregation collapsed. Burrage attributed the congregation’s demise to the ongoing doctrinal disputes between Chamberlen and his ministerial rival, John More, but failed to transcribe More’s correspondence with the church over the crucial questions of prophecy and parable. Yet these very questions of literary form and their use helped to tip the balance in the congregation’s dealings with More, ensuring that he was unable to return to the church, and thereby accelerating its decline. Here, as elsewhere, questions of genre and language proved decisive when it came to ordering, regulating, and disciplining Puritan church members.

However, this is very far from the whole story. Burrage assumed that the fortunes of the Lothbury Square church could be most easily surveyed through the prism of the debates between its two successive pastors, More and Chamberlen. His approach, while typical of church histories written in the early twentieth century, is no longer satisfactory, not least because it fails to take account of the crucial roles played by other members of the congregation. For one thing, Burrage’s reading conforms to the nineteenth and twentieth century assumption that women’s roles in early Baptist churches were at best peripheral to the central business of the church and at worst inconsequential. These are particularly dangerous assumptions for editors of dissenting records, since the omission of women’s writings from an edition on account of their marginal status becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for future readers. Through the process of rehabilitating these texts by and about women in the so-called More-Chamberlen church book we can develop a much more interesting narrative than the clumsy (on both sides) arguments that women were either central or peripheral to seventeenth-century Baptist churches; instead, what becomes clear is that churches were sites of struggle for women quite literally desiring their voices to be heard.

Continue reading InvenCaP Blog – Forgotten Voices from the Lothbury Square Church Book: Baptist Wives and their Jewish Christian Husbands