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In the light of comments that the teaching of Christianity is often ‘incoherent’ and

disappoints those who, having studied the results of a YouGov poll, believe that

there is widespread support for imaginative communication about key events,

here is a poem about early faith dissemination in Britain:



Gregory,  I think we’ve made a mistake.

Maybe we should consider coming back.

This isn’t going to be a piece of cake:

St. Columba must be on the wrong track.




The twenty third of July, 596.



It would be better never to commence

such an enterprise, if you cannot fix

your eyes on the goal. Brother, do not sin.

The greater the labour, so the reward.

I have written to the pontiff at Arles:

“Etherius, help this mission forward.”

Try to minimise your petty quarrels.





 Holy Father, we have met Ethelbert.

He seems to rule what is here termed Kent.

I feel better, but it’s not a dead cert,

though saintly Bertha thinks we’re heaven sent.

The Isle of Thanet was our meeting place.

He worried that we might be magicians,

but at length accepted us with good grace;

gave us licence to preach – and provisions.

The king has now accepted baptism.

He says he won’t compel anyone:

subjects should choose faith to avoid schism.

(I think Canterbury could be quite fun.)

Your brother,




Dear Etherius, I thank you kindly

for last week’s wonderful consecration.

I’ve sent monks from our episcopal see

to tell Gregory we’ve won this nation.

Yours in Christ,




Dear Gregory, I hope you will not mind

if I pose some thorny questions to you.

(The pallium you sent me was most kind.)

About the heathen temples: what’s your view?

Yours faithfully,




Don’t use the sickle of authority,

dear Augustine, in another man’s field.

Destroy idols; keep the majority

of the buildings. I hear sick have been healed

and you’ve been doing miracles, my son.

Beware of pride – it affects all of us,

Gregory, A.D., 601.

P.S. Please welcome Abbot Mellitus.

When Mellitus arrived in London from Rome in AD 591, he found almost no evidence of a Christian presence


(Augustine’s Oak, 603 A.D.)

Concerning Easter, bishops, celebrate

it with the church – ecumenically….

I’ll heal this blind man while you fix the date.

Yours apostolically,





Dear Hermit, we think we need a sign:

should we abandon our tradition?

Is he a man of God, this Augustine?

Is he one of the sons of perdition?

Yours respectfully,

Bishops X, Y, and Z.



Bishops, there is only one way to tell:

does he rise to greet you when you approach?

If not, you can judge him very well

as guilty of pride, worthy of reproach.

Yours ascetically,

A. Hermit.



Augustine : I recognise your trite ploys.

I warn you, if you do not unify

with fellow Christians, you will forfeit joys.

Casualties under Ethelfrid were high.


Justus to Gregory:

When the Bishops arrived, he did not rise

from his seat, so he was not recognised.

They thought he had too many Kentish ties

and his approach was not homogenised.






Laurence to his flock: sadly here he lies:

the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though

blessed by God, it was not terribly wise

to share his name with that saint of Hippo,

for Christians can be easily confused.

I hope you will distinguish him from now,

so that believers will not stand accused

of ignorance. His worth we must avow.