On this day
Each month we remember key figures from the past whose stories have contributed to the life of the church in Scotland and continue to provide encouragement and inspiration to us today.
This month we remember, among others, a former general secretary of the United Nations, a founder of the largest child care organisation in Britain, a Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1943 and a poet who gave his vision of hell.
1 September: Giles
Giles gives his name to churches in Scotland from Edinburgh to Elgin. He was not a Scot, nor did he ever visit Scotland, but through comings and goings between continental and Scottish monasteries, and through the stories brought home by Scots fighting battles abroad, his fame spread. Those who turned to him the most were nursing mothers, lepers, cripples especially; he was also the patron saint of blacksmiths. Greek by birth (he has another name, Aegidius), he settled as a hermit in Provence. One day, protecting a stag from the king's arrow, he was shot in the arm. The king, ashamed, gave him some of his land, on which later a Benedictine monastery was built. He died on this day in 741.
4 September: Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer began his career as pastor and theologian, publishing a book about Jesus Christ which caused a great stir as Honest to God did in the 1960s. In 1913 he shocked the academic world by giving up a promising career to train as a doctor and care for the sick in a monastery outpost at Lambarene in Africa (what is now Gabon). His hospital was destroyed in the First World War, he returned in 1924 to rebuild it and continue his work. Through his autobiography, On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, as well as through his lectures back home, he caught the popular imagination and became a hero figure to some, as well as an inspiration for medical mission work. Part of the fascination was in his ability to excel at many thing. For example, he became well-known as an organ recitalist and expert on the music of J. S. Bach. He was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and died in 1965.
14 September: Cyprian of Carthage
Cyprian of Carthage was a lawyer convert to Christianity who was 'fast - tracked' to become, within two years, bishop of the important sea of Carthage. His time was characterised by persecutions by the Roman Emperors Decius and Valerian, as well as by local sectarian violence when Christians were blamed for the outbreak of a devastating plague. These various persecutions caused many Christians to lapse, returning to the church in more peaceful times. Where Cyprian differed from many contemporaries was in insisting that the faith was not something that you could drift in and out of at will, and that therefore such people should only be allowed back after due penance.
He also took a hard line, against those at Rome, about the need to rebaptism, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Christians who had been first baptised in heretical sects. He was a great upholder of the church, saying: "He no longer has God for his father who does not have the church for his mother." He also resisted centralisation of episcopal authority at Rome, seeing all bishops as equal. He himself was martyred in the Valerian persecutions in 258. Note: in some calendars, Cyprian is remembered on 13 September or 16 September, to avoid other festivals. This is also a good way of avoiding multiple commemorations, and may be adopted at will.
Also on this day: Dante Alighieri is remembered chiefly for his poetic work, Divina Commedia ('The Divine Comedy'), a landmark of literature, famous for its vision of hell ("Abandon hope all ye who enter here"), purgatory and heaven. It is not just the sublime, powerful language of the poem that has made it memorable but the way in which the author's vast knowledge of the science, customs, morals and theology of his day are interwoven with the text. According to some as a work, it was second to only the Bible in influence it wielded. For Scots, the poem has added interest in that he refers to the borderer Michael Scott, known as the 'wondrous wizard', scholar and astrologer who was as well known in Italy as in the British Isles. Dante died in 1321.
Also on this day: A. M. Hunter was born in Kilwinning and served as minister at Comrie Old and Perth Kinnoull. He was appointed professor of New Testament at Mansfield College, Oxford, and then to a similar post at the University of Aberdeen. He was also Master of Christ's College, which housed the faculty of divinity where candidates for the ministry were trained. Unusually, his academic posts alternated with his parish ministries, and this may have had some bearing on the fact that his books on various aspects of the New Testament, e.g. Interpreting the Parables, were so accessible to the ordinary reader as much as to the serious student. His approach to the New Testament as a unity was considered pioneering. He followed scholars such as C. H. Dodd, T. W. Manson, and Vincent Taylor, whose stance was described as 'critical orthodoxy'. He died in 1991.
15 September: Mirren
Like many saints of the sixth and other early centuries, Mirren came from Ireland to Scotland. He is said to have been prior of the huge monastery at Irish Bangor. Some give him a royal pedigree, but this was often done by writers who wrote about the lives of saints to give it realism. That these saints made their mark is shown in the place names that have survived bearing their name. Perhaps the liveliest survival of the saint is in the Paisley football team, but there are many other references in the streets of that town, as there are in Ayrshire, the Stewartry, and Loch Lomond. He is said to have teamed up with Constantine of Govan for some of his work. He is said to have founded the monastery at Paisley and there was a chapel dedicated to him in the ruins at Inch Muryn, the largest island of Loch Lomond. The year of his death is not known.
16 September: Ninian
Ninian is also known as Ringan. He is usually given the distinction of being the first Christian missionary in what is now Scotland, but traditional beliefs about his role have been much challenged by recent scholarship. The Venerable Bede is a relatively early source (eighth century) and, although there are problems with his account, it is worth mentioning his belief that Ninian was a Briton, a bishop who studied at Rome, knew and visited the famous St Martin of Tours and was successful in converting whole tribes to Christianity. Said to have been active in the fifth century, and thus before Columba, he is associated with Whithorn in the extreme south west of the country. There was probably a revival of interest in him later centuries as many place names testify. His date of death is put as c432.
