Happy St. Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2009

books / church / emerging church / ministry

St. Patrick's Day 2009I hope you’ve had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day. In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to know people with a strong interest in Celtic spirituality, and have learned some wonderful things. One of my friends, Brad Culver, wrote a post today about Patrick’s work against slavery and in defense of women that is a great read.

Recently, I read The Celtic Way of Evangelism, which is a fascinating book that looks at the qualities of the Celtic church before its distinctiveness was squelched by the Roman Empire/church of the early Middle Ages. It looks at several of the key figures, including but not limited to Patrick, and after it gives a good look at these things, it considers the similarities between our postmodern Western culture and the “barbarian” pre-Christian culture of the Celtic British Isles. There are many, and there is much for us to learn.

Granted, the book has a specific goal in mind, and thus it glosses over many areas. Also granted, the author has a specific theological framework from which he comes, and it manifests itself in interesting places (for example, he concludes that stories of miracles performed by Patrick and other early Celtic Christians were probably made up stories designed to illustrate positive qualities, rather than actual miracles that God performed). But regardless of these, it is fascinating to examine these followers of Jesus.

They practiced many things that have influenced the emerging church, and I think will continue to do so. Their views on hospitality, spirituality, and relationship to culture are foundational to many of us, and the more we learn them the more suited we will be to the changes that are occurring in our culture. At the moment, I am thinking specifically of hospitality and the relationship of the church to culture.

These early Celts created “third places” that, instead of retreating from the world or standing against it, existed as a place of refuge for the world, accepting and loving those around it. I think there are wonderful opportunities for us to create communities like this, and I think this is the best way for us to respond to the failure of unrestrained capitalism that we are now experiencing, both in our own lives and in ministering to those around us.

As a final note, there is a fun story about the creator of Guinness, though I don’t know if it is true, at this post:

Arthur Guinness was a Christian. And he was appalled and saddened about the toll Irish whiskey was having upon his countrymen. Thus, Mr. Guinness set about making a drink that was so heavy and filling (Guinness is a thick, stout beer) that his countrymen would drink less and more slowly and, thus, reduce drunkenness, intoxication and addiction.