We were at the tail end of our trip. We had been to Stirling where William Wallace had fought the English in 1297, to Iona where Columba had come in 563 to evangelize Scotland, to Glencoe where in 1692 the forces of King William II massacred members of the Clan MacDonald, to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, to St. Andrew’s where John Knox had preached at Holy Trinity Church and Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart were burned at the stake for their Reformation beliefs, to Edinburgh where Knox preached at St. Giles Cathedral.
As beautiful and as inspiring as those places this spring were, it was meeting a tour guide in Edinburgh who was an elder in a small Presbyterian congregation that transformed this trip from being observers of history into being active participants in history.
In the course of our conversation she told me that her little church, the Ratho Parish Church, located near the Edinburgh airport, had celebrated its 750th anniversary in 1993 that I realized what an opportunity this was. In 2018 they will celebrate their 775th anniversary. The church I serve will celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2015. Suddenly, we feel quite young! My friend suggested that our two congregations become sister churches, so that we could enjoy an ongoing relationship.
Recently, my new friend sent me an 11-page “history” of her congregation. On the cover it reads “RATHO PARISH CHURCH -- 1243-1993 -- A HISTORY”. At first, that simply did not compute. 1243? We find these words in the opening lines of the Introduction: “On the 5th of May, 1243, David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews, consecrated a building on the site of the present Church and dedicated it to St. Mary.”
Then the second paragraph begins: “Although 1243 is a long time ago, it should be remembered that it was about “half time” between the arrival of St. Ninian at Whithorn in 397 or the landing on Iona of St. Columba in 563 and the present.”
And this woman was a part of the continuous witness to the gospel of that church. Included with the history of this congregation was pamphlet that the Church of Scotland produced in an effort to reach out to the unchurched. It is titled “Try Praying.”
As we make history today, we might do well not only to embrace our history, but to realize, accept, and rejoice in the fact that we are a active part of a story that began long ago and continues today. It is a story of good news of the God who came to us in Jesus Christ and continues to lead us into new experiences of reaching out to the world with God’s love and grace.