‘And they took Jesus and led him away. And he bare his cross..’
At this point in the reading of the Passion on Good Friday in the church of Romont situated in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland, the congregation begin their procession out of the church and through the streets of the village. Les Pleureuses (the mourners), clothed and veiled in black, slowly follow the Virgin Mary, portrayed by a young girl; she walks behind the large wooden cross carried by a penitent wearing a black hood. The symbols of the Passion are carried on scarlet cushions: namely a crown of thorns, a whip, nails, tongs and St Veronica’s shroud.
This Pre-Reformation custom dates back to the fifteenth century and is, to this day, taken so seriously by the churchgoers in this small fortified hilltop town that there is virtually no publicity. The only concession to a congregation larger than normal is the loudspeakers to relay the proceedings to the faithful unable, or unwilling, to enter the church. The message of Christ on the Cross, the despair of Good Friday is still being communicated simply, solemnly and reverently, as it has been for many centuries, to all who will listen.
After such an experience it was not possible to contemplate writing an editorial until Easter – the joyful news of the resurrection and the beginning of a new Christian year celebrated in a flower-bedecked church. This new beginning also heralds changes in the organization and look of the Journal. After many years of successful collaboration with our printer/publisher Keith Diment, we are moving on. We are indebted to Keith for his unstinting loyalty and cheerful help in spite of the stress we Journal editors must have inflicted on him at times. We wish him a happy and deadline-free life!
For this Journal I have been fortunate to receive copious and quality copy. David Daniell has been kind enough to let us publish in full his Geneva Conference lecture ‘The Geneva English Bible: the Shocking Truth’. His forthcoming book ‘The Bible in English: Its History and Influence’ to be published by the Yale University Press in May 2003 includes pioneering chapters on the Geneva Bibles – a scoop indeed. To broaden your knowledge there is a report on the exhibition at the Bodleian Library about its founder, Thomas Bodley. His father, John, helped finance the Geneva Bible and I will be writing about the family in future issues.
Carsten Thiede has allowed me to print a full report on his fascinating ‘amuse bouche’ entitled ‘Reconstructing Manuscripts using Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy’ which he delivered to the delight and interest of the Geneva delegates before his main talk, which has already been fully reported in the last Journal issue No. 20. This paper describes the way theologians and historians are employing cutting edge technology to further their research – a trend, I feel, of which Tyndale would have wholeheartedly approved! David Norton, a renowned expert on the bible as literature and author of a recent book entitled ‘A History of the English Bible as Literature’ published by Cambridge University Press June 2000, has found time in his New Zealand summer to write a review of Alister McGrath’s recent book ‘In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible’.
Although the information is available on the Society’s website, we still have some ‘unnetted’ members, and I am totally unrepentant about publishing all the details available to date of the 4th International Tyndale Conference in Antwerp entitled ‘The Reformation in the Low Countries and Beyond: Impact and Identity’ organized by Dr Guido Latré from Leuven, Belgium. It promises to be an excellent event certainly the largest, and possibly the best, the Society has ever run. We are hoping that you will all leave your Journals ostentatiously around to recruit as many delegates as possible. I have always maintained that members of our Society have benefited from Leuven’s centuries old conscience for martyring Tyndale and this conference is certainly proof of that. Furthermore, rumour has it that during the Conference the Bishop of Antwerp – no less – is offering to make a gesture of reconciliation in his Cathedral for the whole affair. Surely if this is the case, I muse to myself, the Bishop of London should bear some responsibility and even issue a counter apology since his rejection of Tyndale caused the poor man to flee abroad in the first instance? But that would be resurrecting the quarrels of the Reformation and its Counterpart anew.
Returning to websites, Deborah Pollard has written an excellent guide and description of ours in this issue. It is being updated and improved all the time. Perhaps after reading her article, the ‘unnetted’ will be tempted to go forth and buy computers! Our website is certainly expanding and getting more interesting under Deborah’s management from Canada.
You will notice that the usual regular features are still appearing. There is yet another of Neil Inglis’s book reviews in his very personal style and he supplies me enthusiastically with snippets for the Anglo-American Press Gleanings. Decorated murals and Bible thefts are this issue’s themes. Many of his other fascinating snippets will be sifted, sleuthed and reported on in due course. Our faithful ploughboys, David Ireson and David Green, have again ensured that the editor is not short of material but their fellows have been rather silent! David Green has reported on the Gloucester Lecture given by the Revd Nicholas Bury ‘New Wine in Old Bottles’ in October 2001 and David Ireson has contributed his early morning Lent meditations in ‘Getting into Deep Water’. A large part of the summer Journal will be devoted to poetry and music about Tyndale, and it, therefore, seemed appropriate to publish David Green’s ‘Death at Vilvoorde’ poem then as it is extremely relevant to the Antwerp Conference.
I should like to express my gratitude to my faithful band of contributors and to the new ones who have recently jumped on board. For this issue a special debt of thanks is due to Judith Munzinger for her welcome and efficient help with editing and proof reading. Perhaps the Swiss Post Office should also be thanked for an incredible overnight delivery services from Judith’s computerless mountain chalet to a small town in the Genevan countryside!
I enjoy and appreciate receiving letters, comment and copy from everyone. Please keep communicating and let us hope that the new look Journal for the new Christian year with your help and support will continue to intrigue, inform and improve.