Friday, September 23, 2016

Appreciating the past

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Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook

Faith Cook weaves two intriguing narratives through her book Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England. The first is an account of the political and religious events of the 1500s. Alongside these events we get a very personal picture of what living during this turbulent time was like, through the life of Lady Jane Grey. A genuine Christian, we follow Jane as she tries to live as a Protestant among many (including her own parents) who were only interested in improving their political and economic standing.

One of the explanations of historical events of the time that I found most thought-provoking was how the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was introduced by Thomas Cramner in 1549. Maybe you attend a church meeting that uses the green prayer books? Or maybe your church has a congregation who use them on a regular basis? While the language has been updated, the structure and content of this way of Christians meeting together has largely remained unchanged for 450 years!

It’s hard to imagine now, but the BCP caused considerable outrage when it was introduced. For many, it King Edward’s clearest attempt to make England a Protestant nation. I found it encouraging to read about Edward’s intent for all people to be able to worship God in English (rather than Latin) and  read the Bible for themselves (where previously it had been exclusively the role of clergy). So many generations of people have been brought to a saving relationship with Christ through his Word as a result. I think that it has given me a better appreciation of the BCP, and the richness of it’s wording too.

Conflict and upheaval was reflected in Lady Jane’s life too. As Jane grew closer to becoming a teenager, her family’s quest to find her a suitable husband intensified. Yes you did read that right – a teenager! Really, the search had begun when she was still a small child. Sadly, Jane had little choice and wasn’t consulted in the decision. Her parents, motivated by political greed, wanted to position Jane as a Protestant alternative to succeed King Edward. The teenage king seemed frail and the possibility of Henry VIII’s eldest daughter Mary, a staunch Roman Catholic, ascending the throne if Edward died young was a constant threat. So it was decided that Jane would marry Guilford Dudley, a family friend also from an influential Protestant family.

These were particularly hard times for Jane. However, as Cook shares, it was these experiences that further refined her faith in God:

“Such circumstances sent Jane ever more frequently to that strong source of consolation for the Christian, the presence and sustaining power of Christ… The truths of the gospel were all important to her; she read the Scriptures diligently, using her Greek to help her understand the New Testament. Through the harsh experiences in her life, she was learning the way into God’s presence in prayer, seeking him for the strength she needed.” (p101).

These convictions would be extremely important in the events of Jane’s life yet to come. Because while there were genuine Christians interested in reforming the church and encouraging the faithful teaching of the Bible, others were only interested in these changes for their own political and economic gain. But either way, a Roman Catholic Queen on the throne would present serious problems for all those interested in the Reformation’s continued progress.

Only a few months after Jane’s wedding, the 15 year old King Edward died. I appreciated Cook’s poetic description of the afternoon Edward died:

“A violent thunderstorm broke over London that afternoon, as though symbolic of the stormy years that lay ahead, particularly for the men and women who were faithful to the great truths of the Reformation – those truths that had transformed the lives of many in all parts of the land”.

That statement would indeed ring true in Jane’s life. 

About this month's contributor, Sarah Cameron
I love to read, but don't get much time at the moment as looking after my toddler keeps me on my toes.  I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where Gus my husband is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds. 

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