Reformation Revisited

Something that has received surprisingly little media coverage in the UK this autumn is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Given that this movement of challenge to the establishment of the day had such profound effect on society with “common man” being able to read and study the bible in “his” own tongue, perhaps it is because the Reformation was embroiled in politics, personal and national agendas, that it’s too sensitive for a country currently grappling with its own existential crisis.

However,one of the many bonuses of belonging to a worshiping community in the international city of Cambridge is the opportunities it brings for colourful historical events with international links.  

Three years ago, an example of this was a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Elizabeth I visit to Cambridge and now marking the Reformation has given another exciting opportunity. On Saturday, with the help of History Needs You and Remembering the Reformation Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Great St Mary’s church was transported back to medieval Germany and England.   Twitter/historyneedsyou

With a life-size replica of the original printing press, kindly loaned by University of Cambridge Library, medieval instruments playing, stories shared, arts and crafts and tasty Tudor treats, the hustle and bustle of the market place was brought alive in the nave of this ancient building.

The day culminated in a dramatic retelling from the pen of the talented Matthew Ward, historian and performer and consultant, and the actual words of the historical characters of a 50 years slice of Reformation history.  The events were brought vividly to life with costume, music and the characteristic wit of this troop.

I was delighted to once more be involved in a GSM historical spectacle. This time, to play the role of Miles Culver, the bible translator, but at short notice being promoted to the role of Archbishop Matthew Parker! It was a very strange feeling to stand in the pulpit of Great St Mary’s although not for my first time, however this time dressed as a Cambridge national historical figure and being aware of the ghosts of so many who had stood there before me.

I understand why some are nervous in such volatile times as ours to recreate the turbulent and at times very bloody events of the Reformation. However, I believe that in order to understand our present, we must look to our past and only by looking at our past and remembering it, can we hope and pray for a more enlightened tomorrow.




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