The ancient Celtic Christians faced a messy world, too

Featured image: The beauty of turned leaves early in the week, bare branches days later.

Cogitation 35 Saturday 10 November 2018   I think about church, the church I attend, the faith community my church affiliates with–that’s Mennonite Church USA–the church universal, and other faith groups,

I’m unhappy with aspects of what is referred to as the evangelical church in the West. It has to do with civil religion, the close alignment of the faith community with the political order, increasingly nationalistic, of the day.

Some time ago I came across a book by George G Hunter III, who at the time of writing taught Church Growth and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

I found his perspective on the church both frightening and refreshing. Bear with me through a longish quote that speaks of a church ill-equipped to engage the real stuff and struggles of life in today’s world.

The quote comes from Hunter’s book The Celtic Way of Evangelism (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2000). In the first paragraph of the Preface. Hunter writes:

“The Church in the Western world, faces populations who are increasingly ‘secular’–people with no Christian memory, who don’t know what we Christians are talking about. These populations are increasingly ‘urban’–and out of touch with God’s ‘natural revelation.’ These populations are increasingly ‘postmodern’; they have graduated from Enlightenment ideology and are more peer driven, feeling driven, and ‘right-brained’ than their forebears. These populations are increasingly ‘neo-barbarian’; they lack ‘refinement’ or ‘class,’ and their lives are often out of control. These populations are increasingly receptive–exploring worldview options from Astrology to Zen–and are often looking ‘in all the wrong places’ to make sense of their lives and find their souls true home.”

There’s a mouthful of discussion in that opening paragraph, and the book goes on to give much to chew on. I appreciate what Hunter next says about the state of the church.

“In the face of this changing Western culture, many Western Church leaders are in denial; they plan and do church as though next year will be 1957.  Furthermore, most of the Western Church leaders who are not in denial do not know how to engage the epidemic numbers of secular, postmodern, neo-barbarians outside (and inside) their churches.”

I love how ancient Celtic Christians addressed the bodies, minds, and souls of people then and what it can mean for today. How Celtic Christians of the British Isles went about practicing their faith in the fifth to tenth centuries led people to a new life, to the experience of God’s forgiveness and acceptance, to lives unabashedly following the historical and divinely contemporary Jesus.

Hunter shows the Celts emphasis on community, leadership roles for both men and women,,  practical witness, and love and care for all and everything in God’s good creation.

Rather than try to expand on Hunter’s point of view, I’ll jump to a quote from a postcard I came across in cleaning out files. Celtic Christians would be proud:

Prayer of the Woods

“I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.

“I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds boat.

“I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.

“I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.

“Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer : harm me not.”


Pictures from walks this week

Cobus Creek County Park


Circular walk in Goshen along the Elkhart River, including the Mill Race Trail






6 thoughts on “The ancient Celtic Christians faced a messy world, too

  1. What a glorious autumn you’ve experienced, John! Since fall was my favorite season in northern Indiana, it’s delightful to catch these glimpses of your colorful world. Thank you.


  2. Once again, John, I am indebted to your willingness to share your week so meaningfully with us, your readers. Your output stimulates our own reflections on word and image. I send my deep gratitude for the quality of what you are sorting pre-move to Goshen. May you find as much joy in your walks there as you have discovered in Elkhart County over the years!


    1. A pleasure to hear from you and know you “like” the journal. I’m still don’t like the word “blog” but can live with it, Happy Thanksgiving!


  3. Thanks, John. You got some good photos this week before the trees went bare! Later today we are flying to Florida with 17 other members of our Church to spend a week in Sebring on a Habitat Build. Last year Hurricane Irma devastated lots of homes in this area and Habitat is building 40 new homes in 4 years! When we return to Michigan we will have just enough time to prepare for a trip to Toledo to take Thanksgiving dinner to my mother and some of her friends. On December 4 we leave for Ellenton and will spend 5 months in our senior park, Terra Siesta. We send blessings for another good winter in Cornwall for you and Marty!

    Monty & Ginger



  4. Thanks for the trip. It has been a most enjoyable ride. A treat for the eyes and other “senses.” I’ll need to get help to continue the journey. You find the best and unusual spots to include us who don’t find it easy to navigate any more. I look forward to your column every week. THANK YOU – A BUSHEL AND A PECK!


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