This Week in Church History

We are not the first Christians. We stand on the shoulders of 2,000 years of believers who have gone before us, all the way back to the day of Pentecost (and beyond that, all the way back to the Garden). That means we can look back to so many encouragements and examples as we walk the race that is set before us. Each day this week on Twitter I've been trying to give a wee snippet of some Christians from the past who can encourage us in different ways. There's all sorts we can learn from events in church history, but I want to focus on people rather than events, as they can inspire us in quite a different way. One of the critiques the Eastern Orthodox often raise about Protestants is that we don't have the example of the saints to encourage us in growing in holiness in life. And, perhaps more and more in light of recent evangelical scandals, I think they've got a point. Too often in the Pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical worlds (in recent years), it's become possible to confuse 'celebrities' with role-models. It's those who are alive today and have a large 'platform' who become examples to so many, but then recently we've seen so many of those examples come crashing down and unveiled as very bad models of holiness indeed. So maybe it would help us to look further back, to those whose lives and ministries have been tried and found helpful over the generations. None of these people from the past are perfect. They all lived in worlds very different from our own. But there may be some encouragement to be had from them. 

I'm not going to add to what I've written on Twitter (so some things might be worded in a way to fit the character limit for a tweet), but just thought it might be helpful to gather them together at the end of the week into one place in a more accessible form. (Also, the prayers are from traditional sources, sometimes slightly adapted.) So here goes...

10th January — Basil, Gregory & Gregory (The Cappadocian Fathers)


Today many Christians around the world give thanks to God for Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus & Gregory of Nyssa, who defended the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity & led the church in prayer, in love to God & love to neighbour.

Basil wrote one of the most important books on the deity of the Holy Spirit, many prayers still used in Christian worship today, & shaped monasticism into a disciplined life of prayer. His brother, Gregory of Nyssa wrote on the Trinity, prayer & forcefully denounced slavery.

Their friend Gregory of Nazianzus preached some of history’s most influential sermons on the Trinity, won many back from heresy, presided over the Council of Constantinople & resigned to preserve the unity of the Church, then took up his pen again to defend the incarnation.

Here’s the prayer for the day the church gives thanks for them:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with shepherds like Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11th January — Princess Eithne


Today Eithne got what she so much longed for — to see the face of Jesus. Daughter of the Irish High King, she stumbled across Patrick & his disciples singing morning prayer. She received the gospel with joy, was baptised and asked to see the face of Christ.

Patrick told her there are only 2 ways to see Christ’s face: 1) at death & 2) in the Eucharist. When Eithne then received her first Communion, the Holy Spirit fell upon her in an ‘ecstasy of rapture.’ She saw Jesus in the Supper & she saw Him when she died & went to Him in glory.

12th January — The Martyrs of Iona


Today we remember the martyrs of Iona. When the Vikings raided the abbey in AD 806, they killed 68 monks who refused to fight back, but instead turned the other cheek. The surviving monks rebuilt their church to continue a life of prayer on the island.

But the Vikings came back 19 years later, bursting into the church during Communion and killed Blathmac, the prior (who, like the 68 monks before, refused to fight back), at the Lord’s Table.

Almighty God, who gave the martyrs of Iona boldness to confess the Saviour’s Name before the powers of this world & courage to die for this faith: grant that we may always be ready to live or die by the hope that is in us & to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

13th January — Mary Slessor & Hilary of Poitiers


On this day in 1915 Mary Slessor went to glory. She sought to remove barriers to the gospel, took the good news of Jesus to places others were afraid to go, rescued many babies from death, and worked for justice in many difficult circumstances.

Mary Slessor’s prayer: 

‘Lord, the task is impossible for me, but not for thee. Lead the way and I will follow’. 

‘Why should I fear? I am on a royal mission. I am in the service of the King of kings’.

Some more from Mary: 

‘The only way I can explain [what God has used me to do] is on the ground that I have been prayed for more than most. Pray on, dear one — the power lies that way’. 

‘What would I do with starry crowns, except to cast them at His feet?’


Also today Christians remember Hilary of Poitiers. He was a pagan who had learnt Greek, so decided to use his Greek to read the Bible, and God used his reading of the Bible to bring him to faith in Jesus.

Becoming bishop of Poitiers, Hilary took a stand for the truth of the deity of Christ which eventually led to him being exiled. But exile didn’t dissuade Hilary from working for the unity of the church in the true Trinitarian faith, against heresy.

Everlasting God, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed your Son Jesus Christ to be both human & divine: grant us like him to proclaim the message of redemption in the incarnate Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now & forever.

14th January — Kentigern


Today Kentigern left the Kingdom of Strathclyde for the Kingdom of Heaven. Grandson of a King, he was raised by a missionary to the Picts, before becoming a missionary himself to the Britons of Strathclyde, winning many to Christ through his preaching and his holy life.

Thrown out of Strathclyde by an angry king, he went to Wales and founded the cathedral at St Asaph’s. When the new king in the north invited him back, he evangelised Galloway, before returning to Glasgow, miraculously rescued the queen, and continued preaching until his old age.

Almighty and everlasting God, who called your servant Kentigern to preach the gospel to the people of Britain: raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

15th January — Ita


Today holy Ita went to see the Lord. She was born Deidre, but renamed after her thirst for holiness. She dedicated her life to prayer and fasting, received the gift of prophecy, and was sought out for her spiritual discernment.

Ita set up a school where she taught faith in God with purity of heart, simplicity in life & generosity in love. She told St Brendan (her pupil) that these were the 3 things God loved best. (The 3 things she said most displeased Him were hatred, resentment & trusting in wealth).