My first degree was a BA in history and perhaps more specifically, in Rural Society of 18th Century England, with a focus on a group of six parishes in Mid-Kent between 1720 and 1750. I studied probate inventories to build a picture of agricultural activity in each parish. Those parishes are still in existence, their boundaries have not changed in three hundred years and neither have the buildings that they worshipped in, except now they have power and running water and other such modern technologies. The pews are the same ones upon which the people I studied sat, and in the graveyard surrounding those churches are their final resting places.
Somehow my thinking this week has gone to those inventories. They are a complete list of the entire belongings of the deceased, the contents of their home, their barns and the livestock and also the quantity of money. For some there were just a couple of lines and for others it ran to pages, right down to the number of forks to the type of plough they had in the barn. These people and their lives have become part of my own, their lives have touched mine. Why did I think about them now? They are fascinating documents, but a reminder to us that we walk always in the footsteps of those who have gone before; right down to the prayers we pray, the hymns we sing. We never journey alone.
The following prayer was written by John Wesley (1703 – 1791), the evangelist who became an open-air preacher, travelling on average 8,000 miles a year on horseback, reaching large sections of the population with whom the church had lost touch.
Jesus, poor, unknown and despised, have mercy on us, and let us not be ashamed to follow you. Jesus, accused, and wrongfully condemned, teach us to bear insults patiently, and let us not seek our own glory. Jesus, crowned with thorns and hailed in derision; buffeted, overwhelmed with injuries, griefs and humiliations; Jesus, hanging on the accursed tree, bowing the head, giving up the ghost, have mercy on us, and conform our whole lives to your spirit. Amen
The Reverend Anne Price