‘Dour-mongers all?’ The experience of worship in the Early Reformed Kirk, 1559-1617
Ritchie, Martin Scott
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This thesis studied the experience of worship in Scotland in the first generations after the Scottish Protestant Reformation. It was inspired by the realisation that earlier historiography had been a denominational battle-ground whose dogmatism had obscured the view of worship in the parish. Aonghus MacKechnie’s phrase, ‘Dour-Mongers All?’ sums up the leading question; was Reformed worship as austere and colourless as its detractors and advocates suggested? Questions surrounding the key components of Reformed worship: architecture, liturgy, music and preaching have more recently been addressed with less sectarian interest, but these individual strands have tended to be studied in isolation. In terms of the experience of worship, they belong together. Traditionally, the period 1560-1638 has been used as the period defining the first phase of the Reformed Kirk, with the National Covenant of 1638 marking the end of what could be called the experimental phase of the new dispensation. However, 1559 was chosen as the starting point to recognise the significant changes to worship that began with the “cleansing” of the churches and friaries of Perth and St Andrews in that year. The terminal date of 1617 marked King James VI’s return to Scotland, during which worship at Holyrood Palace was conducted in the manner of the English court both in terms of liturgical materials, music, and the refurbishment of the Chapel Royal. This proved to be a portent of James’ vision for liturgical change by statute in the Five Articles of Perth that were a significant watershed for the Kirk. Whilst it took another 20 years for the full outworking of this policy under his son Charles I, after 1617 the vibrant and complex worship culture of the Scottish Kirk that had been developed since 1559 began to be squeezed. That culture became a victim of the polemicized battle between extreme Scottish and English Reformed models advocated in the growing controversy over the relationship between Church, Crown and State within the Three Kingdoms. By 1650, an austere new psalter and worship directory had been adopted by the victors and the diversity and richness of the earlier Scottish worship culture had been lost. The first part of the necessarily multi-disciplinary thesis explores the experience of worship by isolating its key components: church buildings and furnishings, liturgical material, and singing. It does this by analysing the surviving material culture and the written and visual documentary evidence of church buildings and interior furnishings used for worship after 1559; surveying the nature, extent and use of the liturgical material included within the Psalme Buiks, with particular focus on the Henrie Charteris edition of 1596; and exploring the development and impact of the new and popular phenomenon of metrical Psalm-singing. The second part assesses the contribution of four significant ministers: John Davidson, James Melville, William Cowper, and John Welch, examining their lives, writing and preaching and judging how their contribution enriched the experience of worship in their parishes. This evidence is used to reconstruct the experience of worship in this period and show that it was vibrant and compelling, influenced in its raw materials by much from outside Scotland but strongly developed in the diverse contexts of Scottish parishes.