17 September: Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard was a church leader of the twelfth century. She was head of an abbey of nuns, a writer, visionary, composer of music, playwright, diplomatic, supporter to those with unpopular causes, theologian, scientist, prophet (known as the 'Sybil of the Rhine'), and correspondent of emperors and popes. Her musical style was revolutionary for its day, as was the way she described the role of music. She wrote: "Music arouses the sluggish soul to watchfulness. It has power to soften even hard hearts, and by rendering heats moist it ushers in the Holy Spirit. Through the power of hearing, God opens to human beings all the glorious sounds of the hidden mysteries and of the choirs of angels by whom God is praised over and over again." She died in 1179.
18 September: Dag Hammarskjold
Dag Hammarskjold was the son of a Swedish prime minister who became the second secretary general of the United Nations. His work for peace was helped by a strong moral outlook, a subtle and effective statesmanship, and a Christian faith, the latter expressed memorably in his much work Markings, which he described as: "a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself and God." The United Nations under his guidance gained greatly in prestige and influence, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was killed in an air crash in 1961.
19 September: Thomas Barnardo
Thomas Barnardo was of Spanish descent but was born in Dublin. His first aim was to become a medical missionary and while studying he founded, in 1867, the East End Mission for Destitute Children in Stepney. This was to be the first of some 90 Christian homes, which became known for the high standards of care found therein. The name of this great social pioneer has become synonymous with child care, and today 'Barnardo's' is the largest child care organisation in Britain. He died in 1905.
23 September: Adamnan of Iona
Adamnan was a scholarly abbot and a kinsman of Columba, whose Life of St. Columba revealed a great deal about early monastic communities, particularly that of Iona, information we would not otherwise have. Under him the missioning of Scotland continued. He was an ecumenical figure, being willing to accept a unified date for Easter, giving up the one observed by his branch of the church, a gesture in which his monks did not follow him. Another valuable book was based on the eye-witness account of a pilgrim returned from the holy places of Palestine. Adamnan was renowned also for his steps to protect non-combatants in war, particularly women and children, and in the face of violations he would use the symbolic ringing of a bell to declare this new code of conduct. He died in 704.
26 September: Lancelot Andrewes
Lancelot Andrewes was an English scholar, master of 15 languages, vicar of St Giles' Cripplegate, and finally Bishop of Winchester. He participated in the Hampton Court Conference (1604) which led to the preparation of the authorized version or King James Bible and in which he himself was involved. He was a remarkable preacher, and it is for this for which he is remembered in churches other than his own. He was much involved in the affairs of the state as well as of the church, and was a great supporter of King James VI and I, whom he accompanied on his visit to persuade the Scots to accept episcopacy. He was one of the principal influences in the emerging distinctive Anglican theology, "reasonable in outlook and Catholic in tone." He died in 1626.
29 September: George Buchanan
Was born at Killearn and became known throughout Europe as a brilliant and exciting scholar and teacher. An early reformer, he was a severe critic of the late medieval church and was held in high regard by John Knox. After suffering under the Inquisition in Portugal, he returned to Scotland to become an early non-ministerial Moderator of The General Assembly. Initially supportive of Mary, he turned against her after her marriage with Darnley and prepared evidence that eventually led to her execution. Tutor to the young James VI he produced De Jure legi apud Scotos, which argued that monarchs ruled by the will of the people and for their good. He died in 1582.
Also on this day: John Baillie was a distinguished divinity professor at Edinburgh and (like his brother, Donald, who held similar chair at St Andrews) a renowned teacher. His books explored theology, examples being Our Knowledge of God and The Sense of the Presence of Godi, but he also explored the world of the spirit, famously in A Diary of Private Prayer. He was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1943, chaired the significant 'Commission for the Interpretation of God's Will in the Present Crisis' which helped the Church respond to the war and its aftermath. He was created a Companion of Honour and died in 1960.
30 September: Jerome
Jerome was born in Dalmatia and educated in Greek and Latin rhetoric in Rome where he was baptised. A great scholar, numbered among the 'Doctors of the Church', he was also a 'boney fetcher' and made enemies even of friends. A turning point came when after a vision he renounced his interest in the literature of the time and became a hermit in the Syrian desert in penance. Later in Rome he became secretary to Pope Damasus but his outspokenness caused ill-will and he left with a female admirer to establish a monastery in Bethlehem! He is remembered for continuing of Eusebius' great history of the Christian church, but especially for The Vulgate - his revision of older Latin New Testament versions (c383) and a translation of the Hebrew Septuagint (c405) - which was to remain the essential authorised Roman Catholic Bible until recently. He died in 420.
Also on this day: George Whitfield was born in 1714 and became a Christian in 1735 (partly due to reading the Scot Henry Scougal's famous classic, The Life of God in the Soul of Man). Like the Wesleys, through an Anglican deacon, he was critical of church life and belief of his day and was unwelcome in many congregations. His response was to preach in the open air, often to vast crowds both in America and England. The effective founder of Calvinistic Methodism, as an evangelical he was warmly welcomed by the evangelicals in the Church of Scotland on his fourteenth visit to Scotland. He was associated with movements known as the 'Cambuslang Wark' (1742) and the 'Kilsyth Revival'. One of the world's greatest preachers, loud and untiring, he said of Scotland that it was: "a desirable place to go to heaven from. I love, I love the dear people." He died in 1770.