Irish-Scotch Travel Journal Day – 8

Saint Augustine’s Church (on the Wall), Londonderry, Northern Ireland

I’ve often said the existence keys is the best evidence we live in a fallen world. Keys are necessary to unlock locks, and locks are only necessary because people steal.

In terms of such evidence city walls run a close second. We’ve seen many examples of city walls in our travels: Jerusalem, Istanbul, Vienna, York, Dubrovnik. Today we added Londonderry to that list.

Londonderry’s famous walls

The irony is in Londonderry the walls could not defend against what threatened to tear the city apart following the Reformation. That threat culminated in “The Troubles” of 1968 through 1972, and more acutely on Bloody Sunday (January 23, 1972), where 13 civil rights demonstrators were killed by the police.

St. Columba and St. Patrick would have been shocked to hear “The Troubles” framed as a religious dispute amongst Christians. It was more political and cultural than religious. I never heard the leaders of the opposing sides debating salvation and the merits of monergism or synergism.

Our tour guide was careful to make clear that his use of the name “Derry” (the Irish Republican designation) instead of Londonderry (the UK/Unionist name), was not intended to be a political statement but a more convenient name for the city we were touring today. Fortunately, things have quieted down here since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and we no longer associate Northern Ireland with bombings and the IRA.

Key in bringing about that 1998 peace agreement was John Hume, a devout Christian who attended St. Columb’s (Columba’s) school, and St. Patrick’s College, where he studied for the priesthood before choosing a career in education and ultimately in politics.

Northern Ireland can be thankful Hume chose a career in politics rather than the priesthood, and more importantly that he choice to be peacemaker.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:9.

When we act as peacemakers, we are imitating our Father. Like father like son. The Apostle Paul spoke of this imitation of the Father when he told the Galatians that those who are lead by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Galatians 8:14. When we are led by the spirit, we imitate God, Who is spirit.

Although there was a small scattered community already there, St. Columba is often credited with founding the city we know today as Londonderry when he arrived in the area in 543 A.D. and established a monastery.

But even more important than becoming the catalyst for the town’s growth, the monastery became a place where the Bible was copied, people were educated in the things of God, and missionaries were trained and sent out with the gospel.

This was the spot where Columba founded the monastery in 545 A.D.

Today we visited the spot where that monastery used to stand. Today that place is occupied by St. Augustine’s Church, also known as the “Wee Church on the Walls,” because it is located on the city wall.

I tried to get into the church to look around, but it was locked . . . . at 2 p.m. on a Sunday. Who knows, maybe it is a functioning church rather than a museum, unlike so many famous historical church buildings in Europe. Still, I was at the spot, where St. Columba trod, and that is part of what our tours are about-going to the places where Kingdom citizens changed the world and while not connecting in time, at least connecting in space.

While our tour guide was good about avoiding talk of Irish politics, he was not as successful in avoiding American politics. After we returned to the bus from our tour of Londonderry, he brought up the topic of the American Presidential race. It wasn’t much of a leap from there to Donald Trump.

When someone mentioned Trump, he said, “You know he walked before the Queen? Even the Duke of Edinburgh knew not to do that.” This caused spontaneous laughter from the entire GSB team who remembered a similar comment at Lindisfarne, 6 years prior on the Scotch-Irish Travel Journal.

Again, as I did 6 years prior, I mentioned some things one might consider worse: sex with a porn star while he was married, while his wife was pregnant. Then before I could get to the 34 felony convictions, the $500 million in civil judgments, bragging about “grabbing women by the p***y,” and perhaps even inciting an insurrection, he interrupted and said, “No, you don’t understand. This is a very big deal here.” Apparently. GS

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