324 years and still preaching
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
JUST £4 a year to pay two visiting preachers no longer covers their
expenses, let alone “gratifies them”, in the sense it was meant, but the
sermons still go on.
Sir Ralph Assheton, patron of St Leonard’s in the estate village of Downham
in rural Blackburn diocese, left that sum in his will when he
died on 30 January 1680. He wanted visiting preachers on two Sundays of the
year, on 5 February and “on the day of the month it shall please God to call me
from this transitory life”; and he left two possible texts for each sermon.
His hope was that “two able ministers” would preach “onely for the better
occasioning of a fuller congregation of people being willing, for the most
parte, to heare strangers rather than their owne (though perhaps better)”.
The new Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Rodney Nicholson, tells me that the
tradition has been kept up without a break, and the 324th Assheton Sermon was
preached at a service of matins this year on the exact anniversary of Sir
Ralph’s death by the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade. He used
the text from the Book of Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth,” and — just as
Sir Ralph hoped — the church was full. The congregation of 150, says Mr
Nicholson, included many members of the Prayer Book Society.