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Church and Chapel in Industrializing Society

Anglican Ministry and Methodism in Shropshire, 1760–1785


D. R. Wilson

Church and Chapel in Industrializing Society: Anglican Ministry and Methodism in Shropshire, 1760–1785 envelopes a new and provocative revisionist history of Methodism and the Church of England in the eighteenth century, challenging the Church’s perception as a varied body with myriad obstacles which it dutifully and substantially confronted (if not always successfully) through the maintenance of an ecclesiastically and theologically rooted pastoral ideal. This model was lived out ‘on the ground’ by the parish clergy, many of whom were demonstrably innovative and conscientious in fulfilling their pastoral vocation vis-à-vis the new demands presented by the social, ecclesiastical, political, and economic forces of the day, not least of which was the rise of industrialisation. Contrary to the effete arguments of older cadre church historians, heavily reliant on the nineteenth-century denominational histories and primarily the various forms of Methodism, this book provides a thoroughly researched study of the ministry of John William Fletcher, incumbent of the parish of Madeley at the heart of the industrial revolution, whose own work along with that of his Evangelically minded Anglican-Methodist colleagues found the Church of England sufficiently strong and remarkably flexible enough to rigorously and creatively do the work of the Church alongside their non-Anglican Evangelical counterparts. Despite the manifest challenges of industrializing society, residual dissent, and competition from the Church’s rivals, the Establishment was not incapable of competing in the religious marketplace.
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There is yet no complete collection of the Works of John Fletcher. Indeed, there have been numerous editions published since the 1790s, with the earliest indexed edition, edited by Joseph Benson, being issued from 1806 to 1809 in nine volumes, with a supplemental tenth volume. However, the dispersal of Fletcher’s various letters, treatises, and likenesses after his death made any kind of comprehensive anthology nearly impossible, not to mention the fact that many of his extant manuscripts were written in French and required translation if they were to be published for an English audience. Many of these are yet to be translated and are, for the most part, not even referenced in some of the most significant studies on Fletcher (the works of Streiff and Forsaith excepted). Furthermore, even the most complete editions of Fletcher’s Works vary in their offerings, as would be expected, with formerly unknown works being added to later editions. Frustratingly, however, with each new issue of Fletcher’s works not everything from former editions was included, requiring reference to several editions varying from four to nine volumes between the 1806 and the 1873 editions. The reader of this book is referred to the abbreviations page which identifies the versions used in my references here. Also, a number of Fletcher’s writings (especially letters, but also a few sermons) were published only in periodicals but not in his collected Works. These have been referenced like any other periodical article in the footnotes but are listed with Fletcher’s...

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