HIS Story Revealed

In a way Christian Heritage is all about stories, so as we near the end of a busy summer season let me share some of them, past and present, to bring you up to date.

The importance of stories is implicit, of course, even in the word ‘heritage’ itself. The ideas and experiences of individuals in the past are what actually create cultural heritages. And since Christian heritage is our concern we naturally concentrate on the stories of those who gave our own culture its particular shape and ethos.

William Tyndale, for example, came to Cambridge to share the excitement surrounding Erasmus’ Greek New Testament first published in 1516. Knowing the blessing it would be to the nation if ‘every ploughboy in the country’ had access to God’s Word, he immediately approached the Bishop of London about the possibility of making a translation. But the Catholic Church in England had had enough of vernacular translations after Wycliffe’s ‘Lollard’ Bible of the late 14th century. The Constitutions of Oxford (1408) equated them with heresy and threatened those responsible with death. Instead of giving up at this point Tyndale chose the life of a refugee. Hunted from one safe-haven to another in Germany he completed the New Testament by 1526, all the while teaching himself Hebrew in order to translate the Old Testament as well. Later he had to escape to Belgium where in 1535 he was kidnapped and imprisoned. Eighteen months later, his translation still unfinished, he was burnt near Brussels. Not knowing what would happen he prayed from the stake ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes’. Within a few years Henry VIII had instructed a copy of the Bible to be made available in every church in the land. Tyndale’s writing and the witness of his death did transform the nation. They had become his individual ‘story’.

Even briefly summarised the drama and pathos in this is striking. It immediately fascinates those who read or hear it. But the list of similar ‘stories’ goes on and on providing us in Christian Heritage with a novel and attractive means of contacting those who visit the Round church day by day. But they are more than interesting ‘stories’ for they speak of a reality which changes history. And that, put Illmanscropsimply, is the point of Christian Heritage - recovering the past, challenging the present, shaping the future.

But as we work daily within this metier of ‘heritage’ and ‘story’ a present story unfolds around us. Key players in this, as in previous summers, have been our interns through June and August.  Matt Sheard arrived – a Yorkshireman to the core from ‘oodersfield’(!) not Huddersfield’ – and about to enter his final year in Medieval History and Spanish at St. Andrews University. Finally Mayowa Kuyoro joined us, a Nigerian living in England and also entering her final year but in Engineering at Warwick University.

In addition we had the privilege of Peter and Ilona Greyling who came
for almost a month at their own expense. In their case, however, after all the many visits they’ve already made bringing groups to Cambridge from the States, they were able to lead daily walks as well. They are the South African couple, in fact, who have made our ‘Rekindling the Vision’ seminars possible. Living in Atlanta, Georgia, they have so far initiated four group visits to the UK since early 2007 which have included a longer stop in Cambridge to focus on the present significance of Christian heritage. Out of these I have had several invitations to do the same thing in the States and in February last I had the privilege of speaking on the Rekindling The Vision theme to a much larger audience in Atlanta. Coming up in October and November 2008 are similar events elsewhere in the States.

Another more recent development is the extension of the CH guided walks in London. Many years ago John Martin, our Cambridge CH founder (1992), encouraged several others to do the same thing in London. As a result Keith Berry, a Baptist pastor in London, has teamed up with us and the Greylings so that, amongst other things, the US groups visiting can have access to similar expertise in London.

Out of our many local ‘stories’ from the summer my favourite involves Gladys, one of our guides. At the end of one of her walks a young woman from abroad took the decisive step of believing in Christ. She had already had contact with the Cambridge International Outreach which laid a foundation for her, then hearing all the heritage stories like Tyndale’s it became her ‘right time’.

As for the Summer Schools they were once again of the highest calibre. The teaching at our summer schools - Introduction to Apologetics with Stefan Gustavsson and the Cambridge Summer School of Theology ‘The Doctrine of the Unity of the Bible’ with Dr. Walter Kaiser are both available now on the Christian Heritage website shop. Numbers at the latter were high. Numbers at the two apologetics courses, including also, sadly, the one for Leaders which David Robertson led, were low. We clearly need to do more work on these for next year. Pray that we may be able to find sponsors to enable the cost of the introductory course to be low enough to attract students especially and that the word will spread. But the Cambridge Scholars Network (in conjunction with the European Leadership Forum) was the best ever. It was a ‘full house’ both in numbers and quality – 16 PhD’s in all, five already studying here in Cambridge, plus others including one from Edinburgh, two Rumanians, a Slovak, a Hungarian and a Cypriot! Throughout the three weeks of courses our interns were not only learning heaps but they were helping Martin with all the practical details. They also had weekly tutorials with me. Thanks to St. Aldates in Oxford, we were once again able to have Joe Martin with us as an elder statesman and tutor throughout. He was invaluable.

Finally, however, another story is being woven in the here and now and that is the story of Christian Heritage itself, for on the 1st January 2009 we celebrate our 8th birthday. We have been frail and vulnerable from the beginning, but God has provided for us each step along the way. To recount adequately that particular story would require a book not a paragraph, but please pray for us as we rearrange our various tasks. We are bringing in new and younger blood this autumn and Martin is readjusting his work accordingly. A ‘Friends of Christian Heritage’ scheme is about to be launched which will come to you soon. The Christian Heritage Saturday School of Theology – the once a month event at Tyndale House which this term includes a survey of post-Christian European political and artistic developments with Jonathan and Adrienne Chaplin continues again starting at 9am September 13th. Next year’s subject will be ‘The Authority and Reliability of Scripture’. Please pass the word around.

And so our stories unfold – and HIS-story is revealed!

Warmest greetings as ever

Ranald Macaulay
Ranald Macaulay, 02/09/2008