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September 22nd 1578

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The strict ways of the Reformation

When the Reformation burst upon Perth the whole pattern of worship changed dramatically.

After the congregation had assembled, the minister started the proceedings by reading a confession of sins, then came a reading from the Old Testament. This was followed by the singing of a psalm, an extemporary prayer and the climax of the service, the minister’s sermon. The service finished with another prayer, the Apostles’ creed and the benediction. Services did not only take place on Sundays but also every Thursday. (To commemorate Knox’s sermon in Perth on Thursday 11th May 1559)

The management of the congregation was in the hands of the Kirk session who legislated, or attempted to legislate, on all matters both religious and secular. Generally there were Baillies in attendance at session meetings and normally the decisions of the Session were subsequently agreed to by the Town Council, though this did not always happen.

From the very beginning, the Kirk Session demanded that all citizens should attend Sunday services. Non-attenders were fined.

Henry Arnot, Alexander Bain and Gabriel Stalker were fined “every ane of them for 6s (Scots) to the poor, because according to their own confession they were absent from the sermon on Sunday.” 

But even those that did attend could not always be trusted to behave in a seemly manner. “John Lindsay submits himself to the discipline of the kirk for the perturbation of the kirk at the time of the administration of the sacrament of baptism.”  He was ordered “to pass about the Cross in linen clothes barefooted and bareheaded, thereafter to come to the public place of repentance the time of the sermon, there publicly to confess his offence.”  Three of his companions were likewise ordered to make their public repentance.

There was worse to come. In 1584 the parish minister complained to the session “accusing Thomas Anderson, before my Lord Gowrie (Provost of Perth at this time) and the Elders, for interrupting of the psalm, and speaking in time of the sermon, and after sermon immediately calling his minister ‘a drunken minister’.”  He was ordered by Lord Gowrie “to be put in fast ward (prison) till he find caution to satisfy the kirk.”  So it went on. Even the children were expected to behave in a proper manner. “All mothers take heed to their bairns that they perturb not the kirk.”  This ordinance did not seem to have much effect for two years later more draconian measures were adopted. “All bairns that perturb the kirk in time of preaching or prayers, shall be warded ay and until they pay 6s 8d (Scots)” 

There was obviously a long way to go until the easy going ways before the Reformation were completely ended.

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