Keeping the Kirk: the practice and experience of faith in North East Scotland, 1560-1610
McMillan, Catherine Elizabeth
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This thesis examines the practice and experience of religion at the parish level in post-Reformation North East Scotland. It challenges the traditional view that the region was solidly and resolvedly "conservative" and argues that it became predominantly, but not uniformly, reformed in the first half-century following the Reformation. Kirk session and presbytery records drawn from the distinctive and diverse region of the North East provide the foundation of the primary research, allowing religion as lived by parishioners from all segments of society to be the focus of this study and offering the opportunity to map geographical variance. After introducing and defining the subject and setting it within its historiographical context, an overview is provided of the region's physical, social, political, and religious landscapes. The main body of the thesis explores the practice and experience of faith in the North East between 1560 and 1610 using three main themes. The first studies the Sabbath, the weekly fixture that was the heart of public worship and observance in the parish. Sacramental practice is the second theme with an in-depth study of the annual administration of Communion, which reinforced temporal and spiritual bonds among Kirk adherents and starkly exposed non-adherents and recusants. The final theme considers the role and position of ministers and readers in religious practice and investigates the relationship between them and their parishioners. From detailed analysis of these three themes, it is concluded that the North East as a whole was transformed into the general mould of Scottish Reformed Protestantism by 1610, but that there was a spectrum of practices and experiences of faith. More broadly, this thesis demonstrates that, whilst religious reform in Scotland was achieved, the religion as lived by Scots was nuanced and polychromed.