Faith and Works: Religion and Reform
In popular imagination, Victorians were regular and complacent churchgoers. Although this statement does describe some Victorians, nineteenth-century religious life was more likely to be filled with energy, turmoil, and struggles against doubt. A national count on Sunday, March 30, 1851, showed that 60 percent of the people who were physically able to do so attended church services.
The vast majority of England's residents professed some variety of Protestant Christianity. The Church of England--called also the "Anglican communion," and closely related to the Episcopalian church in the United States--was the established church. The sovereign was its head; Parliament had final authority in matters of doctrine; all property owners paid a small tax to keep up the parish church. In the villages and small towns where traditional ways of life were strongest, the Church of England served both gentry and laborers. Church attendance was much higher in the countryside than in industrial areas.
Protestants of other denominations--primarily Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Quakers--were known as "Dissenters" or "Nonconformists." (In literal terms, this means they did not assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith that formalized England's separation from the Church of Rome in 1562.) Nonconformity was strongest in towns and cities, and especially among the rising technical and business classes. Of the people who attended services on March
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Publication information: Book title: Daily Life in Victorian England. Contributors: Sally Mitchell - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 239.