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.)
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?
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.
(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.
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?
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.
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.