Well, for Towcester this summer, AD 2017, it was a gathering of the whole town (mostly) on the water meadow to celebrate 1100 years of the modern town of Towcester, Northamptonshire. I say modern because there was a Roman settlement (Lactodorum) here a long time ago, but the town as we know it really got going when King Edward the Elder built a fort here and successfully fought off an attack by the Vikings.
In AD 917, the Vikings were defeated by the Christians, and some converted. In 2 017, the Vikings are absent, but seeing as the Christians are still here, we thought it only right that the Church should make a good effort!
The Fair as a whole included displays of battle reenactments and falconry, and people with beards or aprons looking very Anglo Saxon, and various stalls selling food (as any good Fair must have).
The Church put up three tents (Catholics, Anglicans, and Baptists all cooperating), one tent with calligraphy for people to try, a lovely yellow quiet prayer tent, and a big long tent with displays including a beautiful appliqué ‘tapestry’ made by children at the local primary school, a huge page from the Lindisfarne gospels (the incipit from Matthew), and the Lord’s Prayer in three versions: the one we say in 2017 (“Our father who art in heaven“), the one our ancestors said in 917 (“Fæder ūre, þū þe eart on heofonum“), and the one we have in common across the years (“Pater noster qui es in cœlis“).
This big tent we tried to make reasonably comfortable and welcoming, as best one can in the middle of a field, and of course we had a tea urn and stories to tell of Saxon Saints and of good old Alfred the Great being scolded for letting the cakes get burnt.
We had booklets and prayer cards to give away, and to the surprise of some, the most popular one was the CTS Simple Prayer book. Why was that? Hopefully for the reason I had in mind when buying them in the first place – that they appeal to people who don’t go to church, but look something older and notably more spiritual than they usually find in everyday life, something that reflects the mystery of their own soul, and they see it in the tradition of the Catholic Church. Either that, or the priest from the neighbouring parish saw the chance to restock his bookshelf…
In all it was a good day, with surprisingly little rain for an English July.
A Simple Prayer Book
CTS’s classic compilation of Catholic prayers, including the Order of Mass in its new English translation