Research

John Knox: icon of the Scottish Reformation?
I graduated with my doctorate in November 2013.  The thesis was entitled:
'Reconciling Performance: the drama of discipline in early modern Scotland, 1560-1610'.

You can access it here:
Doctoral thesis link...

Below is a wee précis of what it was I was messing about with for several years...

In a nutshell the key words that best encapsulate my research area are: sin, guilt, shame, forgiveness, inclusion, exclusion and reconciliation.  Focusing on Scotland in the late 16th to early 17th century, my work examines the Protestant theatre of forgiveness, played out in the kirk session, in the kirk, and in the market place - the emphasis being very much concerned with the dramatic performance of reconciliation.  An examination of practice exploring [the surprising amount of!] continuity with the past is also a strong secondary thread running through my work given that the field in question has primarily focused upon changes after Protestant reform in Scotland.

The first section of the thesis outlined penitential practice in place in Scotland from c.1500-1560, noting both the theoretical framework and actual performance of penance.  This also helped to lay a foundation for building upon the continuity thread later in the thesis.

Section Two moved the work into the 1560-1610 time-frame for the rest of the thesis.  As with Section One, the theoretical framework of church discipline/ making one's repentance was examined.  The subsequent chapters in the section then moved into general practice as found primarily within kirk session records, exploring discipline as a tool for neighbourly reconciliation. The rituals of reconciliation used within cases of verbal dispute were noted and, subsequently, what rituals were required of those who had moved beyond the verbal and into physical violence.  This latter paid particular attention to the matter of blood feud.

New College, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
The latter two sections of the thesis turned to very specific analysis of liturgies written in the first decade after Protestant reform: the Order of the General Fast and The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance.

Having got that little lot happily sorted, there were many times during the process when an 'aha!' would turn up and threaten to divert me from the task in hand.  Given that I've now finished the PhD, there's the rumblings of a plan to daunder back and dig out notes made that had been put in a file to 'look at later.'  One project I'm hoping to undertake will be involve transcribing the Burntisland Kirk Session records for possible printing - this subject to my already receding palaeography skills.  Another line of enquiry involves returning to Protestant fasting again in the light of some recently uncovered evidence from England.  We shall see how the demands of full-time parish work affect said plans!

'theme' music from my time period: music from the Wode Psalter 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ha, never noticed you had this "research" page on the site!

Very interesting project. I remember reading in the Practise & Procedure (Cox) book about Kirk Sessions having to report to Presbytery "tri-lapses" in fornication. Do you recommend bringing this practice back into Church law (or is it still there by default)?

Nik said...

Ah, purity and the people of God; a fascinating conundrum. No such thing as the pure and perfect Church this side of heaven.... and mostly, when I'm not ranting, I'm wary of pointing fingers lest I end up pointing back to myself.

Anonymous said...

Yes, humility and compassion together is the better way.

But seriously, is it still there by default, or will Church Law have rescinded it??!!

Nik said...

McGillivray - pp76-77:
In marked contrast to earlier times, when much of the business of Kirk Sessions was disciplinary, Kirk Sessions nowadays deal pastorally rather than judicially where matters of discipline are concerned.
Frequently the first indication of possibly censurable conduct comes when the matter is raised with the minister, Session Clerk, or some office-bearer by word of mouth. When this happens, it may be enough, and it may also be preferable, for the party in question to be spoken to privately and warned as to future conduct. If this private admonition is accepted, no further action needs to be taken. If, however, such pastoral approach fails, the matter will have to be brought formally to the notice of the Kirk Session.
The Kirk Session may invite the accused to indicate within thirty days a willingness to submit to discipline, or to stand trial if the charge is denied.
If the accused agrees to submit to discipline, the Kirk Session may remit to the Moderator, possibly also with one of the elders, to deal with the accused, and to report back to the Session who can then dispose finally of the matter.
If the invitation to be disciplined is declined, the Kirk Session shall suspend the accused from privileges until he or she does submit to discipline or until the Kirk Session is otherwise satisfied.
If the accused is an office-bearer, he or she is to be suspended from office as well as from privileges while the charge is under consideration.

Weatherhead - p63:
some sins were considered to be so serious that the Kirk Session had to refer cases about them to the Presbytery, and these included "incest...trilapses in fornication, murder, atheism, idolatry, witchcraft, charming, and heresy and error vented and made public...". Kirk Sessions have long since ceased to deal with these things by judicial process, and any sinful actions coming to the notice of a Kirk Session are normally referred to the minsiter, to be dealt with pastorally. Accordingly, the disciplinary procedures in Kirk Sessions are largely of historical interest, and there is no need to detail them here.'

Acts and Styles is also private pastoral, I believe.

Cox and Heron are, I think, pretty out of date now.

My sense is that it has quietly bitten the dust...

Anonymous said...

Wow, very authoritative! That should stop me taking these things to Presbytery!

I guess it was in Weatherhead that I saw the quote from Cox. Anyway, thanks for all the work you put into that.

Nik said...

Yes, Cox didn't appear to have the trilapse section...
No work at all: it took about 10 minutes and I was curious too, so thanks for the question - a fun diversion! :D
A pal of mine was recently in Malawi and was telling me that he'd witnessed the old way of kirk discipline happening there, gosh, eh?

Anonymous said...

Malawi -- I hope they remember about humility and compassion.