Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Richard Hooker and Places of Worship - "In Due Season They Are All Pleasaunt and Good"

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Richard Hooker and Places of Worship - "In Due Season They Are All Pleasaunt and Good"

Article excerpt

The essays in Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modem Britain, edited by Natalie Mears and Alec Ryrie, have revealed a great deal of information on how Elizabethan churchgoers worshiped, or better yet what they would have encountered as they entered their places of worship.1 The sense of "place" in Elizabethan worship has been enriched also by studies2 on sacred space in the early modem world, especially a work such as Alexandra Walsham's The Reformation of the Landscape which has contributed to the discussion on how problematic polarity thinking (Catholic verses Reformed) and hasty generalizations can be in determining precisely what was happening in worship and in places of worship-both within and without.3 There may have been far more variety and flexibility in local parishes than previously thought in terms of the material setting of worship. As the tide of the Mears/Ryrie collection indicates, the local parish, that place of community worship with its powerful vestry, is an important site for determining what might have been happening with the worship experience.

With this current interest in worship space and place, a close examination of Richard Hooker's treatment of place will contribute to the debate on the sacred and on Elizabethan worship. This is especially true when we use, as a context for discerning Hooker's understanding of places of worship in the Church of England, the information now available about the variety, informality, and tolerance that characterized Elizabethan worship. As should not surprise us, Hooker did confront the significance of place in the opening chapters of Book V of his Of the Larues of Ecclesiasticall Politie, and his rhetorical strategy very much reflected what worshipers would have heard about place in the church's official homilies. This essay argues that Hooker attempted to shift the discussion away from the puritan linkage of place with preaching practice and toward the physical and material setting of worship as involving more than preaching as understood by his puritan opponents. This is not to say that Hooker's analysis of place and his polemic against the church's adversaries encouraged principally a ceremonialism and sacramental-centered piety and thus is pre-Laudian in its emphasis on setting and ceremony. Although, as Peter Lake has argued,4 Hooker's work may point to a future identity for Anglicanism, the Politie emerges from the debates on ecclesiology beginning with the Admonition controversy of the early 1570s, ending, because of Hooker's early death, in the midst of the tensions and anxieties of Elizabeth's last decade.5 That is, this work, especially Book V written and enlarged during the first half of the 1590s and published in 1597, reminds us of specific challenges to Church of England worship. With a look backward, Hooker continues the sense of place from the homilies as he responded to the longstanding controversy with the puritans about worship in the Elizabethan Church. In terms of Hooker's conservativism with eyes always to the past, Book V demonstrates how satisfied Hooker was with the sentiments in the official homilies, especially in terms of his use of social language to talk about worship and worshipers. Yet in that conservativism, we might also find Hooker's hope for resolution, even amid his harsh polemic, in answering his Presbyterian opponents such as Thomas Cartwright with a gesture toward inclusiveness.6

This essay deals with chapters 11 through 17 of Book V, chapters about "Places for the publique service of God," the title Hooker gave to chapter 11. John Booty argued that chapter 11 was in Hooker's initial plan for Book V but then chapters 12 through 17 were added later for a more complete and polemical response to the nonconformist challenge.7 Booty saw an expanded Book V as both a polemically inspired defense of the Book of Common Prayer as well as a positive exposition of Church of England practices. In summarizing the discursive design of Book V, Booty wrote that "the discussion of public religious duties begins" with the "rules of generali direction" (chapters 5 through 9), then moves to the place of worship, then to "the commerce" between God and the worshiping community, and then to the sacraments as "another setting for saving commerce. …

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