Call for Papers – Ecclesiastical History Society, 2022 Winter Meeting


Theme: Churches and Rites of Passage

Date: Saturday 15 January 2022

Modality: Online via Zoom

How have the rituals which the Churches evolved to mark key points in the lifecycle developed over time, and how have people’s perceptions of them changed?

This theme is intended to prompt sustained reflection on the historical development of rites of passage within Christianity, and where possible on the hinterland between formally articulated ecclesiastical positions, and people’s hopes and fears as they sought to articulate the changed status of themselves, or their loved ones, at the key moments in life and death. This is a theme with great current relevance: school RE syllabuses frequently consider how the world religions mark these events, while Grayson Perry’s recent TV series explained and reinvented ‘modern’ rites of passage for largely secular people. For rites of passage are more than simply liturgical events. As well as investigating the liturgy and doctrine of rites of passage, communications are welcomed that explore how weddings and funerals have generated tensions with ecclesiastical structures, or indeed floated free of them. As the Churches have declined in the West, the rites of passage over which they once presided have developed new rituals and rhythms. Witness debates about same-sex marriage, roadside shrines and the disposal of cremated remains, to name just three.

Each of the rites of passage recognized within historic Christianity has its own particular cultural history and theological significance. Some have been seen as sacramental in nature, generating controversy at the Reformation, for instance, about what was actually taking place in such rites. There are also important methodological questions to be explored about how historians should evaluate the evidence from the sources. How mindful should we be, for example, of Dominic Erdozain’s warning that ‘rites of passage are presented as bulwarks of popular religiosity when their causal, perfunctory and largely instrumental use would suggest otherwise’? How useful is Arnold van Gennep’s theory of liminality, and what else about his approach to rites of passage might still be helpful to us?

Call for Papers

Proposals of 200 words to be sent on this form to by 30 November 2021


Booking fee: £10

To secure a place, please complete the booking form and return to the Conference Organizer, Professor Elizabeth Tingle, via email,, no later than 31 December 2021.

Preliminary Program

9.45     Zoom room opens
9.55     Welcome

10.00   Plenary I: Claire Taylor, ‘Rites of passage and rights in passage. William of Rubruck and Ibn Battuta encounter ritual and protocol in the lands of the Mongols’

11.30   Communications I      
12.30   Lunch Break
13.30   Communications II     
14.30   Break
14.45   Communications III    
15.45   Break

16.00   Plenary II: Liesbeth Van Houts, ‘Intertwining the domestic and the liturgical in central medieval wedding celebrations (England and northern France)’

17.00   Announcement of EHS Book Prize for 2021

For more information, visit the Ecclesiastical History Society website.

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