Monday, September 15, 2014

History of the Anglican Church LXXXVIII revisited: Puritan Influence on the Church of England

Several entries ago, I had posted a picture of Saint Benet’s, Paul’s Wharf London to illustrate just how much the Church of England had been influenced by the Puritan movement during the reign of Elizabeth I.  It wasn’t an entirely felicitous choice as Saint Benet’s is a Wren Church, designed by Christopher Wren to replace an older church destroyed in the great fire of London, and while it had the traditional puritan accouterments of a holy table rather than an altar and the reredos tablets containing the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Commandments, it really was a seventeenth century Church that reflected the more refined Anglicanism of the 1660 Restoration.  A very helpful reader called me on this and made the following suggestions where I might find some better illustrations. 

Go to the Medieval Church Art blog for Fri 1 Jan 2010 for the church at Hailes, Gloucestershire. That is the wreckovated church I mentioned earlier.
The Holy Table at Hailes 

We have to go to Ireland. Check out images for Ballinderry Middle Church which dates back to Jeremy Taylor. I tried to paste an image but it didn't take. There also was a church which had the holy table surrounded by cushions. The name escapes me, but it was wreckovated a la Dearmer in recent years. I'll have to locate my Chatfield to find the name and pics. I must say that I really enjoy your columns which are truly fair and balanced.

Ballinderry Middle Church

I followed through and include photos of the two churches.  Unfortunately neither of them have the reredos tablets with the requisite Apostles Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Commandments but they are great examples of just how Calvinist the Anglican Church had become.  In the photo of the Church at Hailes—which incidentally has since been reordered with the altar at the east end—we can see the Calvinist position of the holy table in the center of the choir.  In the Ballinderry Church we can see how the large pulpit dominates the worship space, while the holy table, at the east end and railed for communicants, is comparatively insignificant to the triple decker pulpit.  Many modern day Anglicans don’t quite know what to do about this Calvinist take on their worship history.  A funny story—while humor is highly subjective and I find it humorous, you may not—is that the only place where I have ever seen this arrangement of the holy table in the center of the choir is in a Carmelite Chapel in Dundrum, Ireland.  The friars have a retreat center there that is used by a number of non-Catholic groups as well, including the Cathedral Deans and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland, a member Church of the Anglican communion, and in general a “Low Church” member.  Nevertheless, during one such gathering, the visiting Anglican clergy asked if they could relocate the altar from the center of the choir to the apse as it appeared to them too uncomfortably Protestant for their worship.  Too Protestant for an Anglican???  What would John Foxe say???  This is why we all need to know and embrace our own tradition.  
Mass at Dundrum


  1. Carmelites doing a north-ender? My head just exploded.

  2. Well, if he were doing a "north-ender" he would be on the long side of the holy table but the point is well taken in the small chapel it does not come across as Protestant as I have portrayed it by comparing it to the 16th century Anglican practice and were it a square altar which is more common these days---and the ancient practice--it would not be as jarring as I have made it sound. Overall, I was quite impressed by the Liturgy at Dundrum--it is very prayerful and reverent, something one does not find often in Ireland