On Thursday (10th October) the Church remembers Paulinus.
Now I think that it is very important we remember the saints – and I am not just talking about my beloved Northampton (you need to be a rugby fan at this point!) – because they keep us in touch with our heritage, our tradition, our journey and most importantly of all our mission. This is particularly true for good old Paulinus.
Paulinus was ‘sent’ to England by Pope Gregory as a missionary. After spending sometime in Northumbria he went to York and started to build a church; now York Minster. In 627 he became Bishop of York. York served very much as his base, a spiritual home or place of stability, for Paulinus continued to spend much of his life on the road. His mission was predominantly to the north of the Humber where he was famous for his evangelism and the baptism of new Christians. He was also a renowned church planter and builder. He wasn’t universally popular, however. Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, was not all enamored by a travelling bishop preaching love of God and neighbor as our highest callings; (still at least we don’t have to confront this issue now – I’m being ironic, possibly sarcastic – I prefer ironic, it makes me sound far nicer). Paulinus was forced to flee the North and eventually was ordained Bishop of Rochester. He died in 644.
The Gospel reading for Paulinus is Matthew 28, 16 -end; ‘The Great Commission.’ In this passage the eleven apostles are told to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,’ (verse 19). The timeless teaching and sacramental mission of the Church are laid out before us.
Reaching back into our heritage, reflecting on Paulinus on all that he brought to our land may challenge us to:
Thank God for the people who introduced us to, and nurtured us in, the faith.
Accept that the commission we have been given will not necessarily lead to universal acceptance. Like Paulinus we are called on to stand head to toe with the ‘powers and dominions,’ the unjust structures in society.
Look outwards to those who need to hear the message of Love and receive the seal of God’s love through Word and Sacrament.
I do worry (I am a worrier!) that the Church is in danger of throwing away it’s tradition in order to appear relevant, accessible, and user friendly. Understanding the role of folk like Paulinus, I think is hugely important, ‘do you agree?’