14/08/2016 Songs of Praise


14/08/2016

Josie d'Arby finds out how Christians in the Gypsy and Traveller community express their faith, and she enjoys the rich heritage inside Britain's only Romany museum.


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Transcript


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This week, I'm in Spalding, in Lincolnshire,

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to visit a very unique collection.

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It's a labour of love, inspired by a son's devotion to his father,

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and his wish to preserve the memory of his heritage.

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And that heritage belongs to the Romany community,

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traditionally known as Gypsies.

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I meet Gordon Boswell, owner of Britain's only Romany Museum,

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and learn how his forebears preached the gospel.

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I'll also be finding out some of the ways in which today's Gypsy and

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Traveller community practise and express their faith.

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And I'll be meeting country singer Jessica Clemmons who,

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though she's found fame over here in the UK,

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never forgets her Christian upbringing in Texas.

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Being Romany is an ethnic identity, something you take with you

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no matter where you live.

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Romany ancestral roots stretch back to ninth century India,

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but their recorded history in Britain began 500 years ago.

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Over the centuries, they've been romanticised but also vilified.

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They just don't want us in the country.

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That's all it amounts to - they just don't want us in the country.

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They've often been regarded as outsiders,

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but have frequently contributed to British life.

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One British Romany Gypsy who came to prominence because of his

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Christian faith, was Rodney Smith, otherwise known as Gypsy Smith.

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He was born in a tent, never attended a school,

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yet influenced millions of lives with his powerful preaching.

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He even cut a few records.

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# I can hear my saviour calling... #

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Gypsy Smith began his life as an evangelist

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within the Salvation Army.

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And so, for our first hymn, we pay tribute to him

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with a rousing hymn from the Salvation Army church in Manchester.

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Romanies have strong cultural beliefs and traditions,

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at the heart of which is the importance of family.

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Gordon Boswell's museum is proof of that.

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I opened this museum on the 25th of February, 1995.

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That would have been my father's 100th birthday.

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I was born into this way of life, and I didn't want the past to die.

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There were seven children of us, and we all had a lovely childhood.

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It's all down to your parents,

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because we were taught to kneel at the side of your bed,

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before we got into bed, and say the Lord's Prayer.

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You have some good parents, you'll have a good child, won't you?

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So, this is your screening room?

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This is...yeah, where we tell the stories, in here.

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Ah-ha.

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There's my grandfather.

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And that's my grandmother.

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-Oh, that's your dad.

-Yes.

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They lived in them two, that big tent, there,

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and that one over there, and that was the wagon.

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John Wesley Baker, the Wesleyan Chapel people,

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got my grandparents interested in the gospel,

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and they started up the Gypsy Gospel Mission Tent.

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What happened in the Gospel Tent? Was it a church, essentially?

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It was a church, in fact, yes.

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And the big tent is from there to there - that was it.

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And he used to teach the gospel.

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I want to know a little bit more about your father,

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because this is the misconception, isn't it,

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about people from your community -

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is that you're outside of normal society, yet here he is,

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in uniform, fighting for our country.

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-In the 1914 war.

-Yeah.

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And this man, here - everyone tells me that I look like him.

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Whether I do, I don't know.

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-This chap, here? You do, yes.

-Yeah.

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Wester Bosley, he was known as.

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And he was the first man to translate the Romany language

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into English, and he'd done that as far back as in 1860,

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when there was a book written by two authors called Crofton and Smart.

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And they've got a page of his handwriting, even,

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all in the Romany language.

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Gordon has devoted 22 years to building his unique collection.

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It's the largest public display of Romany history in the world.

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How difficult was it for you to get this off the ground,

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and to have it working as it is today?

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When I finished building that last building - that big part, there -

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I sat in a chair at the far end, there, looking down,

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and I said to myself, "How have you done it, Gordon?

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"You've done it."

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And I said, "Someone must have helped me."

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And I looked up like that, put my hands together and said,

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"Whoever you are and wherever you are, thank you."

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That's the answer to what you've just asked me.

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Does that make sense to you?

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It makes sense to me, definitely.

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# Our father

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# Which art in heaven

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# Hallowed be

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# Thy name

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# Thy kingdom come

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# Thy will be done

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# On earth

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# As it is

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# In Heaven

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# Give us this day

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# Our daily bread

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# And forgive us our trespasses

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# As we forgive those who trespass against us

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# And lead us not into temptation

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# But deliver us from evil

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# For thine is the kingdom

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# And the power

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# And the glory

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# Forever

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# Amen

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# Amen

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# For thine is the kingdom

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# And the power

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# And the glory

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# For ever

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# And ever

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# Amen

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# Amen. #

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Many people associate Romanies with wagons or,

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as Gypsies actually call them, Vardos,

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and this spectacular horse-drawn Vardo has clocked up thousands

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of miles, including many trips to the Appleby Fair -

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the UK's largest annual gathering for Gypsies.

