Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Inspiration for Bible Sunday

This Sunday is Bible Sunday. The parish where I served in Nottingham, Nuthall St Patrick, was the home of one of the protestant martyrs associated with the Reformation movement to make the scriptures available to people in English. Anne Ayscough (sometimes written 'Askew') lived, for a time, in the small village of Nuthall. She married Thomas Kyme, a Lincolnshire farmer, and had two children. She believed that the ordinary people should be able to hear the scriptures read in their own language. She herself read from the bible, in English, at a lectern in Lincoln cathedral and she became a public preacher. Eventually she was caught up in the unsuccessful plot to have Catherine Parr (Henry VIII's last wife) branded a traitor for religious reasons and she was racked and burned at the stake aged around 26, having refused to give the names of her alleged accomplices. Her story is told in Foxe's Martyrs.

Sitting in the quiet twelfth century church in Nuthall, I used to wonder how such an ordinary girl could have sustained such a passion for people to hear and know the Word of God through the scriptures. In her own way, she took up a cause that she believed would make a contribution to the faith of the ordinary folk of the church at a time when national debate was raging around the Reformation issues we understand through the eyes of hindsight today. Where did her commitment to the cause come from? How was she educated and what well-springs of personal courage saw her through her terrible ordeal? What happened to her children? What did they know of their mother's cause and the sacrifices she chose to make? Not very much is known about Anne and the questions that hang in the air are more tantilising than the facts we have. Her intelligence, theological knowledge and bravery under interrogation and torture were legendary.

At Nuthall, a local farming family gave the lectern bible to the church; as they said, the farmer works to bring bread to people and so it was also appropriate that they should provide knowledge of the true bread of life (one of the ways Jesus refers to Himself in scripture) by giving the bible that was read at very service. The lectern was a particularly poignant symbol in St Patrick's Nuthall, a place where many generations were reminded of the cost of having the scriptures available in translations that everyone can understand.

To read Anne's very moving story, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Askew

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the translation of the King James Bible, a special evensong was held at Ripon Cathedral last Sunday at which the preacher was the Very Revd Dom Henry Wansbrough, a biblical scholar and a Benedictine monk from the community at Ampleforth Abbey. To read about this and to see photographs of the 1611 and 1613 ('Judas') bibles owned by the cathedral Chapter, see

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