Born in the latter part of the sixth century, probably in Italy, Paulinus was among the second group of monks sent by Pope Gregory to England to assist Augustine in his work. He went with the party that accompanied Ethelburga to Northumbria, where she was to marry the king, Edwin, who subsequently took his wife’s Christian faith as his own. Paulinus built the first church in York in about the year 627 and was its first bishop. He travelled much north and south of the Humber, building churches and baptising new Christians. He had to flee for his life, however, when Edwin was killed in battle by the pagan king, Penda of Mercia, and Paulinus became Bishop of Rochester. He died on this day in the year 644.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Today’s Gospel reading is sometimes entitled “The Great Commission”. Jesus invites his disciples to meet him so that they can be commissioned in turn. The only appropriate reaction to this is worship.
Paulinus was commissioned as the first Archbishop of York and to bring the Christian faith to the margins. Edwin listened to the preaching of Paulinus before he became a Christian. He also consulted his advisors. One said,
“If the new religion can lighten that darkness for us, then let us follow it.”
Paulinus is said to have baptized thousands of people near Catterick and Rothbury and also near the royal summer residence of Yeavering (near Wooler). The Church in Northumbria flourished under Paulinus’ leadership. When Paulinus had to go back south he left Deacon James in charge of the Northumbrian Church.
The figure of Deacon James is at the centre of the beautiful stained glass window outside in the peace garden beside Flodden Peace Centre at Crookham United Reformed Church. Its inspiring and challenging message of “Bringing peace to these hills” reverberates through the ages from Paulinus to 21st Century disciples of Jesus trying to live out “The Great Commission” today.
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Paulinus, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of northern England. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.