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Billy Welch is one of the organisers behind the Appleby Fair

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in Cumbria, held every year.

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Appleby Fair is the most important date

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in the Gypsy and Traveller calendar.

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Primarily, it's a horse fair.

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It was chartered to the Gypsy people by King James II, in 1685.

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But it isn't just about the horses.

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It's where the young people meet their future husbands

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and their future wives.

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At least once in a lifetime,

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Gypsies or Travellers must go to Appleby Fair.

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But some of us go every single year.

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Although the fair is a Gypsy and Traveller gathering,

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Billy has been keen to connect with local residents in Appleby.

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We've been encouraging the settled community to come to the fair -

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come amongst us, sit amongst us, have a drink with us.

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One group that has responded to Billy's invitation

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is the local church.

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First time I met Billy would be my first horse fair,

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which was ten years ago this year.

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Any such large gathering of people brings its own challenges.

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Because, I think, there'd been a number of difficult horse fairs

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in the past, a lot of the older settled community, here,

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were quite frightened of the Travelling community.

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But I think, in the main, they're absolutely amazing, they really are.

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I've struck up quite a special relationship with Billy and

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his extended family.

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He's earned everybody's respect.

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He's a really, really nice man.

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Oh, Sarah helped a lot.

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And she would go around and explain to people from the settled

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community that there's nothing to fear.

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While, at the same time, I've been doing the same thing with my people,

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because there is prejudice on our side as well.

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What people don't understand, they're frightened of.

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We've made big strides forward in breaking down that suspicion.

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And they're just coming in their thousands, now,

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because they really, really enjoy it.

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And we enjoy having them.

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Billy and Sarah's work together has revealed

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a great deal of common ground.

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Billy and all of his family, and his extended family,

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all camp and move around,

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and clergy who are serving, paid clergy, camp and move around.

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Obviously, we camp for rather a lot longer than they do,

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but there is that sense that where you are,

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the place where you are with the people that you love and serve,

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is the place which is home for you at that point.

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And a life on the move is not the only thing Billy and Sarah share.

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I have a very strong faith and the Bible means a lot to us.

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I have a few Bibles, I have about half a dozen,

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but my favourite one is my Thomas Kinkade one.

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I love reading it because I like colour, and pictures,

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which most Gypsies do.

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It's like the colours of the horse-drawn caravans that we have.

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Over the centuries,

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having a strong faith has kept us strong as a people,

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kept us very family orientated.

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I have photographs of my ancestors.

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Every single one of them, going all the way back the generations,

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all had a strong faith.

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And even in very, very, very hard times,

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we always had the strength of the Lord behind us,

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to help us to carry on.

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There's no word for goodbye in Romanus, no word for goodbye.

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If I was leaving, I would say to you,

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"Ach Devlesa" -

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may God stay with you.

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If you were leaving, I'd say "Dza Devlesa" -

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may God go with you.

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ENGINE REVS

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HORN TOOTS

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I love this more modern looking trailer.

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It was built in 1930, and was one of the first motorised wagons

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to replace the horse-drawn wagon, although it looks the same inside.

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Now, you might not recognise our next performer.

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She's a worship leader from Texas,

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who's finding fame, over here with a different kind of music,

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and David's been to meet her.

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# Don't you know you gotta love... #

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Jess And The Bandits perform rock and pop gigs around the UK.

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But American lead singer Jessica Clemmons

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never forgets her Christian roots.

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I grew up, actually, in a really musical family,

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singing in church and all of that, from the time I was about,

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oh, I don't know, six, seven years old.

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So it's always been a huge passion.

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So, how does someone from Houston, Texas, singing in church,

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end up in a rock band in the UK?

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That's a really good question.

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Through a mutual friend, I met some people from the UK

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that brought me over here, and I started working on pop music.

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So, actually, getting away from Christian music.

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And it's been an incredible journey over the last two and a half years

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of, officially, becoming a band.

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It's like the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together.

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-Right, see you in a minute.

-All right, guys.

-See you in a bit.

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So, do you find the music business an easy or a difficult place

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to be, as a woman of faith?

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It's definitely difficult, or it has its difficult times.

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With Jess And The Bandits, I love it.

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Like, I wouldn't have it any other way.

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But it's all about, you know, the image, the look, the everything.

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When I'm singing at church,

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it's not about me.

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It's not my show.

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# God we wait

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# You're coming soon... #

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It's about worship and letting go and trying to touch people's lives.

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And it's more selfless than anything.

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And that's what I love.

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# Come on let's finish... #

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But whether its congregation or concert,

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Jessica believes her faith always shines out on stage.

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# That's just love sneaking up on you. #

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I remember someone said to me, once, "You just have this light about you.

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"I don't really know what it is, but it's this, it's this light."

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And I thought, "Well, I know what that light is.

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"I know what that is.

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"That's God, that's my faith, that's my beliefs."

