HAHA Part 13
Re-evangelization of Europe from Britain
G’day and welcome to Partakers and to our series, HAHA – Heroes and Heretics Abound. Together we are looking at the story of the church from its origins to the Age of Reasoning in the 18th century. Last time we looked at the rise of a new religion, some would say threat, coming towards Christianity – Islam! Today we will discover the church in Britain reaching out into Europe!
We are now in the year 597AD of our journey through Church history! Augustine has returned to Britain! Here is an example of how Augustine helped establish Christianity in England. We take this excerpt from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England.
Some days after, Ethelbert, the king of Kent, came into the island of Thanet, and sitting in the open air, ordered Augustine and his companions to come and hold a conference with him.
They came endued with Divine, not with magic power, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and chanting litanies, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom and for whom they had come.
When they had sat down, in obedience to the king’s commands, and preached to him and his attendants there present the Word of life, the king answered thus: "Your words and promises are fair, but because they are new to us, and of uncertain import, I cannot consent to them so far as to forsake that which I have so long observed with the whole English nation. But because you are come from far as strangers into my kingdom, and, as I conceive, are desirous to impart to us those things which you believe to be true, and most beneficial, we desire not to harm you, but will give you favourable entertainment, and take care to supply you with all things necessary to your sustenance; nor do we forbid you to preach and gain as many as you can to your religion."
Accordingly he gave them an abode in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, as he had promised, besides supplying them with sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach.
Christianity goes from Britain to Europe!
So Christianity in Britain was starting to flourish and grow! However following the death of Gregory the Great, the European Church started to decline rapidly.
The reasons for this were:
• The growing threat of Islam;
• Moral, spiritual and intellectual decline;
• Interference by secular powers and politics in the church.
Not all was lost! There was help at hand – God was at work! People were sent from Britain to Europe to reintroduce the Gospel there! These Anglo-Saxon missionaries, brought with them Roman Catholic organisation and order. Here are just two examples of many of British missionaries helping to re-establish Christianity in Europe.
Celtic missionaries (Ireland, Wales). Many missionaries went to Europe. They adopted a roving style of ministry, not settling down to give their ministry a solid foundation. For example Columbanus from Ireland, founded many monasteries in France and Italy in the year 590 onwards.
This is from his writings “We Irish, though dwelling at the far ends of the earth, are all disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul ... we are bound to the Chair of Peter, and although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair alone is she looked on as great and illustrious among us ... On account of the two Apostles of Christ, you are almost celestial, and Rome is the head of the whole world, and of the Churches.”
Boniface 680-754. He was sent from England, to Frisia and Germany to spread the good news of Christianity! He is known as the Apostle to Germany, following extensive missionary work in Bavaria, Thuringa and Hesse. He was appointed archbishop of Germany in 732. In 754 he was killed in Frisia for his Christian faith. Before he had penetrated central Germany with the gospel, Christianity had not advanced far there. When Boniface arrived it was a region dominated by pagan religions and wilderness. Boniface was known for his preaching and his oratory skill and as a result the region opened up quickly to Christianity. Boniface’s mark on the Germany church would resonate down through history, well into the middle ages, as we shall see!
That’s it for this time! Next time in our series HAHA, we will return to the Holy Roman Empire – or what there was of it – looking at, amongst others, Charles Martel & Charlemagne! Thanks for listening! Come back to Partakers, where every day there is something new to encourage your walk as a Christian in the 21st century.