William J. Sheils
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The Act of Toleration, household worship and voicing dissent
Oliver Heywood’s A Family Altar (1693)
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This essay examines the domestic worship of Presbyterians both before and after the Act of Toleration (1689). By investigating the dissenting clergyman Oliver Heywood’s diary and his printed treatise A Family Altar (1693), this essay provides a case study on how centralising prayer became within the godly home. In doing so, it reveals how through his writing on prayer, Heywood configured household worship as a substitute for chapel worship in dissenting circles, blurring the lines between corporate and domestic devotion. Ultimately Heywood’s ministry, writings and devotional exercises show us how the performance of household piety could be a unifying force that helped galvanise the faith of families during trying periods and times of great change.

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