This course considers only the English phase of the 16th century Europe-wide Reformation. The Reformation was above all a theological event, that is, a reform of the way people understood their Faith. Faith in this sense means how people understood God’s view of them, what their response to God was to be and how their relation with God was to be understood and lived out. Historians have attempted to sum up the Reformation by calling it a profound attempt to return to a Gospel based New Testaments style of Christianity. As with all such generalizations this one is both true as well as misleading. Every age considers itself striving to be true to the Gospel.

The unique form Reformation took in England involved actions by monarchs, Parliament, the official Church and individuals which resulted in the English Church breaking away from both the jurisdiction of the Pope and the received heritage of western Christendom. Prior to the Reformation, there was only one church in Western Europe – the Catholic Church. Everyone belonged to this trans-national Church administered by the Pope from Rome. National churches like the Church of England and denominations such as Lutheran and Anglican did not exist. There was only one church, everyone belonged to it, worshipped in its buildings and this membership was crucial to their sense of who they were.

The Reformation involved changes in politics, religion, and in what was seen, heard and done inside all church buildings. Churches in 1500 included statues, many paintings, stained glass windows, no hymns, no pews – everyone standing and a priest behind the rood screen saying the Latin Mass. By 1600, the rood screen had been removed completely, all the statues and paintings had been smashed and/or burned along with much of the stained glass, as well, both priest and the Latin Mass were gone. A minister in very plain robes read Morning Prayer and Litany from the English Book of Common Prayer as well as a sermon from a Government approved book of Homilies. A large English Bible was chained to the Lectern. It was commonplace to call the pope, the antichrist and to be an English Roman Catholic was a seditious and treasonous offence punishable by death. How such a transformation came about is the story this course seeks to tell.


On completion of this course you will be able to:

  1. describe the terms Absenteeism, pluralism and Peter Pence
  2. identify why church services in the first half of the 1500’s needed reform
  3. discuss the jurisdictional reforms made during Henry VIII’s reign
  4. list practical service reforms accomplished during the reign of Edward VI
  5. state how Bloody Queen Mary attempted to turn back the clock to Roman obedience and why her efforts failed
  6. describe the Elizabethan Settlement of religion’s Via Media and why both her R C subjects and the more puritan-minded clergy could not accept it
  7. identify the two books which were the pillars of Elizabethan Church life and explain the significance and role of the 39 Articles of Religion

Course Materials

Individual / Small Group Study

Layreaders are encouraged to attend group events if possible, however, this course can be completed via self study or with a small local group.

Course Evaluation

Once you have completed this course, either by yourself or with a group, please submit the course evaluation form, either online or send paper copy to:
Warden of Layreaders
168 Church Street,
Fredericton NB E3B 4C9