This is the chant which has been sung on Easter Saturday by an all-male choir of Estavayer-le-Lac in the Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland since pre-Reformation times. Historians with a distinctly Protestant point of view often tend to ignore the fact that Catholicism lives on and that its adherents are often more prepared to continue their traditions and make an outwardly demonstration of their Christian beliefs than those of the reformed persuasion. At the stroke of midnight the singers, intoning Gregorian chants, to the accompaniment of musicians on brass instruments walk in procession round this picturesque town, as they have done since 1300. Their way takes them past the Dominican monastery, the school of the Sacred Heart and finally up a mediaeval flight of steps which symbolizes the ascent of our Lord into heaven. The most joyful spectators of this lay procession are the Dominican sisters who cry from their rarely opened windows ‘Happy Easter’ to the world which has come to their threshold.

One of this closed order of nuns wrote to me recently to say ‘I trust that your computer is in better health … it is interesting how Tyndale seems to have caught on. I hope the Geneva Conference in the autumn will stimulate people further still. Some of the modern communication terms in your letter fascinate me whilst leaving me almost as in the dark as if they were Chinese - I can grasp ‘computing’ and ‘faxing’ but ‘E-mailing’ and ‘logging on to the network’ leave me intrigued. When I left the world forty-four years ago we did not even have the TV at home. Believe it or not, one of my early recollections in life is when my parents, in a go-ahead way, had a telephone installed.’ This nun is surely experiencing, albeit partially, a revolution in communications technology akin to that witnessed by Tyndale and his contemporaries in the sixteenth century with the introduction of printing itself. We can only guess at the confusion of monks laboriously copying out manuscripts with imperfect pens in poorly lit cloisters on hearing that a German had a wonderful machine that can turn out numerous copies in a fraction of the time. The fascinating controversy over the exact method of production, as discussed in the report Gutenberg Dethroned in this Journal, is, nonetheless, a mere side issue compared to the impact Gutenberg’s invention and its exploitation had on their world.

This theme of progress and communication was very much in the mind of Jeremy Vine, a man of technology and words if ever there was, when he gave his fascinating ‘Instead of Lambeth’ lecture in London this March: Out of Africa. He told us of the unforgettable, poignant moment when his African housekeeper dictated to him for typing on his computer a message to the mourners on the death of her nephew. This barely literate woman recognized the value of education and modern communication methods and spent her meagre income educating this young man, when he had been orphaned, so that he was able to pursue an all too short career as a radio journalist. Joan Wilson has reported for us on this excellent lecture, which managed to link the theme of Tyndale and modern Africa with consummate ease.

A strong feature in this issue is the excellent book reviews. Rabbi Britchto has commented on Carsten P. Thiede’s new book The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of Christianity. Incidentally, Prof. Thiede will be one of the main speakers at the Geneva Conference this coming October. Prof. Peter Brooks has written a very thoughtful review on The Bible as Book: the Reformation. Neil Inglis has contributed a review in his inimitable style. His article in the December 2000 Journal provoked Don Millus to write An Answer to Inglis in true Tyndalian tradition! The Editor is pleased that her computer is in good enough health to cope with this possible million-word controversy!

Bill Cooper continues his Gleanings from Foxe series by recounting the paschal misdemeanor of Roger Bernard; and Mary Clow relates the tragic story of Murdoch Nisbet’s 1520 Scots vernacular Bible in Stepping out of Time into Eternity. Gordon Jackson, the first Editor of this Journal, shares his thoughts with us on Scripture and Texts. The Illustrated London News article on The Tyndale Monument opening in 1866 was to have fitted in nicely with the re-opening ceremony of the renovated monument this year. Unfortun-ately, foot-and-mouth disease put paid to that idea by delaying the work.

It is most heartening that you, our readers, continue to write in and the contacts do seem to be bearing fruit. David Green’s delightful sketch of Cam Church is the result of one of his Tyndale sleuthing missions. America is still with us as the Let There be Light exhibition continues its success under Joe Johnson’s capable guidance. In this issue you will find information about publications, events and the Conferences planned in the next year or so - Wells, Geneva and Leuven.

At the Wells Conference, which has an excellent all-round programme for academics and ploughboys alike, we will no doubt learn in great detail of the devotion, bravery and terrible death of the Abbot of Glastonbury. He defended his monastery to the bitter end: he defied the King by appearing in person in Parliament at London (one of only three Abbots to do so) to oppose the passing of the Dissolution Act of 1539 and he courageously held off the suppression commissioners (Richard Pollard, Thomas Moyle and Richard Layton) or ‘visitors’ as the politically correct term of the 16th century describes them, for some time before they seized him, his monks, his monastery’s enormous treasure and subjected him to such a dreadful death that the horror of it lived on for centuries in the West of England. A Somerset peasant, visiting Glastonbury on his way to London in the 17th century, sung of the fate of Whiting and his Abbey:

Ice azked whose tooke downe the leads an the beels,
And thay tould me a doctar that lived about Wels:
In the 7th of Jozhua pray bid them goe looke,
Chill be hanged if thick same chaptar be not out of his booke.
Vor thare you mat reade about Achans wedge,
How thick zame goolden thing did zettz teeth an edge.
‘Tis an ominous thing how this church is abused,
Remember how poor abbott Whitting was used.

(Halliwell, James Orchard: A Collection of Pieces in the Dialect of Zummerzet, London 1843)

Those attending the Wells Conference weekend will be pleased to learn that translation and interpretation advice will be on hand! .

Abbot Richard Whiting seems to have represented the good side of Catholicism. The inhabitants of the West of England were profoundly shocked by the swift and savage suppression of his monastery. As in the survival of the traditional procession of Gregorian chanting citizens of Estavayer we should not get into the mindset that all pre-Reformation activities were necessarily bad or that all its institutions needed to be destroyed. I trust that this Journal through its articles and news and with your invaluable help can maintain a balanced, informed and intellectually stimulating approach to its field of interest.

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Valerie Offord, Easter 2001

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