06 September 2008

Where I Went on My Summer Vacation, part 3

Another of the sites I visited in Britain this summer was St. Mary's church in the parish of Putney on the south side of the Thames. I didn't attend services there. My father and I had food at the café (an appurtenance that seems to be almost required for English churches now) and visited a small exhibit about the Putney Debates.

In 1647, during the English Civil War, some of the victorious Puritan army met at Putney to debate the shape of the new England government. The first day's session took place in the church (which has been considerably rebuilt since). Some men spoke for nearly universal male suffrage, freedom of religion, and other then-radical ideas.

As it turned out, those discussions were cut short by Charles I's escape from custody. They had little influence on Cromwell's government, and, since the detailed notes weren't rediscovered and published until 1890, no influence on the US Constitution or other steps toward republicanism in the English-speaking world. Still, those documents show such ideas were in the air in 1647, long before society was able to act on them.

Later this summer, St. Mary's at Putney welcomed New Hampshire Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, in England for a meeting of Anglican bishops from all over the world but not welcome at that meeting because he's publicly gay. The BBC has footage of a heckler from outside the parish disturbing Robinson's sermon, and here's the bishop's blog response, which brings it all back to the café.


Anonymous said...

Best Civil War books:

Shattered Summer / Madeleine Polland (YA fiction)

Wintercombe / Pamela Belle (adult fiction)

J. L. Bell said...

I appreciate the recommendations. These are English Civil War books, of course, something we Americans might need a minute to realize.

And I believe Shattered Summer is actually set during the next set of uprisings against the Stuarts, about forty years later.