William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645
January 10, 2021 was a day packed with importance in the life of the church. The church celebrated the 1st Sunday after Epiphany, recognized the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Another event shared the day in the cycle of the church. It was the day that we recognize the life, ministry and martyrdom of Archbishop William Laud.
William Laud, born in 1573, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, having been Charles the First’s principal ecclesiastical adviser for several years before. He was the most prominent of a new generation of Churchmen who disliked many of the ritual practices which had developed during the reign of Elizabeth the First, and who were bitterly opposed by the “Puritans.”
Laud believed the Church of England to be in direct continuity with the medieval Church, and he stressed the unity of Church and State, exalting the role of the king as the supreme governor. He emphasized the priesthood and the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and caused consternation by insisting on the reverencing of the Altar, returning it to its pre-Reformation position against the east wall of the church, and hedging it about with rails.
As head of the courts of High Commission and Star Chamber, Laud was abhorred for the harsh sentencing of prominent Puritans. His identification with the unpopular policies of King Charles, his support of the war against Scotland in 1640, and his efforts to make the Church independent of Parliament, made him widely disliked. He was impeached for treason by the Long Parliament in 1640, and finally beheaded on January 10, 1645.
Laud’s reputation has remained controversial to this day. Honored as a martyr and condemned as an intolerant bigot, he was compassionate in his defense of the rights of the common people against the landowners. He was honest, devout, loyal to the king and to the rights and privileges of the Church of England. He tried to reform and protect the Church in accordance with his sincere convictions. But in many ways he was out of step with the views of the majority of his countrymen, especially about the “Divine Right of Kings.”
He made a noble end, praying on the scaffold: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”*
In the Old Testaments Scriptures we are promised:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the LORD will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the LORD, *
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land,*
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation,*
and all your portals, Praise.
The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The LORD will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.
ISAIAH 60:1-3, 11, 14, 18-19 ESV
The Lord is our everlasting light, even in times of fear, uncertainty and apparent darkness. In remembering Archbishop Laud we pray:
Collect of the Day William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1645 O God, our heavenly Father, you raised up your faithful servant William Laud to be a Bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP2019)
Archbishop Laud inspires us to remain true to the faith to the end. When we look to our present times remain vibrant in our prayers and faith. One of our prayers well suited to our times is this:
For Trustfulness in Times of Worry and Anxiety
Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
#80, BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (2019)
*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 2652-2668). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.