We ‘Ploughboys’ know our place… and it’s not out of sight in some far off field. It is taking a full part in the life of the Society. Tyndale’s life’s work was for us!
We ‘ploughboys’ have changed over the years. Life was physically hard for Tyndale’s ploughboy. His only respite from working in the fields was on a Sunday, the day when it was his duty to hear the Word read and explained in the parish church. The Gospel was proclaimed and the ploughboy was expected to understand and respond. Obediently he listened to the priest whilst having very little interaction with those standing next to him. When congregations sat in pews dialogue between neighbours became even more difficult. The communication was from the priest in the pulpit to the many individuals facing him. This two dimensional church is still with us today but is failing us. For many it is a familiar and reassuring model of the church. With the priest in control and the congregation in pews the few that remain in our parish churches feel secure but this two dimensional church is rarely a living community. The pews are emptying.
Clergy know full well that we ploughboys need to be able to turn to the Bible and see its immediate relevance to our lives. In silent isolation the vicar takes the set text for the week and crafts a sermon. The text and the vicar’s interpretation of it is then set before the congregation. What is missing is an immediate awareness of the life experience and ever changing needs of those who have come to worship. There is still little dialogue between people in the pews.
There are signs of ‘New Ways of Being Church’, turning the long established model on its head. If the church is to be a living community each member needs to relate first to the person in the pew next to them. Rows of pews facing the pulpit still focus the congregation on the figure at the front. Pews can be a hindrance. Ploughboys need to share their stories with each other and with the priest. They need to be heard and their life experiences affirmed. After they have shared their stories they will gain much more from sharing their reading of a Gospel story. Before members of a community can value the Gospel they must value each other. The priest’s role becomes one of helping to create a community of people who share their stories and are then empowered to change the community they live in after sharing their reading of Gospel stories.
The transition from a two to a three dimensional church is already showing itself to be another painful Reformation. There is resistance from those understandably fearful of change. There are already tens of thousands of ploughboys who find their local church has little to offer them. They hold to faith, but without the support of a worshipping community. We ploughboys have to play our part in saving the church from its own inertia and decay. The Tyndale Society values its ‘ploughboys’. The more academic members of the Society come from three directions… from studying History, Language or Theology. The ploughboy enthusiastically dips into all three aspects of Tyndale’s heritage. The 2005 International Conference in Oxford (15-18 September) is being planned now, and the aspiring Ploughboy will find much in the programme to spark off a life long interest or fuel the enthusiasm he already has. Pass the word to your friends: Ploughboys will be especially welcome at the Fifth International Oxford Tyndale Conference 2005.