Our Debt To St. Patrick

Like most Americans my age, I was introduced to the word Celtic as the name of Boston’s NBA franchise.  About twenty years ago, however, like most Americans my age, I learned two things.  First, the Boston team has been mispronouncing its own name (it should be “Keltic,” not “Seltic”).  And second, whatevCeltic-Tribes-in-Europeer the word Celtic meant, it had gained enormous popularity and commercial success.  Wherever I went, I ran into something Celtic—Celtic music, Celtic crosses, Celtic art and jewelry, Celtic spirituality.  Although the craze is subsiding a bit by now, the past twenty-five years have been mainly a boom time for all things Celtic.

In the centuries before Christ, the Celts occupied much of what is now central Europe, extending into Spain in the west and Turkey in the east. Many scholars believe that the Galatians, to whom Paul addressed his New Testament letter, were a part of this Celtic people group.

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The Arthur Chronicles—No. 5

It had been raining most of the morning, and I should have taken that into account as I drove into the city for my meeting with Arthur this week. I didn’t, however, and I soon realized that the combination of pouring rain, poor visibility, slick pavement, and Winter traffic jam seen through a windshieldincompetent drivers meant that I was going to be late. At one point, both lanes of traffic came to a standstill, and I took the opportunity to call Arthur on his cell phone to explain my situation and make my apologies.

“I’m sorry I’m going to be late,” I told him. “I’m stuck in traffic.”

“No, no,” he replied. “You’re not stuck in traffic; you are traffic.” I could imagine his wry smile on the other end of the call, and it made me smile too.

“You’re right, of course. Still, I should be there within twenty minutes,” I said. And I was.

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Why St. Patrick?

The man we now know as St. Patrick of Ireland was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  As a teenager he was captured by Irish raiders and forced into slavery in Ireland for six years, until, through unusual circumstances which he interpreted as God’s miraculous intervention, he escaped and returned to his family in Britain.  Eventually he was ordained a priest and returned to Ireland where he spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him.

While Patrick’s life is the stuff of legend, it is virtually indisputable that he was instrumental in the conversion of 5th century Ireland from the tribal paganism of the Druids to the Trinitarian Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His evangelistic success owes much to his willingness to embrace whatever elements of his surrounding culture he could use in the preaching of the Gospel, short of compromising the faith through unwise dilution of the Truth with paganism.  His ministry may be the only historical example of the conversion of an entire pagan culture to Christianity without violence and bloodshed accompanying.  For these reasons, I believe that St. Patrick has set a wonderful example for any ministry seeking to preach the Gospel cross-culturally.  Twenty-first century America represents a cross-cultural challenge for evangelical Anglicans.  I would encourage our new parish, and the ministry center which I have described, to identify Patrick of Ireland as their patron saint.

In my last few blog posts, I have attempted to provide a brief sketch of what the ministry of The St. Patrick Center might entail—a mere framework to give basic shape to the program which could develop in response to genuine needs as God makes resources available.  Some may consider the vision too ambitious or bold, particularly in hard economic times such as those facing Americans at present.  I believe, however, that there are always sufficient resources to accomplish all that God wants to do with us and through us for the glory of His name and for the advancement of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Moreover, I believe that my gifts, training, and experience over a lifetime of Christian service and Kingdom work, have prepared and equipped me to lead in the development of a ministry such as that which I have outlined here.

I have never thought of myself as particularly creative or “entrepreneurial” in my approach to vocational ministry.  Then again, up to now I have not needed to be.  What I have written here is not some grandiose scheme designed to advance my agenda or promote my interests.  Rather, it is a modest attempt to outline several potential opportunities for fruitful, productive, and Christ-honoring ministry within the “new Anglicanism” currently emerging in North America.  I have set these opportunities against a significant challenge, i.e. limited financial resources, which the Anglican Church in North America will need to address.

Only God can provide the support and supply the resources that will transform this vision from concept to reality.  It may be that God will use these blog posts as a catalyst in the lives of some of His people who have the means to help that transformation come about.  Significant progress in the growth of ACNA and the advancement of the Gospel through its auspices will require both visionary leadership and substantial sacrifice.  If we are up to that challenge, however, I believe God can and will do great things through ACNA for the glory of His Name.