How one corner of England changed the world

Stretching from Boston on the coast to Lincoln, Gainsborough and the 'Pilgrim Country' around Retford, our area boasts nearly two thousand years of heritage starting from the early Christian Church, the great medieval cathedrals, moving on to Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation, the Pilgrim Fathers, the first Baptists, the first miracles and martyrs of the Quakers, the origins of Methodism and the Salvation Army, and the modern-day churches.

Lincoln CathedralThis is one of the most beautiful and rural areas of England yet time and again it has played a pivotal role in the development of the Christian Faith. We can provide a programme of tours to explore the highlights, tailored to your special interests.

Christianity came to our area under the Romans but was revived when saints gathered to baptise a kingdom in the waters of the River Trent in the 7th century. In medieval times the area saw the building of great medieval churches and cathedrals such as Lincoln, Boston and Southwell, and also a number of beautiful monasteries. The ministry of the Church was developed by saints such as Hugh of Lincoln and Gilbert of Sempringham, and great medieval works such as The Cloud of Unknowing written by the regions monks.

When Henry VIII rode the wave of the Reformation he had beside him Thomas Cranmer, born in a tiny village in this area. Local people who wanted to preserve the Catholic ways were executed, but so were Protestant reformers who wanted more change than Henry - Anne Askew being a leading example, and their sufferings were chronicled by John Foxe, of Boston.

graveIn the late 1500s, 'godly' people such as Richard Bernard, Katherine Willoughby and the Wray family supported an evangelical faith but came into conflict with conservative forces within the Church of England. 'Separation' and 'nonconformity' were inspired first by Robert Browne of Stamford and then Richard Clifton of Babworth, who led a 'Pilgrim' group to Holland. With them went another local group, the congregation of John Smyth and Thomas Helwys who became the first English Baptists. But while Helwys came back to England and died in gaol creating a new Church, John Robinson's congregation went to America to create New England under Governor Carver, William Bradford, and William Brewster. Extraordinarily, Smyth, Robinson and perhaps Carver all came from the same tiny village.

The next generation of Lincolnshire folk brought controversy to America - John Cotton, Sir Henry Vane, John Wheelwright, Ann Hutchinson and Hanserd Knollys. In England they left a growing Baptist Church, an early example of which can be seen at Monksthorpe, and the controversial rise of the Quakers whose first congregations were in our area under George Fox's leadership. Soon the Quakers too went to America, including Nottinghamshire woman Elizabeth Hooton - one the first female evangelists.

cross treeThe late eighteenth century is marked by the work of John and Charles Wesley, born in Epworth - one of the small towns which repeatedly features in the story. It is possible to visit many sites where Wesley preached including the Old Hall at Gainsborough. Others looked further afield - the missionary societies of the Baptist and Catholic churches were formed in this area, and we can follow the traces of some missionaries who spread across the world such as J Hudson Taylor. 'General' Booth of the Salvation Army started his ministry in the same area and new ministers are still being sent out today from the Assemblies of God Bible College.

But our tours are not just about the past. We offer you the chance to visit these inspiring places in the company of local Church members and, if you wish, to share fellowship and discuss the Christian Faith in England today.

For more details about the Christian Heritage Tours on offer, click here


By Adrian Gray, Pilgrims and Prophets

Date: 2017-11-28 13:17:58