Churches, Chapels, and Desirable Residences

At a recent Sunday service, my church sang the hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing,” with its line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by thy help I come.” This is a classic example of a line that made wonderful sense to a Biblically-literate audience, who knew that Ebenezer was a “stone of help” [Read More…]

Where Did All The Pagans Go?

I have been posting about a source on religion in Wales around 1715 , which illustrates how Christian communities maintain themselves when church structures and institutions have been removed. The author, Erasmus Saunders, tells us a lot about the rural society of his time, and its religious life. Almost as important, though, is what he [Read More…]

Singing the Faith

Western Protestants are familiar with the idea of Christianity as a faith of the book, of the word written, read, and proclaimed. Historically, though, a great many Christians have learned their faith through other means, including the visual arts and especially music, and such non-literary forms are very common today in rising churches, in Africa [Read More…]

The Ghosts of Religion Past

When religious systems die or collapse, how do their followers carry on? Historically, such a situation is not that uncommon. Imagine a society with an established religion of some kind, based on hierarchical structures and priests, and then, for whatever reason, those structures vanish. In some cases, a new civil and religious order forbids or [Read More…]

Richard Davies and the Word of God

I posted about the autobiography of Quaker pioneer Richard Davies, arguing that this should be read both as a highly informative spiritual text and a prime historical source. Often, the book – the Convincement – reveals the processes by which an educated and curious seventeenth century Christian moved to some radical positions that in some [Read More…]

The Convincement of Richard Davies

I want to recommend a book that is a major source on Christian history. It really is not well known or cited by non-specialists, and that is sad. The story it tells is critical for Protestantism in general, for Puritanism, British religious history, for attitudes to the authority of scripture, and for American religious origins. [Read More…]

The Reformation, in Verse

In 2017, we are going to be hearing a great deal about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Rather lost in this coverage, though, might be the exceeding slow pace with which Reformation ideas actually permeated many parts of Europe, even those within notionally Protestant states. To illustrate this, I will here tell the story [Read More…]

The Nightmare Before Halloween

I love Halloween, and I love horror fiction. One of the most powerful and evocative contributions to both areas is a lengthy poem that is now regarded as one of the greatest exemplars of modern poetry in the British Isles. As we approach Halloween, it amply repays your attention. The poem is the Ballad of [Read More…]

The Ghosts of Stonehenge

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and ’tis the day’s, and a good time to think of lost worlds and ghosts – in this case, the phantoms of bygone faiths. I offer a strange story, which raises some intriguing questions about the possible limits of popular memory in a non-literate society. And although this concerns ancient Britain, [Read More…]

WELSH AMERICA, AMERICAN WALES

I recently posted about the sizable and often under-appreciated presence of Welsh people in America. As with many immigrant groups, the relationship between home country and new land was complex and remarkably long-lived. Generally, people did not just up and move to America, immediately losing all interest in their older countries. For one thing, it [Read More…]