Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe is handsomely and carefully produced. It provides a relatively new phenomenon in the world of academic publishing—a collection of essays by scholars primarily from the Reformed tradition working on medieval and early modern practices rather than theologies. Some of their names may not be well known in medieval and early modern studies, but they will be judging by the quality of these essays. Five of the authors teach at Calvin College, two at Yale University, one teaches at Concordia Seminary, a Lutheran school, and another is a Lutheran pastor. While there is nothing new in Reformed scholars pursuing these subjects, this is the first collection I know of that gathers them in one book that looks primarily at liturgy, prayer manuals, and other indicators of what the people actually did rather than what the great reformers wrote. The result is fascinating.
The format of these essays is particularly helpful. Each begins with 5-10 pages of primary material followed by another 6-12 pages of careful, even-handed analysis. This method avoids long footnotes that present the text under discussion, provides substantial portions of texts, and allows the reader to read them in a non-critical context before reading a scholarly commentary. It's a good way to teach any primary text; readers should be given a chance to form their own assessments before they are helped to go more deeply into the meaning of the material before them.
Under the first section, "Starting Points for Assessing Continuity and Change" are Margot Fassler's "Psalms and Prayers in Daily Devotion: a Fifteenth-Century Devotional Anthology from the Diocese of Rheims" and Robert N. Kingdon's essay on worship in Geneva before and after the Reformation. The next section: "Complexities of Location and Time Period" is comprised of Frank C. Senn's essay "The Mass in Sweden: From Swedish to Latin?" followed by Bodo Nischan's discussion of Lutheran altars and Reformed communion tables in the late Reformation. (The volume is dedicated to Bodo Nischan who died suddenly in 2001). Three essays address "Worship outside of Church." Karin Maag writes about worship in schools, Susan M. Felch about the development of the English Prayer Book, and Katherine Elliot van Liere about the Catholic reform of the Divine Office in the sixteenth century. Under "Rites of Passage," Kent J. Burreson visits Breslau to examine the continuities and changes in the medieval and Lutheran rites of baptism, while Bryan D. Spinks considers "Conservation and Innovation in Sixteenth-Century Marriage Rites." The concluding section is "Visual and Musical Dimensions" with Henry Luttikhuizen's study of devotional art in Haarlem before and after the introduction of Calvinism, and Robin A. Leaver's chapter on "Sequences and Responsories: Continuity of Forms in Luther's Liturgical Provisions."
John Witvliet's Introduction and Conclusion are excellent examples of how to write such essays. In his conclusion, Witvliet stresses what the essays also make plain: that the reformations were often less a break with past practices than theological analyses may have led scholars to believe. Continuities remained in the midst of changes. The subtitle of this volume is perfectly matched to its contents. The Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship is to be congratulated for funding the original symposium that resulted in this path-breaking book.