England Travel Journal – Day 12

Canterbury Cathedral-outside being renovated, inside the same

Canterbury is the Anglicans’ Rome, and it is where Christianity was reintroduced in 587 A.D. by Augustine (not of Hippo) and where it finally and permanently took root.

Between 450 A.D. and 597 A.D. Angles and Saxons from Europe invaded England, bringing their pagan beliefs. What was left of the Church in western England was separated from Rome.

Toward the end of the sixth century, Queen Bertha of Kent, wife of King Aethelberht, requested the church in Gaul send Christian leaders to evangelize their kingdom. Bertha, was a Christian; Aethelberht was not.

The church in Gaul sent no one, so Bertha made the same request of Pope Gregory in Rome.

In response, Gregory sent Augustine. Augustine got as far as Gaul when the rest of his group upon hearing of the brutality of the Angles and Saxons, rebelled and refused to go further. Augustine returned to Rome to meet with Pope Gregory to ask to abandon the mission. Gregory denied the request and encouraged Augustine to continue on to England. Augustine was obedient and did exactly that.

Although Aethelberht was initially reluctant, he became a Christian. Many of his leaders followed. Augustine then went into to oother surrounding towns and into the country making disciples. He also had a cathedral built in Canterbury, along with an abbey, and became the first Bishop of Canterbury.

Augustine’s obedience included a false start and may not have been perfect, but he did the will of the Lord in the end. We are still talking about Augustine of Canterbury. The church leaders in Gaul who did not respond to the call to make to disciples have been lost to history.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

Matthew 21:28-31

I wanted to get to Canterbury before 11 a.m., so I could attend their Sunday service. I was surprised to find the service nearly identical to a Catholic mass. The choir was amazing, but the music wasn’t Hillsong. Part of the music was in Latin. The Vice-Dean (priest) read her sermon. It was not seeker friendly.

I get the whole “high church” thing. I was raised in it. But ritual is not Truth; it is merely a mode of delivering it. At least Augustine took interpreters. Here there was no attempt to translate Truth into a 21st century tongue. Ironically, Canterbury Cathedral is under renovation on the outside. On the inside everything remains the same as it apparently has always been.

Later in the afternoon, I walked to the ruins of the Augustine’s Abbey and then St. Martin’s church, the oldest English speaking church in the world. It was founded in approximately 580 A.D. by Bertha as her personal chapel before Augustine arrived.

After a long day in Canterbury we suffered a long drive back to Brighton, at one point traveling only 3 miles in a little over an hour. The freeway was shut down and all the traffic was diverted. The only difference between an English traffic jam and an American one is the Brits are considerably more courteous.

We were happy when we finally arrived back at the The Grand Brighton Hotel and could order dinner. GS

Leave a Reply