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And sometimes it's someone else seeing that

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that can create the conversation. Yeah.

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So, which song are you going to be singing for us, Jess?

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This one is one of my favourites, growing up,

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and my grandmother's favourite.

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And it's an old hymn called The Old Rugged Cross.

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It's got powerful words and one of those that,

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no matter how much time goes by, the words are always relevant.

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# On a hill far away

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# Stood an old rugged cross

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# The emblem of suffering and shame

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# And I love that old cross

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# Where the dearest and best

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# For a world of lost sinners was slain

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# So I'll cherish the old rugged cross

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# Where my trophies at last I lay down

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# And I will cling to the old rugged cross

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# And exchange it some day for a crown

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# To the old rugged cross I will ever be true

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# Its shame and reproach gladly bear

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# Till he'll call me some day

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# To my home far away

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# Where its glory forever I'll share

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# So I'll cherish the old rugged cross

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# Where my trophies at last I lay down

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# And I will cling to the old rugged cross

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# And exchange it someday for a crown

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# And I will cling to the old rugged cross

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# And exchange it some day

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# For a crown. #

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Tomorrow, the 15th of August, is a feast day in honour of

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Mary, the mother of Jesus.

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And whatever our denomination,

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Mary's humility and obedience to the message of God

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is an example to all Christians, and remembered in our next hymn.

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Romany Gypsies have traditionally been associated with

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Roman Catholicism, but in recent years a growing number have

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been drawn to the more evangelical wing of the church.

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We're down in West Wales -

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as you can see, the mountains,

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and the rain clouds come and go very quickly.

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It's an old-fashioned, what we call, camp ground.

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The Americans had camp grounds like this for many years,

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with Billy Graham's type of evangelism.

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We have a big marquee, that's getting ready now,

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and seats about 3,000 people.

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And there'll be, you know, people socialising,

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people gathering around God's word, praying together.

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It's a marvellous time, marvellous.

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The Light And Life Church developed out of

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a French Gypsy movement called Ve et Lumiere.

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And it's been estimated that around a tenth of the

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Gypsy and Traveller population in the UK are now members.

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Light And Life holds its own annual convention.

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Then seven o'clock is our big meeting.

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In the name of Jesus Christ...

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The gospel's preached, there's testimonies, there's songs,

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it's really a revival-type meeting.

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# I feel its Holy Spirit... #

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Light And Life is just a vessel that God is using to reach

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Gypsy and Travelling people,

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like the apostle Paul was called to reach the Gentiles.

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And we are called to reach our own people.

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Now, the good thing about reaching a culture within a culture is we know the culture -

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we know their thoughts, we know their thought patterns.

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We understand their mentality.

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So God is using us to reach the Gypsy people.

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In the Gypsy flag, there's blue at the top,

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green at the bottom and a wheel, a wagon wheel, in the centre.

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And the blue represents the sky, and the green the field,

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and the wheel the travelling wagon.

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And it's sort of...

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Gypsy life, Gypsy heart is happy, is joyful.

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And when somebody meets Christ, it's like a whole burden has been

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taken off their shoulders, and they want to rejoice.

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There's no greater joy than anyone meeting Jesus Christ.

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I first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ,

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some French missionaries came over, and they were Gypsy people.

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They were telling me things, from the gospels, that I'd never heard.

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And so, me and my wife were in London -

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we decided to buy a Bible from Harrods cos it would be a real one -

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I didn't know what a real, proper Bible was,

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so it would be a proper one in here.

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And I read the whole New Testament, from start...

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from Matthew to Revelations.

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And I only learned one thing -

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that I wasn't a Christian.

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But the Bible was becoming alive to me then,

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and by then I knew I was wrong and God was right.

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And so I would come back from work and I would put the Bible

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on the salt and pepper while I'm eating, and I would read it,

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and it was like it was coming alive.

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Becoming a Christian has absolutely transformed my life.

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It was like an inner change,

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because the reality of Christ changed my life from the inside.

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I realised I was a sinner before God, and I just hope and pray that

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God continues to keep the door of mercy open for us until he returns.

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This year is the 50th anniversary of the Notting Hill Carnival.

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So, next week, we'll be meeting the characters behind the

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festivities, and finding out about its Christian origins.

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So, in anticipation of the energy and vibrancy of the Carnival,

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we end today with an uplifting gospel hymn -

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What A Mighty God We Serve.

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Josie d'Arby finds out how Christians in the Gypsy and Traveller community express their faith, and she enjoys the rich heritage inside Britain's only Romany museum.

Music:

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown from Salvation Army, Sale The Lord's Prayer by Only Boys Aloud Good Shepherd of My Soul from Keswick Convention The Rugged Old Cross by Jess And The Bandits For Mary, Mother of Our Lord from St. Alban's Church, Bristol There Is Power in the Blood from Hackney Empire, London What a Mighty God We Save from St. Germain's Church, Birmingham.


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