This month’s Saint is St Barnabas who, although not one of the Apostles, played a very important part in shaping the early church. He is not mentioned in any of the four Gospels but there are a lot references to him in in the Acts of the Apostles which gives us reliable information on his life and his role in the
I had some difficulty in finding a Saint for September who I had not already used in these articles and then I looked up St Gregory the Great and found what an extraordinary man he was and the influence that he brought to the church and the history of Europe. He was born about 540AD in Rome. His parents were a wealthy patrician family. His great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III. His father was a member of the Senate and had served as Prefect of the City of Rome. His mother, Sylvia, and two of his aunts are on the list of Saints of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. His family owned estates near Rome and in Sicily.
The Church was at this time in a turmoil, as was the Roman Empire. The seat of authority of the Emperor had moved to Constantinople. In 546AD the Goths had taken Rome and sacked the city destroying many of the buildings and slaughtering many of the inhabitants and driving out the rest. Those who survived were allowed back into the city three years later. It is probable that at this time the family of the child Gregory took refuge in their estates outside the city or in Sicily. The Goths were driven from most of Italy by the Emperor Justinian ruling from Constantinople. During the 540s also Italy and the rest of the Empire were racked with the plague which brought with it hunger. The Church was not much better with the Pope no longer effectively controlling the Church, Bishops were being appointed by tribal rulers and differences in belief and heresy were rife.
Gregory followed his father into public service and like his father became Prefect of Rome, when only 33. He had no lust for power however, and when his father died he gave his estate near Rome to the Church for use as a monastery and became a monk there. In his life in the monastery he was very unforgiving of sin and it is recorded that when a dying monk confessed to stealing gold coins Gregory expelled him from the monastery to die and threw the gold coins into his grave, but paid for masses to be said for the forgiveness of the monk’s soul.
It was clear that a man of Gregory’s experience could not be left in the contemplative life of a monastery when the city and the church needed him and in 579AD Pope Pelagius II sent him to Constantinople as his personal representative on an embassy asking for military assistance from the eastern empire to secure Rome against the Lombards. Constantinople was at that time threatened by the Persians and it was clear no help was forthcoming. During this period Gregory crossed swords in debate with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Eutychius, over the nature of Christ’s resurrection held in the presence of the Emperor Tiberius who pronounced in Gregory’s favour. Despite this Gregory is reported as having slaved to prevent a break between the Eastern and Western churches for the immediate future. Gregory returned to Rome and his life at his monastery in 585AD with the desire to continue a prayerful and contemplative life of a monk. It was not to last however for in 590 AD after the death of Pope Pelagius II Gregory was elected to be Pope which he accepted much against his will in a sense of duty to restore the fortunes of the Church in Rome.
The most pressing problem was that the inhabitants of Rome were starving because of the depredations of the Lombards. Gregory tackled the problem straight away by ordering farmers and monks on estates and abbeys outside of Rome to send send food into the city where it was distributed free to the needy, leading the way himself with produce from his former abbey. He also used his administrative skills to see that the food was distributed properly where it was most needed and devised a recording and accounting system to ensure it was properly distributed. He did not eat himself until the people had been fed. Throughout his papacy he always fed twelve indigent people at his table. The table itself is still preserved in Rome.
The civil government in Rome having broken down the Romans looked to the Papacy to fill in the vacuum and again Gregory’s sense of duty prevailed and the Papacy became the effective government of Rome and with it a large area of Italy. This remained so until the unification of Italy by Garibaldi in 1860.
Gregory’s immediate problem was to control the Goths and Lombards and he sought military help from the Emperor in Constantinople. No help was forthcoming however and Gregory appreciating that for the church to prosper it needed protection and the only force available were the very warlike tribes causing the problem. Gregory brought his statesmanlike qualities to play and persuaded the chiefs of those tribes who were nominally Christian to accept the role of protecting the church and he fostered alliances between those tribes. Some tribes such as the Franks initially refused to join but even they did eventually some time after Gregory’s death. This was very much the blueprint for the Holy Roman Empire two hundred years later. Gregory also reasserted the authority of the Papacy over the Church in Spain and those parts of France where it had been virtually lost.
Gregory was also aware of the need for spreading Christianity and re-ignited the missionary work of the Church. His most well known work in this respect was his commissioning the mission of St Augustine to bring Christianity to England. When Christianity was effected in an area he appointed Bishops and established a hierarchy.
He also saw the need for uniformity in the liturgy practiced throughout the church and personally rewrote some of the liturgy for the Eucharist some of which still influences our liturgy today. As if this was not enough he was an avid writer of letters and treatises on religious matters and over 800 letters and papers written by him are preserved in the Vatican archives. The most well known one is a treatise arguing that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the repentant prostitute were one and the same person. He also encouraged choirs in churches and is remembered in the term Gregorian plain chant.
He died on 12thMarch 604 and his relics are in St Peters in Rome. Pope, administrator, statesman, and religious thinker par excellence and a glutton for work he is certainly one of the most influential persons in developing the Christian Church.
He is the patron saint of students and teachers and choirs.
Martin Luther gave him the accolade of being the last good Pope.
We look forward and pray for The Rev Canon Ian Paton who will be consecrated and installed in a couple of weeks as the new Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane in St Ninian’s Cathedral, in Perth on Saturday 20 October.
The Very Rev Andrew Swift was consecrated and installed as the new Bishop of Brechin in St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee on Saturday 25 August. Let us reflect on his ministry in our neighbouring Diocease and let it shape our hopes and prayers for our own.
Several maintenance and improvement works have been completed at the Rectory in consultation with our new Rector Kenny and his wife Ruth.
Minor joiner work including floor repair, new kitchen cabinet door, rebuild shelf in airing cupboard.o 3 new glazed panel interior doors fitted to provide improved natural light in ground floor hall area.
