Little Hill Church, near Leicester, recently held the first of a series of lectures on the Reformation. This follows the well-received series which took place in 2018.
Three talks will focus on different men living between 1560 and 1660. Their responses to being within the ‘partially reformed’ Church of England will be explored.
The first lecture took place on 25 February; Dr Lesley Rowe spoke on Arthur Hildersham and his sufferings for conscience’ sake.
She began by contextualising Anglicanism in late Elizabethan England. The queen had insisted that no further reformation was permissible. However, many godly ministers took issue with Archbishop Whitgift’s ‘Three Articles’ – mandatory to sign in order to obtain a preaching licence.
They objected to this phrase in the second article: ‘The Book of Common Prayer and of ordering bishops, priests and deacons containeth nothing in it contrary to the word of God’.
Many reformers repudiated this, claiming the Prayer Book contained instructions for unbiblical, Catholic traditions such as making the sign of the cross in baptism, wearing a surplice, and kneeling to receive communion.
Hildersham elected to remain Anglican – albeit as a non-separating non-conformist – in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, where he was lecturer and sometime vicar. Persecution still dogged Hildersham and he continued to receive preaching bans.
For many years, he survived under the protection of the queen and Henry Hastings, Third Earl of Huntingdon, to both of whom he was related.
However, James I disliked Hildersham. He narrowly avoided a second spell of imprisonment by going into hiding in 1616. Despite offers of a pastorate in Holland, Hildersham remained in Ashby where he was beloved by the people he served.
He attended St Helen’s Church and was permitted to lecture there during his final years. He maintained that while the Church of England carried many flaws, it bore the marks of a true church.
The lecture was particularly pertinent when considering the state of the Church of England today. Many evangelical Anglicans face the dilemma of remaining or leaving.
The lecture was well attended and saw the launch of a new book: Preparing for the Lord’s Supper, a modern-day republishing of a 1609 devotional, written by Arthur Hildersham and William Bradshaw and edited by Dr Rowe.