Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Reformation Cambridge 2) The clock and plaque

The group of students I was hosting was on an assignment about post-Christianity.  I shared how the latest British attitude survey put 52% as non-religious with 26% of the population avowedly atheist, who are better at passing on their atheism than the small Christian percentage passing on their faith.

As if to prove the point.... I had scouted out the reformation walk beforehand. Walking along King's Parade (towards the iconic King's College Chapel) I saw a large crowd spilling across the road with their cameras out.  It was close to one of the most significant reformation sites.  However, moving closer I saw they were all looking in the opposite direction at the Corpus Clock which shows a monstrous locust-type creature gobbling up the seconds on top of a 5 foot high disc clock. Unveiled in 2008 by Stephen Hawking it is a strange sight.  Indeed its designer called it a chronophage - literally time eater - with the words in Latin beneath: 'the world passeth away, and the lust thereof.'

Admittedly, it is an unusual sight.  However, on the opposite side of the road is a blue plaque commemorating the White Horse Inn where the first reformers met in secret to discuss Luther's books which had been smuggled down river in 1521.   It is called 'Little Germany' for obvious reasons. The modest plaque adds: the birthplace of the English reformation.  Just near this spot scholars like Thomas Bilney (Trinity Hall), Hugh Latimer ( Clare) and Nicholas Ridley (Master of Pembroke) dared to think through Scripture afresh that believers may have a direct relationship with Jesus Christ, unmediated by priests, a relationship of grace, justified by faith and all that.  All these three men (and more) were later to be martyred for their daring.

Nobody was interested in this plaque.  But nobody.  Parked in front were several motor-cycles preventing you getting close.  Returning with the group of students this scene was repeated.  All the interest was expended on the clock with nil interest in the site of the revolution that was to impact the world.  Sadly it served as a poignant example of post-Christian Britain.

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