Wednesday 15 November 2023

GEMMS Virtual Lecture: Hannah Yip, "'Sir Henry Vane’s Affection to the Ministery’: Sermons by the unordained”

There is less than a week before Hannah Yip's free virtual lecture, "'Sir Henry Vane’s Affection to the Ministery': Sermons by the unordained" on Tuesday, 21 November 2023 at 5:00-6:30 GMT/12:00-1:30 EST!

To register to join us live or receive a link to the recording later, see

We hope to you can join us!

Lecture abstract:

"Although there has been extensive research which has explored the preaching of the Ranting sects of the English Civil Wars, the wider phenomenon of sermons delivered by unordained preachers in the seventeenth century remains to be addressed. This lecture will address the handwritten survivals of these sermons (including reports of them, drafts, and full transcripts), the contexts in which these sermons were composed and preached, and their significance for further study. This lecture also seeks to question the approach of these individuals towards writing sermons, from politicians such as Sir Henry Vane the younger, who preached regularly to his family, to polymaths such as the orientalist Edward Bernard, exploring their motivations for preaching and their intended audiences and readers."

Monday 30 October 2023

Call for papers: Preachers, Hearers, Readers, and Scribes: New Approaches to Early Modern Sermons in Manuscript

The collaborators on GEMMS: Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons invite proposals for papers on sermons in manuscript from 1530 to 1715 for a conference to be held 3-5 October 2024 at Harvard Divinity School and the Congregational Library, Cambridge and Boston, MA. Featured keynote speakers are Dr. Frank Bremer (Millersville University), Dr. David Hall (Harvard University), and Professor Ann Hughes (Keele University).

We are particularly interested in presentations that make use of the GEMMS database ( or the types of manuscripts included in GEMMS, which focuses on sermons, sermon notes, and reports of sermons and preaching.

We would welcome proposals on a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to):
  • comparisons of preaching practices across the Atlantic world
  • the contents or contexts of individual sermons, sets of sermon notes, or sermon collections
  • sermons related to particular Biblical passages
  • particular genres of, or occasions for, sermons
  • sermons preached at particular venues or in specific regions
  • the responses of auditors and/or readers of sermons, or note-taking practices
  • women’s relationships with sermons and preaching
  • comparative perspectives on sermon manuscripts in other languages or religious traditions
  • preaching patterns and methods
  • compilers, collectors, or owners of sermon manuscripts
  • related manuscript materials, such as liturgical, doctrinal and devotional manuscripts
  • perspectives of librarians or archivists on manuscript sermon collections
  • use of digital tools and methods to study sermon manuscripts or related data
  • related early modern digital resources

Proposals should indicate a preference for longer papers of 20 minutes or shorter papers of 10 minutes. Please include a title and an abstract of 250-300 words. We are also happy to consider other kinds of presentations, such as demonstrations, workshops and roundtable discussions. Select publications will be included in a special issue of Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme.

Send proposals to Jennifer Farooq,, no later than 1 January 2024.

Friday 23 June 2023

GEMMS Virtual Lecture: Catherine Evans, "'Sweete Words' and 'Lasting Monuments': Manuscript sermons, letters, and poetry"

 There is only 4 days left before the next GEMMS virtual lecture by Catherine Evans, ""'Sweete Words' and 'Lasting Monuments': Manuscript sermons, letters, and poetry" on Tuesday, June 27!

To join us live on Zoom or to the receive a link to the recording, register at

We hope you can join us!

Lecture abstract:

“A verse may find him whom a sermon flies”, as George Herbert writes in The Church Porch. Herbert may have been pre-emptively batting away criticism for taking time away from composing and delivering sermons to dedicate himself to the poetic arts, suggesting that for some poetry would be more effective as a spur to devotion. This talk will consider the relationship between verse and sermon from the perspective of the lay reader, examining manuscript poetry written in response to hearing or reading sermons. These include poems by a wife about her clergyman husband’s preaching, verses by an Essex cloth worker on his own sermon attendance, and a reworking of a funeral sermon in rhyme. If, as Arnold Hunt has discussed, we need to consider how sermons taught their hearers to listen to rhetoric and recall the word of the Bible, how did they also move them to create new texts and transform them into poetry?

In A Call to Come to Christ, a poem found in a religious manuscript miscellany once belonging to Lady Betty Bruce Boswell, Elizabeth Melville rewrites Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love: “Come live [with me] and be my love/ And all these pleasures thou shalt prove… O loath this life and live with me/ This life is but a blast of breath”. She transforms the words of “lawless lust” and “love profane” into “that living well/ Which shall thy dwining [thirsting] drowth expell”. Research for GEMMS has demonstrated that manuscript sermons often sit beside all sorts of “profane” material: personal account books, recipes, and extracts of amatory verse to name a few. By exploring the poetry that sits alongside sermons, and in many cases was inspired by them, this talk will situate sermons within the broader literary landscape of the time.

Wednesday 31 May 2023

GEMMS Virtual Lecture: Lucy Underwood "Preaching the Counter-Reformation in England"

There is only a week until Lucy Underwood's virtual lecture "Preaching the Counter-Reformation in England" on June 7!

Register today to join us live or receive a link to the recording later.

Lecture abstract:

"After the accession of Elizabeth I, Catholicism became a prohibited religion in England. Yet, from the 1570s onwards, the project of the ‘English Mission’ was to bring the Catholic Reformation, which in this case may be properly called a ‘Counter-Reformation’, to England. Like proponents of Catholic Reform elsewhere, they knew the value of preaching, but like other Catholic practices, Catholic preaching happened in the shadows, passing unnoticed except when people got caught. It is therefore difficult for historians to trace: we know it happened, but when, where, how often and – crucially – what was preached has been very difficult to know. There has been more scholarly focus on the practices Catholics used to substitute for preaching and sacraments, when access to a priest was dangerous and infrequent – the printed word becoming especially important.

However, sources on Catholic preaching do exist. This lecture will trace those clues, and will examine the texts of Catholic sermons which survive from the century following the Protestant Reformation – some preached in English Catholic institutions in exile, others, it seems, in England itself. What missionary priests preached, and what English Catholics heard from them, are key to understanding how the Counter Reformation helped to create Catholic communities which could survive in Protestant England."

Monday 8 May 2023

GEMMS Virtual Lecture: Mary Morrissey "Sermons in series and fragments" 11 May 2023

There is only three days until Mary Morrissey's virtual lecture: "Sermons in series and in fragments: GEMMS, the archive, and finding the Spital and Rehearsal sermons"!

Register today to attend live or to watch the recording later:

Mary will be discussing the annual Spital and Rehearsal sermons preached at St Mary's Spital and St Paul's Cross. She will consider the particular challenges in recovering textual witnesses to these sermons and in classifying and interpreting them.
Mary will particularly highlight how databases likes GEMMS can help with these challenges.

This is the first in a series of lectures hosting by GEMMS in the spring and fall of 2023. Here is the list of our upcoming lectures.