What can the Twenty-First Century Church of England Learn from the Victorians?

in Ecclesiology
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Present-day Anglicans have an ambivalent attitude to the Victorians. There are, however, as illustrated by a recent project in the diocese of London, important ways in which critical engagement with the past can inform constructive thinking in contemporary churches. In particular an understanding of patterns of church attendance in the nineteenth century provides context for evaluating more recent statistics, while knowledge of the circumstances leading to the building of Victorian churches can inform decisions about their present-day use. Awareness of the sometimes bitterly divided Victorian church helps to set current internal Anglican tensions in proportion, while a long historical perspective can be of assistance in the setting of realistic expectations in the present.

What can the Twenty-First Century Church of England Learn from the Victorians?

in Ecclesiology




A.D. GilbertReligion and Society in Industrial England: Church Chapel and Social Change 1740-1914 (London: Longman1976) p. 28.


John Wolffe‘The Chicken or the Egg? Building Churches and Building Congregations in a Victorian London Suburb’Material Religion9 (2013) pp. 36-59.


Richard Mudie-SmithThe Religious Life of London (London: Hodder and Stoughton1904) p. 447; Peter Brierley (ed.) UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends 6 (Swindon: Christian Research Association 2006) section 12 p. 46.


ColemanChurch of England pp. 40-1 summarizes the results for counties and large towns providing the basis for the analysis in this and the subsequent paragraph.


Thomas Hardy ed. Scott ElledgeTess of the D’Urbervilles (New York: Norton1979) pp. 119-20.


Mudie-SmithReligious Life of London pp. 125 268.


Wolffe‘The Chicken or the Egg?’ p. 51.


John Wolffe‘Bishop Henry Phillpotts and the Administration of the Diocese of Exeter 1830-1869’Transactions of the Devonshire Association 114 (1982) pp. 99-113.


 E.G. Sandford (ed.)Memoirs of Archbishop Temple (2 vols, London: Macmillan1906) i. pp. 273-306.


SandfordTemplei. pp. 526-34.


F.K. AglionbyThe Life of Edward Henry Bickersteth DD Bishop and Poet (London: Longmans Green and Co1907) pp. 194-5.


Jeffrey CoxThe English Churches in a Secular Society (New York: Oxford University Press1982); Robin Gill The Myth of the Empty Church (London: SPCK 1993).


 For example Peter BrierleyThe Tide is Running Out: What the English Church Attendance Survey Reveals (London: Christian Research2000).

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