Tag Archives: Presbyterians

InvenCaP Blog – Reformation Principles and the Puritan Church Books of the 1650s

By Mark Burden

Although they have been widely consulted by church historians and historians of religion, the role played by Puritan church records of the 1650s in the furtherance of personal, church, and national reformation has rarely been assessed. The following account has been compiled in response to a highly productive conference on the 1650s convened by Fiona McCall at the University of Portsmouth. The conference discussed, among many other matters, the nature and extent of Episcopalian and Puritan church records during the 1650s, the importance of the national surveys of religion undertaken by the Protectorate, and the need for an adequate catalogue of manuscripts and other material objects dating from the period. In response to that conversation, this post is intended to provide nothing more than a very preliminary sketch of the material available for studying the Puritan churches, and its potential uses for understanding the highly elastic concept of ‘reformation’ as it developed across the decade. As will be immediately evident, very substantial research needs to be carried out on these records before any wider conclusions may be drawn.

The Dissenting Experience Inventory of Puritan records indicates that there are approximately 70 surviving church books and registers containing material relating to the 1640s and 1650s. This figure is open to the usual caveats: it would be substantially smaller if all copy records were excluded, but would be substantially higher if it were possible to include every copy of every 1650s document located in nineteenth and twentieth-century church books. The materials contained in the church records already listed in the Inventory include church histories, chronological registers and alphabet books (births, baptisms, church membership, marriages, deaths, burials), family trees, covenants, confessions, rules, orders, acts, disciplinary cases, minutes of church meetings, minutes of regional assemblies, letters, testimonials, cases of conscience, propositions, queries, admissions, dismissals, and countless examples of marginalia and corrections. Most of these records can be categorised into four types: histories, registers, covenants and confessions, and minutes of meetings. Each of these genres contributed to the church’s sense of itself as a reformed collective, and each genre exposed the different pressures, whether external or internal, which emerged as an inevitable consequence of the congregation’s self-representation as a church of Christ.

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The Crisis of British Protestantism

Hunter Powell’s monograph, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44,  is now out with Manchester University Press.

‘This book seeks to bring coherence to two of the most studied periods in British history, Caroline non-conformity (pre-1640) and the British revolution (post-1642). It does so by focusing on the pivotal years of 1638–44 where debates around non-conformity within the Church of England morphed into a revolution between Parliament and its king. Parliament, saddled with the responsibility of re-defining England’s church, called its Westminster assembly of divines to debate and define the content and boundaries of that new church.

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Typically this period has been studied as either an ecclesiastical power struggle between Presbyterians and independents, or as the harbinger of modern religious toleration. This book challenges those assumptions and provides an entirely new framework for understanding one of the most important moments in British history’.

To order, see the publisher’s website, http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9780719096341

Matthew Henry: The Bible, Prayer, and Piety

The University of Chester, 14-16 July 2014.

Capture d’écran 2014-07-13 à 16.37.43‘To commemorate the tercentenary of the death of Matthew Henry (22 June 1714) and his 25-year ministry in Chester (1687–1712), the University of Chester, in collaboration with Chester Cathedral Library and the University of Manchester, is holding an interdisciplinary conference 14th–16th July 2014 to bring together historians, biblical scholars, and theologians to explore the work, context, and legacy of Matthew Henry, especially as it relates to his engagement with and use of Scripture. With keynote lectures from Prof. Clyde Binfield, Dr Ligon Duncan, Dr David Wykes, and Prof. Jeremy Gregory, this conference will not only offer a fresh opportunity to appreciate Henry’s ministry within the local context of Chester, it will also evaluate Henry in a wider historical context, and consider his contribution to the interpretation of the Bible in the early 18th century and its legacy up to the present day.’

For more information and registration, see http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/21521

Dissenting Experience, Experiencing Dissent: Registration

There are still a few places left for the first of our conferences at Dr Williams’s Library on Saturday 9 November 2013. You can download the complete programme here.

Speakers are: Michael Davies, Crawford Gribben, Ann Hughes, N. H. Keeble, Kathleen Lynch, Chad van Dixhoorn, and Elliot Vernon.

© Trustees of Dr Williams's Library
© Trustees of Dr Williams’s Library

These three one-day conferences, a partnership between the Aix-Marseille Research Centre on the English-Speaking World and Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies will take place in early November, in 2013, 2014, and 2015. They  will explore the religious and social experiences of Independent and Baptist churches and their members during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although the focus will remain primarily on what could be termed the ‘gathered churches’, the conferences will also offer opportunities to explore other aspects of the experience of dissent: from, for example, the perspective of Presbyterians and Quakers. This year is on “Ministers and their congregations”, while we’ll look at the “Variety of dissenting expression” next year with speakers on Church records, diaries, poetry, letters and entring books.

To register, send an e-mail to Anne Page with your title, affiliation, postal address and dietary requirements:  anne.page@univ-amu.frRegistration is free and a buffet lunch will be served at the Library.

The ‘presbyterianism’ of Richard Heyrick

By James Mawdesley, The University of Sheffield

N.B. References in brackets refer to The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652, ed. Chad van Dixhoorn (5 vols., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

I have recently been fortunate enough to have access to Chad van Dixhoorn’s new edition of the minutes of the Westminster Assembly, and it struck me how over the next few years, it will be interesting to see what use scholars make of the minutes, and what details lie within a primary source which had previously only been utilised in manuscript form by the most dedicated of researchers.

Manchester Cathedral (the former collegiate church), with Heyrick's memorial brass
Manchester Cathedral (the former collegiate church), with Heyrick’s memorial brass

The intention of this brief blog post is to highlight a small example of what details can be found within the minutes, and how the minutes might be used to adapt our understanding of the careers of individual clerics. Richard Heyrick had been appointed in 1635 as the warden of the Manchester collegiate church, and is well known as one of the leading lights of the classical presbyterian system which was established in Lancashire in 1646 (the year in which episcopacy was abolished). Within the Lancashire province, the Manchester classis (under Heyrick’s watch) continued to function until the summer of 1660, just after the restoration of Charles II to the throne. Though he did not participate in the Westminster Assembly to the same extent as his fellow member for Lancashire, Charles Herle (the rector of Winwick), he was nonetheless a relatively regular attendee of its debates. It was during these debates that Heyrick made two particularly interesting contributions.

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