Bishop Hooper’s Martyrdom Remembered
BRITISH CHURCH NEWSPAPER – 10 JUNE 2005
Rev Edward John Malcolm
Dr Roger Beckwith spoke movingly of John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester. Little is known of Hooper’s life, but much is known of his death, thanks to the careful work of John Foxe.
The life and martyrdom of Hooper was remembered at a service of Evening Prayer in the Mariner’s Church, Gloucester Docks, on Saturday 28 May. The service was conducted by Mr Michael Swain, Lay Reader, and the address was given by the Rev Dr Roger Beckwith of Oxford. The Rt Rev Edward Malcolm presided.
Hooper’s conscientiousness in carrying out his Episcopal duties, the care with which he examined the clergy in his diocese, and the concern he showed for the poor, were exemplary, as were his learning and personal piety. Yet none of these things counted for anything during his extended trial and imprisonment. The mere fact that he had been a Bishop in the Reformed Church of England during the short reign of Edward VI seems to have been sufficient ground for the hatred shown towards him by his accusers.
The manner of his death, and his quiet acceptance of it, marks him out as a man who was borne by grace to the end. The only time he showed anything other than contentment was when the Queen’s Pardon was laid before him, as a final inducement to recant. “If you love my soul, away with it. If you love my soul, away with it”, he cried. Being allowed to finish his prayers, he was fastened to the stake. Owing to the incompetence of his executioners the fire was made three times before it finally burnt hot enough to kill him. Yet during the three quarters of an hour or more in which he suffered such an appalling death “even as a lamb, he patiently bore the extremity thereof”.
During the service the congregation recited Psalm 15 together. Bishop Hooper was a man who bore testimony to what is written in the fifth verse. “He that sweareth unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not: though it were to his own hindrance.” By a word of denial Hooper might have saved his own life, and who can tell how many others might have recanted after him? But he had preached faithfully that all-sufficient grace of Christ, and by that grace he died well.