Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick as the model emergent

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone!

I'd just like to share with you a little more about this holiday, and about the Patron Saint of Ireland whom we honor today.

Saint Patrick lived in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. As a young man he was captured and taken into slavery in Ireland. After being released he went and studied at a monastery, then later returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Much of what's known about Saint Patrick is legend. It's hard to sort out the myths from the realities about him. But mythical or truthful, his biography is one that would make modern day emergents proud.

Emergents are stepping on the scene as Christians who are willing to ask tough questions, challenge old traditions and theologies, and pursue a quest for a faith and theology that's relevant in a new day and age. Saint Patrick was perhaps the first emergent.

He is credited with having evangelized Ireland, being the first person to really get Christianity to take root there. But it wasn't easy. During Patrick's time, most Irish were involved in what would now be considered "pagan" religions. They followed the old religions of the Celts. So it was hard for people embedded in one culture and religion to give that up for a new one, especially one that came to them from Rome. So instead of dominating everyone and insisting on his way being better than theirs, Patrick took time and found connections between the Celtic religions and Christianity. Slowly but surely, these connections opened doors for him. What resulted was the spread of Christianity. But it was not Roman-dominated, Roman-cultural variety of Christianity. It was a Christianity no one had really encountered before. It was a form of Christianity that looked Celtic in nature, but had Christ at it's center core.

So as we celebrate Saint Patrick's day, celebrate someone who learned how to find faith in a way that was relevant and meaningful to the people around him.

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