Replacement of consumer unit and correction of some wiring faults and Electrical Certification,o Tree surgeon removal a large Sycamore tree that is too close to the houseo Moss removal from roof tiles, repairs to wooden fascias and cleaning/painting of facias.
New carpet, floor covering and Internal painting to do.
Thank-you to Steven Ballinger for re-polishing the church hall floor and for his work on the roof cleaning gulleys and blocked outlets.
Permanent repair to the zinc panel roof damaged in the storm in June pictured above is awaiting approval by planning. As we are contemplating replacing all the zinc panelling on the flat roof over the entrance hallway and we are a listed building in a conservation area we are required to notify Fife Council. It is hoped work will be underway within a month or so, if you’d like to help support this project, part funded by insurance, please get in touch with Jack Wardell.
If our faith was like a car, how do we keep it on the road? We need to refuel it most weeks and perhaps that’s attending church, a time to push us to keep working and spreading the love and word of God. Our daily reading or prayers would be like checking the gauges as we drive, we almost do this subconsciously now but our training tells us when things are wrong. We also spend a short time looking round to ensure no tyres are flat and ensuring that we are safe. There comes a time however, when we need a bit more.
Every year our car needs an MOT, something to ensure everything is working, to ensure we are safe. It looks deeper into the structure, the moving parts, things we take for granted. How do we in the church MOT ourselves? Many will say that the liturgical year allows for this renewal but I could contend that. For me I need more, I need to recharge my faith. Many of us take a retreat or a pilgrimage as a time for reflection and I would argue this is our MOT. It’s a time to look and feel if all is working, to ensure we are comfortable and connected in faith. We look deeper into ourselves, not to our moving joints but in the way we move through our faith.
What however do we take for granted? Glenalmond (the Scottish Episcopal Churches youth week) as a delegate not only was my first MOT, but it put me firmly on the road of faith. From then on it rejuvenated and inspired me to drive my faith and help take others down the same road. As time has gone on however the work I put in as a leader means the MOT isn’t quite enough. I need a little more maintenance and a full service plan (pardon the pun) to get me to my next MOT.
Church for me over the past couple of years was not the daily inspection subconsciously done prior to getting into the car, sitting in a comfy seat and hurtling down the motorway at 70mph (and not anything over!). Church had become a winding single track road with pot holes, blind corners and not only oncoming traffic to be careful of but animals with no road sense. I wanted to be on the road, whilst a tough journey, I believed in where I was going. It was however exhausting, frustrating and hard work. Yet the beauty and wilderness on either side was incredible, can you really enjoy it whilst trying to keep you and your passengers alive? Can you enjoy endless glens, mountains, rivers or lochs when trying to keep your car on the road and avoid a collision?
The week I wrote this I drove up such roads, I filled the car with all my stuff and that of my girlfriend and grandparents who joined me on this journey. I purposely put my car on the roads with the best views, exploring parts of Scotland I had rarely been through if at all. These roads are the most difficult, twisting and bumpy but also poorly maintained. Why did I choose this path? Why didn’t I go up the main motorways and cruise to my destination?
I find the roads less travelled give you more time to reflect, less traffic to sit behind and a sense of being away from everything. The views are incredible they make it worthwhile but it’s a hard road, it exhausts even the most competent driver. Even with an automatic now taking some of the decision making away each blind bend or bump or pot hole needs to be judged, the car needs to be adjusted to suit and we must continue on. It is however completely worth it. Exhausted I would arrive at our overnight accommodation and reflect on the day, whilst recharging I knew I loved it, the views over the parts of Scotland I had never seen.
One such day I took a small single track road north from Inverness to a small drovers Inn. The Crask Inn has been there for hundreds of years, a place for travellers to stop, recharge, eat,drink and sleep. It was however gifted to the Scottish Episcopal Church a couple of years ago. Now it serves a deeper purpose, it still has a pub to serve drinks and food to those passing by. It still has brilliant rooms to rest, shower and recharge overnight. Unlike many others, it is also a church.
The couple who run the Inn (whose children attended Glen) left their lives in the city behind to move and run the B&B; they also serve food and drinks all day. There is not a service every day but morning and evening prayer happens together with guests and staff alike. With no TV or WiFi and only the incredible views to enjoy you have time to think and reflect. Very quickly you feel at home, not as a guest but as a friend. We spoke about church, theology, sport, the economy and even politics. When we prayed together however I felt connected with each of them so quickly, them and God.
It recharged me in a way I needed more than I knew. I attended two lovely services that morning, had lunch with a Rector friend, then found that sitting over dinner and a drink, praying with total strangers in an Inn in the middle of nowhere made me feel recharged and connected on a deeper level. It was my service, my deep maintenance I needed.
I will now drive again down the twisting roads to Glen. At the time of print we will be packing up and heading home, hopefully I will have been the MOT for the delegates in the way I got when I was at the Crask Inn. Hopefully, they will continue on the road I have taken, whilst turning off at different places and choosing other routes. Having young adults on the road beside us truly is an amazing thing. Sometimes the easy road is the best and other times the slower meandering roads are worth the extra effort. Hopefully, we will all end up in the same beautiful place embraced by God’s Love.
Where is that journey now for us? As our churches get to the same junction on the road what turn will we take? With someone new behind the wheel where will they be inclined to take us? Will their maintenance on our car be what we need to stay on God’s road, no matter if we chose the easy and quick or long and difficult road will we end up together in God’s Love? I pray, like the Crask Inn, we find our refuge to recharge, to look after the vehicle and be sure we are not too tired to drive ourselves. No matter the journey, with moments to look after ourselves and others we will make it to the destination God intends for us.