Posted by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker text© 2011 on Jun 18th, 2013
Dear Friends of the Fellowship of the Blog,
Greetings again! In contrast to my “crack-of-dawn” previous blog, I greet you this time at nightfall, with the nocturnal “Wee Willie Winkie” in mind. I am thinking how puzzled he would have been to see the brilliant comet-shaped satellite in the night sky outside my window tonight. Look how far he could have accurately run through the town with a Global Positioning System, courtesy of this clever satellite invention. Still, you can only travel so far in just a nightgown!
It occurs to me that Wee Willie could have been a junior Town Crier in his day (or, rather, his night). Rapping at windows and shouting through locks are quite innovative ways for a young Town Crier, focusing on the family by rallying the prayers of little children. The simple prayers of children that, nevertheless, cover and bless the needy adult world around them. So time is also of the essence for the bedtime flock to pray. Hence, Wee Willie’s urgent call: “It’s past eight o’clock!”
In Medieval England, the colorfully dressed Town Crier was the most important method of spreading news to the township; a sort of walking, talking one-man-band Fox News Channel, with a powerful voice as his first qualification, and a big bell to gain attention. He was employed by the town to announce everything from Royal proclamations, market day bargains and lost items, to local laws commanding “peaceable, civility late at night” – perhaps after the news of the crossroads fisticuff squabble in 1620 between the butchers and the bakers in the village of Chester. (Oh, for a Wee Willie Winkie prayer rally in Chester that night!)
Worst of all, consider the Town Crier’s personal risks – sparked by his booming voice announcing tax increases! However, the monarchy was quick with the quill to ensure his filibuster-proof performance of such bad news: a law was written, which still stands today, protecting all Town Criers in the British Commonwealth from being “heckled or hindered while performing their duties.” And the penalty for punching instead of listening to the Town Crier? – an almost “Alice in Wonderland” verdict of “treason“ against the Crown! Nevertheless, all things considered, I think to be fleet of foot would be a handy talent for a Town Crier who was required to vigorously announce tax increases.
The pay for this Medieval Media Man’s services ranged from one to 13 huge, old English pennies. His legacy lives on today, but in the safer confines of shouting contests held for the loudest Town Crier in the world. The champion record to date is 112.8 decibels; (louder than a motorcycle’s 100 decibels). Yet, I wonder what all the shouting is about!
In 1976, during a visit to jolly ole’ England, I was surprised and delighted to unexpectedly come across an English village where the Town Crier still rings a bell and announces at night, “Hear ye! Hear Ye! Eight o’clock and all is well.”
My brother, Jimmy, and I had driven to this village in West Lancashire to see a rare 1560 Geneva Bible (better known as the “Breeches Bible”) that Jimmy insisted was on display in a church there that was over 600 years old. He had seen it on a stand by the church door. Passersby could turn the pages to Genesis 3:7, where Adam and Eve had become the first tailors in the world by clothing themselves in “breeches” made from fig leaves (The King James Version states “aprons”). This sudden tailoring skill came swiftly after they disobeyed God’s clear commandment in the Garden of Eden that they should not eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (God always has good reasons for His Commandments). Then, in spite of living in a Paradise on earth – they ate of the tree!
Immediately, they were desperate to accomplish humanity’s impossible dream of hiding from The Lord God behind breeches. Now that I think about it, all the breeches (high fashion, low fashion, baggy, tight and in-between) made by earthlings to hide from God, should be turned in to the Salvation Army in exchange for the free issue of garments promised in Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in The Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness….” Be assured, dear reader, “Whosoever will” may receive The Lord’s own Gift of righteous garments provided by The Lord Jesus Christ.
The Geneva Bible was a translation produced in 1560 by several Protestant Reformers who had fled to Switzerland because of persecution. This was the first translation of the Bible to reach the shores of America, carried here by the courageous hands of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620. Without question, America was founded on the Rock of our salvation, The Lord Jesus Christ, to which I say: “Blessed is that nation whose God is The Lord.”
Now… did we find the Breeches Bible sitting by the church door? Sadly…no. The prized museum specimen was gone. But Pilgrims are not easily turned back so, not to be eclipsed, brother Jimmy determined to find the vicarage and the answer to the missing Bible. Within five minutes we were in conversation with pleasant Peter, the vicar, who cordially escorted us back to the church for a private look at his now-hidden treasure. “Unfortunately, there have been church robberies of late in some villages, so I put the Bible away in a safe place along with the church silver,” he explained.
Peter then led us to a small room at the back of that old stone church. There appeared to be nothing in the room in which to conceal his treasures. But the mystery was solved when he carefully removed a large stone in the deep wall to reveal a natural cavity filled with beautiful, antique silver, old volumes and the Breeches Bible. He first drew out a journal of baby christenings. “This may be of special interest to you,” he said, grinning as he turned the pages to the year 1776. One entry had recorded that the father could not be present at the christening of his child since he was engaged in the War in America. But to show that all is now well, Peter handed me the Breeches Bible to let me read the same “breeches” verse the Pilgrims read long ago: Genesis 3:7.
And now to finish: I doubt that the present Town Crier Champion of 112 decibels could match the amazing voice of the English “Prince of Open Air Preachers,” George Whitefield. In 1739 he took to the streets and fields when many established churches closed their doors to his message. His message of the “new birth,” in John Chapter 3, came from The Lord Jesus, Himself. Thousands flocked outdoors to hear Whitefield preach and multitudes came to Christ. While Whitefield was preaching the Gospel in America, Benjamin Franklin claimed to have tested Whitefield’s voice and could hear him distinctly for over a mile! But for those of us with smaller voices, remember – we can still “rap at windows and shout through locks!”
This July 4th, I salute those valiant Christian pilgrims who braved the storms of an angry Atlantic Ocean, to reach a new world with the Gospel of Christ and freedom to worship God and claim life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On a personal note… After living in America several years, the time came for me to make the “heart” decision to become a naturalized citizen. The examination process then was extensive. It ended with this stunning question from the examiner, who, with tears in his eyes, asked me: ” Will you be a loyal citizen of America to the extent that you would defend her even against the land of your birth?”
From that day, when I became part of the great proclamation “We The People,” my brother Jimmy in England, named me a “Late Mayflower Pilgrim!” Indeed, I am.
For this July 4th, God bless America!
Christian Mother Goose®
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