There are some places where history is felt stronger than others.
I am writing this week’s column while attending a conference in Chester.
It does not take much imagination to see Roman Legionaries marching through the town or monks processing into the cathedral.
The reason it doesn’t take too much imagination is that there are people dressed in the suitable garb. (Or I am going mad?!)
I don’t know how authentic the costumes are. I hope for their sake that modern luxuries are allowed, if only where not seen!
Lancashire is full of similar places, Lancaster and Ribchester had significant Roman settlements where ruins can still be seen. Bleasdale takes us further back with the remains of a wooden circle from pre-Roman times up in the hills. There are also the haunting ruins of Whalley Abbey in the Ribble Valley, where our own Diocesan Retreat and Conference Centre is located. Medieval, Georgian, Victorian buildings are all over the county and speak of times past.
‘Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow’ is one of my favourite lines in the Bible. Fashions come and go. The Romans are no longer walking the streets, while the Georgian buildings still stand in our cities and the Victorian sewers are still doing their work. The past is, as the saying goes, ‘another country’.
However, so much in life is constant. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are the first generation to experience certain things.
Of course, this is true with modern technological changes and these can cause fresh tensions and issues, as well as opportunities and ease. Christians hold that it is God who made the world and created humanity in God’s image and likeness. We hold that the whole of time, from the depth of the past into the furthest reaches of the future is held in the hands and care of God.
This means that whether we are looking to a future that is almost science fiction like, deep into the past to the Romans or grappling with the issues of today, Christians believe the truths they see revealed in Jesus are as true in this context as they are in all of the rest of time.
Chester is about to have its mystery plays. Mystery plays were a medieval way of bringing the Bible to life in a contemporary style for their day.
This tradition is one that Chester is continuing. It is not a wearing of ‘out of date’ clothes or being part of a costume drama, but one where the realities of life are given meaning and purpose.