Monday, 22 March 2010

Statement on the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

On this the 450th Anniversary Year of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, we call upon the Pope to recognize that we stand for ‘civil and religious liberties for all, special privileges for none’ and to respect these settled and cherished principles of the United Kingdom on his first state visit here.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the fruits of the Glorious Revolution 1688-89, allows various groups, religious and non-religious, to voice and demonstrate their concerns during the Pope’s visit. This is permissible in our democracy where there is freedom for expressing religious, political, moral, and ethical attitudes and responses.

The claim of the Pope to be the Vicar of Christ with supreme and universal primacy over church, state and world is unacceptable to us. He is the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, and ruler of the theocratic City State in Rome, without authority or jurisdiction within this sovereign state, which is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

We have a proud Protestant heritage in which we name a few of the many who have contributed hugely to the wellbeing of people here and throughout the world.

· William Tyndale translated the Holy Bible into English so that all may read it.

· Thomas Cranmer bequeathed the Book of Common Prayer to the English Church.

· John Knox spearheaded the reform of the Church of Scotland.

· William Bedell commissioned the translation of the Holy Bible into Irish.

· John Locke was a philosopher of political and religious freedom and tolerance.

· William and Mary safeguarded civil and religious liberty for every citizen.

· William Wilberforce led in the campaign which abolished the slave trade.

· David Livingstone pioneered medical missions.

· Florence Nightingale brought better training and practice to nursing care.

· Thomas Barnardo provided for and protected neglected, orphaned and vulnerable children and young people.

· C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist and author, challenged people to think deeply on life’s realities and what the faith has to say on them.

· HM Queen has exemplified Christian love and charity in the service of all.

The Protestant Reformed faith has contributed largely and positively in the making of the United Kingdom, the tolerant and diverse society in which its people can live together whatever their differences. We believe in the all sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, in the knowledge that our salvation is a gift of God through Christ alone by faith alone. We appeal to our members and people generally to be guided and governed by the example of Jesus Christ and to live peaceably and happily together for the common good.

A Prayer for the Clergy and People

O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

Sunday, 14 March 2010

St. Patrick: the real Patron Saint revealed

St. Patrick's Day March 17, with its concentration on Ireland and the Irish and its celebrations in music and song, parades and parties, has long been the most popular day of the year for many more than the Irish. It has been said with more than a little accuracy that all in New York are Irishmen on St. Patrick's Day with the green of the Emerald Isle the colouring for everything.

That the day is well known everywhere does not mean that Patrick is any more than a name to very many; and that could apply to Ireland too. People need to be reminded or told that the patron saint of Ireland was a Christian preacher, teacher and writer whose life and work had such an effect on his time and thereafter that hr is to be seen as the pivotal person in the beginnings, and development of Christianity in Ireland. As with historical figures generally much has been written about St Patrick.


When the man speaks for himself we learn some things about him. He does that in two writings - his "Confession" and "The Letter to Coroticus", in five sayings in tin book of Armagh and the hymn, "The Breastplate" which has been attributed to him He tells us he was a Roman Briton from Bonnaven Taberniae. The location of which has been set in Scotland, near Dumbarton on the River Clyde and in North Wales near Milford and we are left with these uncertain choices. His father was Calpurnius, a farmer and deacon of his church and his grandfather was Potitus, a priest. Captured and taken as a slave to Ireland he served a chieftain, Milchu, as a swineherd and cattle drover for six years on Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim. In his captivity Patrick came to see his dire straits as a punishment for his neglect of God. He described in his Confession how he "earnestly sought God and then I found Him."


After he escaped from his captivity there followed the "Silent Years" in which at home he worked and trained to be a minister of the Gospel. In a time of religious awakening in Europe Patrick studied in Gaul, France, where his mentor was Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, and perhaps in Rome. It was in these Silent Years that he had a Paul-like vision of one Victorious bearing letters and one "The Voice of the Irish." As he took the letter he "heard the voice of those who lived beside the wood Foclut near the Western sea." Responding to the call to "come over and help us" he returned to Ireland, having been consecrated a bishop by Germanus. The year was 432 and by his leadership there began the growth and development of the Celtic church. An early covert was the chieftain, Dichu, who gave him a site at Saul, Co. Down, where his first church, "Patrick's Barn" was built. From that beginning there were churches to follow in several places as Patrick and his Christians converted people from paganism. And these Celtic Christians were to take the faith to Britain and Europe with incredible results in the spread of Christianity. Whatever historians say about Patrick and Celtic Christianity his writings are Bible-based - the scriptures are quoted extensively - and his preaching and teaching was Christ centred and people orientated.


The legacy of St. Patrick is a Christianity free from the disunities and distresses that have adversely affected it in Ireland for many centuries. A cure for the ills, divisions and disturbances of today would be in return to the emphases of St. Patrick - the fundamentals of Christian belief and the primary purpose of the churches and Christians to bring people to faith in Christ to enjoy the benefits of the Gospel.

Denominational claims on Patrick mean little when what is important is that the man be seen for what he was - a pattern Christian whose life and work should be a persuasion on Christians everywhere to be as he was in his commitment and witness to Christ and in his service for people. If that thought is not lost in the festivities of St. Patrick's Day there is gain for those who participate in them.