|From richard 2008 sept|
Bedford was home to John Bunyan, the 'chief of sinners' in his words in his spiritual autobiography. His sins don't seem very sinful to us who are much more versed in wickedness than Mr Bunyan. He played games on the village green at Elstow, enjoyed dancing and rang the bells in the village church. I've indulged in a bit of tintinabulation myself. I would consider the sin was to those listening to me...
However Bunyan, after hearing a voice say "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?" gave up his sin and decided to live in Bedford. His preaching eventually landed him in the County Gaol as he was preaching without a licence, at a time when to dissent from the Established church was to deemed to be traitrous. Bunyan put his time to good use, making bootlaces to support his family and writing the 'Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come' a book translated into almost as many languages as the bible, and usually to be found on protestant book shelves even today.
Bedford honours Bunyan and his statue can be found near St Cuthbert's church (closed when I called). The Bunyan conventicle still meets for worship twice on Sundays.
Bedford does not really honour another religious sect that also has its home there. The last of Joanna Southcott's followers form the Panacea Society, a charity which is 'a religious organisation with a belief in the latter day prophets and the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ'.
They hold Joanna Southcott's box which must be only be opened in the presence of 24 bishops of the Church of England (the full complement at the time of Joanna Southcott) and, not surprisingly, they have been reluctant to assemble to do the honours.
The Society believes that a small piece of cloth in a glass of water may help heal all illnesses. They believe the messiah will return to Bedford.