Exiles at Home: Crises, Letters and Pastoral Care

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Several forms of crisis in seventeenth-century Britain positioned protestant nonconformists and religious dissenters as exiles at home. Disestablishment of state church structures, government persecution, and the ravages of civil war meant that the practices of pastoral care within these communities had to adapt. This presentation focuses on the integral role played by letters: as a way of providing pastoral care to dispersed or exiled community members, thus making an important contribution to a developing puritan literary tradition within the broader European and transatlantic republic of letters, and as a means by which nonconformists, later dissenters, sought to record their own narrative of the British civil wars and revolution following the restoration of Charles II, promoting a countercultural reformation project. Two case studies will illustrate the range of epistolary responses to these political and religious crises: the correspondence of the Scottish covenanter, Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600-61) and that of the English nonconformist, Richard Baxter (1615-91).