Bad times: a Day of Prayer, May 1611

21st May 2015

Storms and drought, famine and barrenness, illness and illegality: an Extraordinary Meeting of Guernsey's Colloque, held 24 May 1611, in the presence of the Lieutenant, the ministers, and an elder representing each parish, to arrange a special day of fasting, prayer and humiliation. Such fasting days were, in fact, a quite common occurrence, and continued to be organized by the Church in conjunction with the secular authorities in times of trouble until relatively recently.

In view of the great rainstorms that we have had, the strange and lingering sicknesses that we witness amongst us, and the way that the people disregard the law and the authorities (who are themselves not respected as they should be), but most of all because of the contempt with which the word of God is treated, and those who preach it are treated; and because of the great drought that God has visited upon us, (which is preventing the ground from being cultivated at the right time and in the proper season, and is stopping the seeds from germinating, and if they do germinate, from growing properly, neither can the ground produce grass to feed the animals)—it seems from this that God is threatening us with great barrenness and famine, and thus we have decided it would be most expedient for a public fast to be performed throughout the island.

We have been asked, what if God sends us abundant rain before the fast is due to take place; and the answer to that is, we will still perform the fast for all the other reasons previously set out, and to thank God for the good thing that he will have done for us. Should we not be able to persuade God by our first abasement to change his mind and send us weather befitting the season, we think it is advisable that the fast be performed again on a weekly basis until God decides to answer our prayer. Now, we think that Wednesday would be the best day of the week to do this. And because not all the ministers are in the island, and therefore there may not be enough to go around all the parishes, we think it sensible that any minister who visits the island from outside should be asked to assist in those parishes that have need of a minister; otherwise, to arrange things in the parishes as well as possible, we request Mr Milet senior to transfer to St Pierre de Bois to lead the day's fasting (while our brother Perchard will go to the Castel), or he should stay with the Castel and brother Perchard will deal with his own parish, as Mr Milet sees fit. The authorities will be notified of all this tomorrow by brothers Mr West and Mr Perchard in order for them to give their consent and authority for all this to go ahead, so that the day specified may be sanctified with sermons, prayer, and singing of psalms to God by each and everyone; and everyone must ensure that no-one profanes the day by undertaking any everyday work, at the least during the period of the fasting.

[In margin:] This was done, and God answered our prayers straightaway.


Heylyn's translation of the 1575 Discipline Ecclesiastique, Chapter XI: Of fasts and thanksgiving, in his Survey of the Estates of Guernsey and Jerzey.

Article I. The publick Fasts shall be celebrated in the Church when the Colloquie or the Synod think it most expedient, as a day of rest; in which there shall be a Sermon both in the morning and the afternoon, accompanyed with Prayers, reading of the Scripture, and singing of Psalmes; all this to be disposed according to the occasions and causes of the Fast, and by the authority of the Magistrate.

II. Solemn Thanksgiving also shall be celebrated after the same manner as the Fast, the whole exercise being sutable (sic) to the occasion of the same.