15th November 2021

A winter harvest

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 (NIVUK)

I was interested to come across an article recently on winter harvests. Delicious vegetables such as broccoli, kale, leeks, parsnips, chard, parsley, and rocket, can all be harvested in winter. I think it’s comforting to know that when autumn has passed, and conditions are not optimum, a harvest can still be reaped.

Let’s go back in time, to around 664 in England. Deusdedit, Archbishop of Canterbury, has just died. At the same time, the Synod of Whitby has just confirmed the decision of the Anglo-Saxon church to follow Rome. Deusdedit’s replacement, Wighard, unexpectedly also dies. The church in Rome quickly convenes to decide who could be Archbishop of the churches of the English.

I think what happened next is inspiring, and at times quite funny too.

The noted Christian scholar and teacher Abbot Hadrian – a North African residing near Naples – is summoned and directed to accept, and go to Britain. Hadrian quickly excuses himself on the grounds of ‘not being fitted for such high dignity’! He instead recommends Andrew, a monk and chaplain of a convent of women. Andrew quickly excuses himself on the grounds of ‘ill health’! The church reverts to Hadrian and presses him to accept; instead, he again asks for time to find someone else! He finds Theodore, ‘of proven learning and integrity’, and suggests him.

The suggestion is accepted – with a proviso: Theodore, steeped in traditions of the mighty Greek Church, must ensure he does not introduce conflicting teachings to England. This introduces yet another hurdle: Theodore wears the tonsure (monk haircut) of the eastern custom! Theodore now has to grow out that tonsure, and receive the circular tonsure – this takes another four months!

It seems there is no escaping the Holy Spirit and his workings. Theodore, a third choice at best, was already 66 years old before making the onerous journey to Britain in 669. Had he suggested he was in his ‘winter’ years, beyond harvest, surely he’d have had little opposition.

But Theodore was active in England for another 21 successful years! Under his watch the English church was further established and united with Europe. The Synod of Hertford in 673 brought increased awareness of structure and organisation for harmony. The Synod of Haethfeld (Hatfield) in 680 strengthened links with the ecumenical councils. Interestingly, the last great ecumenical council in Constantinople also took place in 680-681 – the one that fully rounded the creeds and affirmed that Jesus possessed a human will as well as a divine will.

Theodore died at the age of 88, having provided, late in life and moved by the Holy Spirit, a winter harvest for our Triune God.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, let us be open to when your Spirit is moving and prodding us, and may you provide us strength, wisdom and patience to gratefully accept the work you offer us to participate in. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Study by Andrew Montgomery

 

About the writer:
Andrew Montgomery is a Deacon in the Edinburgh congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local congregation:
GCI Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
Edinburgh
EH17 8QJ

Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local congregational contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church

Word of Life contact:
wordoflife@gracecom.church