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THE ENSIGN MESSAGE

EARLY CELTIC CHRISTIAN MISSIONS FROM BRITAIN

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Wikipedia states:

“Augustine of Canterbury  was a Benedictine monk who  became the first Archbishop  of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the “Apostle to the Englishand a founder of the English Church

The  Encyclopedia Britannica  under  the  heading ‘St.Augustine’ similarly records  that he was the:

First archbishop of Canterbury  and the apostle of England who founded the Christian Church in southern England (6th Cent. AD)

But under the heading  ‘Celtic Church’ has:

The early Christian Church in the British Isles founded in the  2nd and 3rd Cent. ADit contributed to the conversion of the Anglo Saxons in the 7th Cent.

The zeal of this early Celtic Church was highly successful in the  conversion of the incoming  Anglo Saxons. Within a few decades the Saxons built numerous churches throughout  the land.

Our Celtic church  had enjoyed  a solid foundation and enduring Christian heritage in ancient  Britain.

The Venerable Bede in his ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ observes that:

“In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 156 … Lucius… and the Britons preserved the faith, which they had received, uncorrupted and entire, in peace and tranquillity until the time of the Emperor Diocletian” (ch.4)

A plaque in the vestry of St. Peters Church, Cornhill, London also records the Christian faith of King Lucius and his British subjects:

“Be it known to all men that the year of our Lord God 179, Lucius, the first Christian King of the land, then called Britain, founded the first church  in London, that is to say, the church of St. Peter upon Cornhill. And he founded there an Archbishops See and made the church the metropolitan and chief church of the kingdom”

In his ‘Old English Chronicles’, 1906, p.393, J. A Giles states: ”After the birth of Christ, one  hundred  and sixty seven years, king Lucius, with all the chiefs of the British people, received baptism”

The missionary enterprise of this ancient British Church even from the earliest times extended beyond the borders of the British Isles and into the continent of Europe.

William  Makepiece Thackery, a  popular author contemporary with Charles  Dickens,  points  out  that Lucius in later years became a missionary and preached the gospel and died in Switzerland:

I had occasion to pass a week in the autumn in the little old town of Caire or Chur, in the Grisons (eastern Switzerland), where lies buried that very ancient British king, saint, and martyr, Lucius, who founded the Church of St. Peter, on Cornhill… his statue appears surrounded by other sainted  persons  of his family” (Roundabout Papers, 1860, p.1)

Decades before Augustine arrived in England, British missionaries evangelised Brittany in France. The town of Saint Malo is so  named  in memory of one such preacher:

“Saint Malo was named for Maclou, or Malo, a Welsh monk who ... became the first bishop of Aleth(Brittany). (The Encyclopedia Britannica)

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a date for this event:

St. Malo in 543 was consecrated first Bishop of Aleth(Brittany- France)

A Stained glass window in the Cathedral at St. Malo celebrates seven British missionaries arriving in 6th & 7th centuries.

Samson, Bishop of Dol-de-Bretagne (Brittany) (c.485-565AD) was educated at the Abbey of Llantwit Major in

Glamorganshire, Wales.  The Catholic  Encyclopedia states:

“St. Samson: born in South Wales; (died 565) set sail for Brittany. He landed near Dol, and there built a monastery  which became  the centre of his episcopal work in the district

In similar vein, further Celtic Christian missions from Britain to France  prior to the arrival of Augustine  in England are recorded  in The Encyclopedia Britannica:

Saint Columban (543- 615) left Ireland about 590 with 12 monks and established himself  at Annegray in Gaul (East France)”

The same encyclopedia also states that:

Saint  Gall  (550- 645)  became  a disciple of St. Columban and joined him on a mission to France and northern Switzerland

Furseus (567-  650) left Ireland ... and established himself in Neustria (Normandy) About 644 he founded a monastery at Lagny, near Paris”

Early Christian missions from Britain to Germany are also recorded:

Saint Kilian, (640- 689) missionary bishop who, with  his companions Colman  and Totnan, gave his life for  the  Christianization of  Thuringia and  eastern Franconia (Germany

“Fridolin of Sackingen, born in Ireland (7th cent.) crossed over to France then travelled  to the Rhine building churches along the way (Enc. Britannica)                  ‘

Under the heading  of : ·Wilbrord (born 658, Northumbria)The  Encyclopedia Britannica records that:

“In 690 Egbert sent Willibrord with 11 companions to undertake the  Christianization of  the  Frisians (Netherlands)

These are only a few examples of the intense faith and missionary zeal of the early British Church. A Church which was formed in the first century of the Christian era.

The 17th century English historian Henry Spelman was given the task of exploring the origins of the ancient British Church. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes him as:

Sir Henry Spelman, (born I564?-died  Oct. 14, I641, London), English  antiquary,  ecclesiastical and legal historian best known for his Concilia,  Decreta, Leges, Constitutiones, in Re Ecclesiarum Orbis Britannici (Councils, Decrees, Laws,  and  Constitutions of the English Church‘), which was perhaps the first systematic compilation of church documents. The first volume of the two-part Concilia covered Christianity in Britain until the Norman Conquest (1066) and was published in I639; the second volume was issued posthumously in I664. Three times a member  of Parliament, Spelman sat on several royal commissions, including the council for New England (from  I620)”

He begins his “Concilia” by stating:

It is certain that Britain received the faith in the first age from the first sowers of the word. Of all the churches whose origin I have investigated, the  church of Glastonbury is the most ancient.

We have abundant evidence that Britain received the faith and that from the disciples of Christ himself  soon after the crucifixion”

Such a testimony  to the astonishing  spread  of the Christian gospel  within  the first century  can  only be attributed to the great commission which our Lord Jesus Christ gave to his disciples after His resurrection:

“ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1 :8)

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