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Journal > Volumes > 34 (2003) / 4 (Winter)
Brawling in Church: Noise and the Rhetoric of Lay Behavior in Early Modern England
Laura Feitzinger Brown
Converse College

Quoting Rom. 10:17, "Faith commeth by hearing," English reformers stressed the aural in worship and argued that noise in church disturbs not only liturgy and sermon but also the salvation of souls. Visitation articles and ecclesiastical canons regulated the sounds of lay behavior; religious polemic describes liturgical practices as "noisy" to brand them as misguided at best and devilish at worst. William Bradshaw, Peter Smart, John Field, and Thomas Wilcox use noise to condemn "popish" behavior, and Richard Hooker and George Herbert discuss how lay behavior affects hearing the word. The concept of noise intensifies several liturgical debates. Writers' use of noise to condemn a liturgical practice reveals theological differences on what creates order in worship and shapes Christian souls.These texts ostensibly deal with practical problems of noise in church, yet each text's definition of noise implies a stance on impassioned debates over the kinds of worship that best helped the laity to hear God.

Pages: 955 - 972