Town Criers

On Saturday gone, a number of us were milling around the chapel’s stall at the Barnoldswick market when, at 11am, that most august and prestigious of competitions commenced- the British Town Crier Championship. Contestants from as local a field at Great Harwood and Otley participated, as well from further afield as Newmarket in Suffolk, Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire, Dorchester and Shrewsbury. The Loyal Company of Town Criers keeps alive this arcane tradition and it made a sunny May morning all the more pleasurable. Each contestant began with three rings of a handbell and traditional “O-Yea, O-Yea, O-Yea”, followed by a short speech extolling their respective towns before concluding with a lusty God save the Queen. One began by addressing his speech to the “good and godly townsfolk of Barnoldswick”; it was nice for our stall and volunteers to be singled out in such a way. Several of the criers were from the fairer sex, belying the stereotype of a bewhiskered man with portly belly (though most conformed to this image, it must be said). They certainly received warmer welcomes than a certain street preacher who graced the square a fortnight afore.

Town criers would once have kept informed the denizens of their village or borough, being the first to receive news and royal proclamations. Now, their functions are superseded by newspapers, news bulletins and phone apps; their eighteenth-century dress and deep intonations are an amusing relic of yesteryear. The parallels with gospel proclamation is noteworthy. Paul suggests that preaching is the primary method of faith-sharing, and the means by which faith comes to its hearers. For all our blogs, books, tracts and drama sketches, the plain proclamation of gospel truth is the method by which the first Christians, like Town Criers, communicate their news. Singing, sipping tea, and even nodding in prayers is not our priority on Sundays, but hearing God's word preached. This good news trumps anything shared by media or yelled in competitions.  

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began. Romans 16:25