Pastors and Parishioners in Württemberg During the Late Reformation, 1581-1621

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Stanford University Press, 1995 - Religion - 198 pages
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In recent decades, research on the impact of the Reformation on popular religious life in Germany has sparked a controversy challenging the traditional assumption that Protestantism had a deep and lasting effect on all levels of sixteenth-century life. This study uses previously neglected archival sources, the records of the Wurttemberg church visitations over a forty-year period, to investigate various areas of church life touched on by the debate. The author examines the social and cultural nature of the pastorate as a professional group, areas of conflict and agreement between representatives of the official church and the parishioners, the nature of the church visitations, and the standards and expectations of the visitors concerning lay religious life and discipline.
Church visitations were conducted to inform higher ecclesiastical authorities about the conditions of religious life in individual parishes. The visitors interviewed and reported on members of the community from all walks of life: pastor, mayor, schoolmaster, folk-healer, shepherd, and, in some cases, village drunk. The visitations were used to discipline the clergy and laity through exhortations, warnings, fines, and, in rare cases, imprisonment. The author shows that the system of penalties, sanctions, and persuasions had only mixed success in inhibiting un-Christian behavior. When the church's interest in discipline coincided with the interest of village groups in restraining profligacy or laxity, the church had greater success.
The Wurttemberg records reveal that parishioners showed only moderate zeal in attending the principal Sunday morning service and that weekday and Sunday afternoon services were poorly attended. For communion, many of the laity seem to have felt that an annual participation at Easter services fulfilled their religious obligation. Young people and single adults appeared most often negligent in their attendance at church, sometimes because of the demands of seasonal agriculture, but more often because of general indifference to the church or active resistance to the church's efforts to discipline such festive pastimes as dancing and berry picking.
In the process of investigating the relationship between parishioners and the state church, the author presents information on the clergy's social and geographic origins, education and culture, and economic conditions. He analyzes the attitudes and behavior surrounding popular religious practices and evaluates the church's attempts to reform and regulate family life and social mores.

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About the author (1995)

Bruce Tolley has taught at Stanford University and San Francisco State University.

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