Christian Identity as Corporate Identity

In the Preface to the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), Archbishop Cranmer stresses the importance of uniform public worship, noting that “heretofore, there hath been great diversitie in saying and synging in churches within this realme: some folowyng Salsbury use, some Herford use, some the use of Bangor, some of Yorke, and some of Lincolne: Now from hencefurth, all the whole realme shall have but one use.”[1] 

Cranmer’s vision is of a nation united in prayer through “use” of common forms of worship and texts for prayer. To enable this uniformity of worship, the Church of England in the reign of Edward VI, produced a series of monumental publications stretching from the Great Bible (1539),[2] through the first Book of Homilies (1547) and the first Books of Common Prayer (1549, 1552), investing enormous resources in enabling Englishfolk to have “one use.”[3]

As a result of the general implementation of Cranmer’s plan for the transformation of corporate religious life in England, as Eamon Duffey puts it, “Cranmer’s somberely  magnificent prose, read week by week, entered and possessed their minds, and became the fabric of their prayer, the utterance of their most solemn and their most vulnerable moments.”[1]  Or, as William Harrison put it in his classic contemporary account of Tudor social life [TH1] , “the minister saith his service commonly in the body of the church, with his face toward the people” so “the ignorant doo not onelie learne diuerse of the psalmes and vsuall praiers by heart, but also such as can read, doo praie togither with [the priest]: so that the whole congregation at one instant powere out their petitions vnto the liuing God.”[2]