Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Change and Continuity in Religious Practice

By Arnoult, Sharon L. | Anglican and Episcopal History, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Change and Continuity in Religious Practice


Arnoult, Sharon L., Anglican and Episcopal History


KARIN MAAG AND JOHN D. WITVLIET, EDS. Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Change and Continuity in Religious Practice. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. xiii + 353, index. $30.00 (paper).

General histories of the Reformation usually stress the changes that resulted in all aspects of Western Christianity, but more in-depth scrutiny reveals a more complex process of both change and continuity. The aim of this collection of essays is to bring exactly such a more nuanced approach to the multi-faceted area of worship, in the words of the editors, "to understand change and continuity in worship practices by describing eleven case studies of liturgical change, accompanied by illustrative source documents. In each case, this will be done with attention to a wide historical timeline, the convergence of Catholic and Protestant concerns, and multiple disciplinary perspectives" (9).

The essays are divided into five groups. "Starting Points for Assessing Continuity and Change" sets up the general approach of the book, with Margot Fassler explicating the nature of medieval devotion and Robert Kingdon demonstrating both the scope of change in worship practices, and resistance to it, in Reformation Geneva. Here Fassler's essay works very well with Kingdon's, providing deeper insight into some of the practices, such as "muttering" during the service, that persisted despite the attempts of reformers. The second group, "Complexities of Location and Time Period," has Frank C. Senn examining the impact of political developments on liturgical change in Sweden, while Bodo Nischan examines the conflict over altar or communion table between the German Lutheran and Reformed churches. In the third group, "Worship Outside of 'Church,'" Karin Maag looks at how the Reformation both did and did not affect the practice of worship in schools, Susan M. Felch examines the development of private prayer books in England, and Katherine Elliot van Liere reminds us that liturgical experimentation and development was not limited to Protestantism with her essay on an attempt to reform the Catholic Divine Office in the sixteenth century. …

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