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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  August 1999

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION August 1999

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Subject:

Prayer Book Participation (was Summer Diversion)

From:

Christopher Crockett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

23 Aug 99 21:01:47 America/Knox_IN

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (135 lines)

Sharon Arnoult wrote:

>Elizabethan/e. Stuart congregations were, as a rule, mostly illiterate,

Dear Sharon,

Unencumbered by the baggage of actual knowledge of the scholarship on the
subject, this would be my conjecture exactly.

>although this would obviously vary depending on the location of the
parish and other factors.  

Yep.

Rather *vast* differences, I would suspect, just as we see in the more outward
and visible signs of, say, architecture and ornament.

>For example, in London by the late 1640s, it is estimated that perhaps 
as much as 70% of the adult male population was able to read and write in
English, 

Interested to know how this statistic is generated, but it doesn't seem
unreasonable as a high water-mark in the largest and most prosperous city of
the Realm (which I assume London was), nearly 200 years after the introduction
of the printed book, in one of the centers (or, centres) of publishing in
Europe.

>but elsewhere it was much more likely to be around 30%.  

Yes.

Or less (allowing *lots* of room for backwaters).

An *average* of 30%, nearly 200 years after the introduction of the printed
book. 

Okay, I'll buy that.

>(For more information, see David Cressy's "Levels of Illiteracy in England,
1530-1730," _The Historical Journal_, 1977.)

Many thanks.

Can't get to the library at present, but will try to take a look--the
methodology interests me actually more than the specific issue at hand.

>The question about comparing religion in Elizabethan/e. Stuart England
to medieval times vs. the 19th century is an interesting one, especially
concerning worship.  *Which* 19th century CofE service should we compare
it to?  A determinedly low-church service or one in which the
Anglo-Catholic revival was going full-tilt?  The low-church service
would probably have been closer to the early modern one and the
Anglo-Catholic one was at least trying to recapture the medieval worship
experience.  

Perhaps. 
If you intend "service" literally.

My thought--again happily untethered by reference to the actual facts which
you and other scholars in the field have unearthed and reconstructed--would be
rather that the outward and visible signs of the 
"service" (liturgy, vestments, music, etc.) only tell us part of the story;
and that the essence of the *belief* system of the parishioners might well
tell another.

I would conjecture that the low-church parishes of the peasantry (rural 
or urban) would reflect, by their very "lowness", a psychic state *much*
closer to the *essence* of medieval experience--just as the expressions 
of popular art in those parishes might reflect a "naive credulity" (as we
non-Dark Agers might arrogantly and falsely characterize it) much closer to
the medieval mind-set (o god, please stop me before i sin again) than, say,
the High Church revivalists imposing their *totally artificial* construct of
what middlevil "Faith" might have been about.

The neo-Gothic victorian church cannot really be mistaken for even the dryest
and most sterile of medieval ones, no matter how much its outward and visible
form "looks like" the latter, nor how charmingly 
"picturesque" it might be.

>While in general I would agree that the early modern period was much closer
to the medieval world than the 19th century, 

ahhh, Progress; sweet Progress.

See, we keep up like this I'll have you weaned from those peskie "facts" and
"documents" yet.

>I would also like to suggest that, in both of those 19th-century 
services there were, perhaps, individuals for whom religion was as important
as it had been for their ancestors, 

Absolutely.

Yes, but it's not just a question of *importance*, nor Depth of Faith (which I
do not presume to impune), but also a "Quality" of Belief: e.g., show me a
reference to a 19th c. service where the relics of the Saints (or analogous
revered Holy Objects, if, indeed, there were such) were "humiliated", beaten
or even seriously and reciprocally engaged in any 
way other than the sort of lop-sided entreaties with which we "Moderns"--with
our almost totally materialistic and "scientific" world view--would also feel
comfortable with.

>and who perhaps even believed that their worship service was a "continuation"
or a "revival" of the worship of their forebears, however profoundly different
the world in which those services were taking place was.

As the American novelist Thomas Wolfe tells us "You Can't Go Home Again."

They may have *believed* that their's was a "continuation", but do *you* see
it as such??

And a "revival" is, well, a conscious and deliberate recreation/reconstruction
of the "spirit" of another age, *always* more the product of the age of its
creation than that of its target.

We're not really so far apart, I'm thinking, just traveling on nearly-parallel
tracks.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Best to all from here,

Christopher






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