Upwell's Lectern

At St Peter’s Church at Upwell in Norfolk is a rather fine brass lectern. A lectern is a reading desk rather than a pulpit, and it is on here that a copy of the Bible is kept, and to which a reader repairs in order to share God’s word, albeit without comment. Anglican churches typically have them in the shape of an eagle, with its outstretched wings being conveniently fixed to bear the opened book. Not only does it bespeak God’s word flying about the whole world, but it was thought that the eagle alone can stare into the sun without dazzling. Upon hearing God’s word read, the humble Christian may behold the magnificent radiance of God’s powerful being without instantly frying in His blazing glory.

Upwell’s I dated to the sixteenth century; most about the country, even in older churches, are Victorian. Simon Knott, the ubiquitous church historian of East Anglian churches reckons it as fifteenth century, which predates the Reformation. That so few (any?) churches then possessed Bibles, and had so few clergy capable and inclined to read it, makes this claim the more startling. Whether the popish priests of that century rested upon it some written prayers or 'books of hours', I do not know. Perhaps they did have access to a Latin Vulgate Bible, yet how few read and understood it?

It is good to read widely and have a knowledge of all things; ignorance is seldom a virtue. Yet may God’s word have primacy over everything. If you read little, make it the Bible. If you read much, read much of the Bible. If you have a lectern, place upon it God’s word, and then read it and obey it.

Even the snarling lions may smile when they sit under God's word.