The parish clergy in the diocese of Canterbury and archdeaconry of Bedford in the reign of Charles I and under the Commonwealth
This study is concerned with the nature of the parish ministry in the diocese of Canterbury and archdeaconry of Bedford, its educational, professional, economic and social status, its work and its relations with the laity. It is also concerned with the impact of the Civil War and Interregnum on the profession. The pre-Civil War clergy formed a professional group with its own hierarchy, set of rules, rudimentary form of training and career structure. There was a strong sense of professional identity amongst them. The parish ministry was a popular profession in which most ministers could expect resonable renumeration and some chance of promotion. It can be termed a distinct social group, reasonably close to the gentry in social standing. It is likely that most ministers fulfilled their duties; and it is also likely that behind many presentments for clerical negligence lay local conflicts. Between the Scylla and Charybdis of Arminianism and Laudianism on the one hand and Puritanism on the other lay the Anglicanism of the majority of the pre-Civil War clergy. The 1640's and 1650's was a period of extreme but temporary dislocation for the profession. A significant number of ministers were deprived of their livings. Few of these were avid Laudians or implacable opponents of parliament. Many ministers found it difficult to collect their tithes. However, the overall adverse effects of the upheavals of this period should not be exaggerated, for a number of the ejected ministers made peace with parliament and were given new livings. Others were restored to the Church in the early 1660%. Most ministers escaped ejection; and many Anglican ministers survived in their livings undisturbed and it is likely that a number still used the traditional liturgy. The Anglican Church thus survived at a local level into the Restoration period.