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The "Book of Common Prayer"

A Biography

Alan Jacobs

While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer--from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.

The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations, protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the devotional lives of men and women across the globe.

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Book of Harmony

Spirit and Service in the Lutheran Confessions

by Martin J. Lohrmann

The Reformation-era writings that make up the Lutheran Confessions remain lively resources for Christian ministry and mission today. Because each of the documents within the Book of Concord was written with a specific context and rhetorical purpose in mind, each has its own compelling story and objectives. Luther’s catechisms present the faith for daily life at the grass-roots level, with teaching elements that we might now view as typical of social media and multimedia. The Augsburg Confession and its Apology provide an adaptable foundation for preaching, teaching, church organization, and dialogue that is rooted in the promise of Christ, received through faith. Fifteen years after the Diet of Worms, the Smalcald Articles reveal yet another “Here I stand” moment for Luther. Finally, the Formula of Concord shows how the next generations of Lutherans used collaboration and consensus as they wrestled with important themes of faith and life. In summary, as these texts engage us with their stories, they invite us to consider what is most important about our journeys of faith and Christian witness in today’s twenty-first-century contexts.

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Border Lines

The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

By Daniel Boyarin

The historical separation between Judaism and Christianity is often figured as a clearly defined break of a single entity into two separate religions. Following this model, there would have been one religion known as Judaism before the birth of Christ, which then took on a hybrid identity. Even before its subsequent division, certain beliefs and practices of this composite would have been identifiable as Christian or Jewish.In Border Lines, however, Daniel Boyarin makes a striking case for a very different way of thinking about the historical development that is the partition of Judaeo-Christianity.

There were no characteristics or features that could be described as uniquely Jewish or Christian in late antiquity, Boyarin argues. Rather, Jesus-following Jews and Jews who did not follow Jesus lived on a cultural map in which beliefs, such as that in a second divine being, and practices, such as keeping kosher or maintaining the Sabbath, were widely and variably distributed. The ultimate distinctions between Judaism and Christianity were imposed from above by "border-makers," heresiologists anxious to construct a discrete identity for Christianity. By defining some beliefs and practices as Christian and others as Jewish or heretical, they moved ideas, behaviors, and people to one side or another of an artificial border—and, Boyarin significantly contends, invented the very notion of religion.

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A Bridge Across the Ocean

The United States and the Holy See between the Two World Wars

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The British Zion

Congregationalism, Politics, and Empire, 1790-1850

Michael A. Rutz

Drawing upon extensive archival research and a wide range of secondary sources, The British Zion traces congregationalist missionaries’ involvement in domestic and colonial politics in early nineteenth-century Britain. As Michael A. Rutz ably demonstrates, evangelical nonconformists actively campaigned from both the Empire’s metropolitan centers and its periphery to extend religious liberty and civil equality in Britain, open colonial territories to evangelization, abolish slavery, and secure civil rights for indigenous peoples. Moving beyond the dichotomizing pictures of evangelical missionaries as either the advance forces of colonial domination or innocuous humanitarians and educators, Rutz carefully examines the humanitarian and theological impulses of the missionary movement while critically examining its political, social, and cultural impact within the larger development of the British Empire.

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A Brutal Unity

The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church

Ephraim Radner

To describe the Church as "united" is a factual misnomer—even at its conception centuries ago. Ephraim Radner provides a robust rethinking of the doctrine of the church in light of Christianity's often violent and at times morally suspect history. He holds in tension the strange and transcendent oneness of God with the necessarily temporal and political function of the Church, and, in so doing, shows how the goals and failures of the liberal democratic state provide revelatory experiences that greatly enhance one's understanding of the nature of Christian unity.

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By Force and Fear

Taking and Breaking Monastic Vows in Early Modern Europe

by Anne Jacobson Schutte

An unwilling, desperate nun trapped in the cloister, unable to gain release: such is the image that endures today of monastic life in early modern Europe. In By Force and Fear, Anne Jacobson Schutte demonstrates that this and other common stereotypes of involuntary consignment to religious houses-shaped by literary sources such as Manzoni's The Betrothed-are badly off the mark.

Drawing on records of the Congregation of the Council, held in the Vatican Archive, Schutte examines nearly one thousand petitions for annulment of monastic vows submitted to the Pope and adjudicated by the Council during a 125-year period, from 1668 to 1793. She considers petitions from Roman Catholic regions across Europe and a few from Latin America and finds that, in about half these cases, the congregation reached a decision. Many women and a smaller proportion of men got what they asked for: decrees nullifying their monastic profession and releasing them from religious houses. Schutte also reaches important conclusions about relations between elders and offspring in early modern families. Contrary to the picture historians have painted of increasingly less patriarchal and more egalitarian families, she finds numerous instances of fathers, mothers, and other relatives (including older siblings) employing physical violence and psychological pressure to compel adolescents into "entering religion." Dramatic tales from the archives show that many victims of such violence remained so intimidated that they dared not petition the pope until the agents of force and fear had died, by which time they themselves were middle-aged. Schutte's innovative book will be of great interest to scholars of early modern Europe, especially those who work on religion, the Church, family, and gender.

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Care of Souls and the Rhetoric of Moral Theology in Bonaventure and Thomas, The

The fourth annual series of Bonaventure Lectures (1990) given at St. Bonaventure University addresses the unique teaching technique of St. Bonaventure from the perspective of modern hermeneutics.

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The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity

by Éric Rebillard; translated by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings and Jeanine Routier-Pucci

In this provocative book Éric Rebillard challenges many long-held assumptions about early Christian burial customs. For decades scholars of early Christianity have argued that the Church owned and operated burial grounds for Christians as early as the third century. Through a careful reading of primary sources including legal codes, theological works, epigraphical inscriptions, and sermons, Rebillard shows that there is little evidence to suggest that Christians occupied exclusive or isolated burial grounds in this early period.

In fact, as late as the fourth and fifth centuries the Church did not impose on the faithful specific rituals for laying the dead to rest. In the preparation of Christians for burial, it was usually next of kin and not representatives of the Church who were responsible for what form of rite would be celebrated, and evidence from inscriptions and tombstones shows that for the most part Christians didn't separate themselves from non-Christians when burying their dead. According to Rebillard it would not be until the early Middle Ages that the Church gained control over burial practices and that "Christian cemeteries" became common.

In this translation of Religion et Sépulture: L'église, les vivants et les morts dans l'Antiquité tardive, Rebillard fundamentally changes our understanding of early Christianity. The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity will force scholars of the period to rethink their assumptions about early Christians as separate from their pagan contemporaries in daily life and ritual practice.

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