REV DAVID FAREY: Bonfire: a reminder of more turbulent times

David Farey SUS-160113-102615001
David Farey SUS-160113-102615001

The clocks change once more and we are even more conscious of the nights drawing in.

It is also the time when the air is filled with bangs and flashes. The bonfire season is upon us once more. Recalling a historical event from the 1600s it reminds of a time when the country did not enjoy the same level of religious freedom as we enjoy today.

Lewes will have its burning crosses and its burning of the effigy of a long gone Pope.

It is not a statement on the modern Church but rather a nod to our historical heritage and just how far we have come.

I cannot help but feel slightly uncomfortable as it emulates the gruesome madness of that phase of our history, even if only as a pale shadow. Emotions are ripped raw by the memory of such cruel barbarity.

On the other hand it is also good to remember just how low things can sink if we allow it.

As Vicar of Hellingly and Upper Dicker I am constantly reminded of the era as in our church we have a plaque recalling that one of the Lewes martyrs, burned at the stake, was a former curate of Hellingly.

There is also in the boiler room below the tower the remnants of what was once a passageway to a tunnel, presumably to allow escape for priests should armed militia come looking for them. They were certainly scary times.

We like to think of ourselves as more enlightened. Tolerance is the principle we all like to think we live by.

I would like to add respect to that. Tolerance with respect enables peoples of differing opinions to live together in a positive and constructive way.

It is about holding the balance between having an opinion which you believe to be the right one and working with people whose opinion you believe to be wrong and yet still both being able to contribute to the overall good of society.

The law prohibits openly hostile attitudes which incite hatred and violence.

Being required to be tolerant and respectful under enforced regulation is one thing, but far better is the recognition that far more is achieved if you believe in tolerance and respect in your heart.

To not only say that you are tolerant and respectful but to truly believe in it is a far more effective contribution to society.

So if the bangs, flashes and whooshes can encourage us to reflect on how destructive the lack of tolerance and respect can be and encourage us to hold them as principles we can all live by, then the bonfire celebrations will have done their job!