Just a few days ago, the church was commemorating and even celebrating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On 5th November, England remembers (for she knows no reason why it should be forgot) a direct consequence of that Reformation process.
No revolution or reformation is without its casualties and in 17th century Jacobean England there were plenty on both sides.
Remember, remember the fifth of November; gunpowder treason and plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
The violent tension between Protestants and Catholics fuels the volatile motive to religious terrorism in the gunpowder plot; the complex relationship between church and state forms the heart of the potentially explosive means; the state opening of Parliament by King James I on 5th November 1605 provides the opportunity.
Groups of Christians at war over political power. Groups of religious extremists ready and willing to torture and kill those who disagreed with their beliefs.
How then should the church mark this occasion? With the customary pyrotechnic reminder that the plot failed and Catholics remained second class citizens (until relatively recently!) or by reenacting the burning at stakes of those who would rather die than deny their religious principles? (Of course Guy Fawkes was hanged, drawn and quartered for treason rather than burned at the stake for heresy!)
The church is often quick to condemn the dark connotations of All Hallows’ Eve, disapprove of the fancy-dressed sweet requests and lock the doors. But while we English churches gaze into the dark skies this fifth of November, perhaps we would do well to remember, remember our own dark histories and ponder a more tolerant and inclusive future.