Amma Sue - October 2013

posted 5 Nov 2013, 09:40 by Richard Jones   [ updated 5 Nov 2013, 09:40 ]

Dear Friends,

The 10th of October 2013 is scheduled to be a day of great celebration for us here in Blackburn as Archdeacon Julian Henderson will be consecrated bishop at York Minster and just under 10 days later he will be inaugurated as the new Bishop of Blackburn at our Cathedral. The 10th of October is also a special day in the calendar of the Church in these Islands as this is also the feast day of Paulinus, the first bishop of York.

Paulinus was among the missionaries sent by Pope Gregory the First to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon peoples and he arrived in Kent in the year 604. In 625 he travelled with Aethelburga the king of Kent’s sister to Northumbria where she married the pagan King Edwin, king of King of Deira and Bernicia. Paulinus converted Edwin to Christianity and on Easter Day 627 he baptised King Edwin and other members of his court in the river Ouse at York. Among the newly baptised Christians on that day was a young woman Hild, who would eventually go on to be one of the great names in the history of Christianity in the UK; and we know her today as St. Hilda of Whitby.

Back in the 7th century Lancashire was part of Edwin’s kingdom and there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Paulinus may have visited this part of the world during his missionary travels around Deira and Bernicia. Indeed, in Whalley church yard there is a ‘preaching cross’ that dates from around this time and it is well documented that Paulinus, in common with other missionary bishops and clergy of his day, would erect these types of crosses usually on or by a river in order to evangelise and baptise newly converted Christians. After King Edwin’s death on the battlefield in 633, Paulinus and Aethelburga fled back to the safety of Kent and many of the newly converted Christians reverted to paganism but the light of faith was kept burning by Paulinus’ colleague, James the Deacon along with many anonymous faithful Christian believers.

Pope Gregory’s plan was that York should become a second metropolitan See and it was here that Paulinus built his first church. So it is more than appropriate that our new Bishop should be consecrated in York on Paulinus’ feast day.

No-one knows just when Christianity first came to Britain but it is certain that even in Paulinus’ day there were small numbers of believers here and so the Christian message preached by Paulinus and other missionaries fell on some fertile ground. Over the centuries of course the Christian church has developed and changed but the central message remains the same that: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life [John 3.16].

Edwin’s death and Paulinus’ exile brought some dark times to the Christian church in this part of the world nevertheless the light of Christ could not be extinguished and that light has been passed down the generations by heroic saints, courageous missionaries – and most importantly by ordinary disciples who “gossiped the gospel” and “walked the talk”. We are their inheritors, and so during this special time of celebration as our new bishop is consecrated and inaugurated let us give thanks to God for the faithful mission of Paulinus and most especially for the faithful witness of the anonymous saints of God who fanned the flame and did indeed “shine as lights in the world to the glory of God the Father.”

May God richly bless you all,

Amma Sue