Erc, Ia and getting to the starting line…

As I pulled into Penzance, that end tip of Cornwall, I crouched by the town sign and filmed a short message saying about the vision to travel from Cornwall to Carlisle and to see what God wanted to show me, and what he might be calling me to do.

I found a bit of a stick (really should have brought some stakes to drive into the ground) and stuck it into the ground with a prayer something like this: “Father, we pray that you will bless the people of Cornwall, may many people come to know Jesus, we pray for those who have drifted away and all those who know and love you here to become more like you. Amen”. It felt the right thing to do.

My heart and my head were racing, but it also felt a bit weird, almost an anti-climactic, sometimes however when we are faithful to what God calls us to do it does sometimes feel mundane, normal and ordinary; in the Christian life not every moment is a theophany.

As I began to wander around wondering if God was going to bring someone or something exciting across my path on my first night, I began to think about those who have gone before us and the rich heritage this area of Cornwall has.

I began to think about some of the Cornish Saints (wishing I had paid more attention at theological college when they taught Patristics!) I was inspired by two Saints Erc and Ia (whose names got changed to St. Erth and St. Ives) brother and sister.

Erc was converted from being a pagan druid Prince in Ireland through the ministry of St. Patrick, at the start of Patrick’s ministry in Ireland. Erc is a great example of an indigenous disciple -he was transformed by Christ, but rather than being holy in some pious seclusion he began to be a fruitful evangelist to the people from whom he came and lived amongst, he became a Bishop, and ended up mentoring St. Brendan -whose craziness for Christ inspired me when I heard about him a week or so later when I was in Birmingham- I wondered often we think of our legacy in terms of programmes, activities and buildings rather than people we raised, inspired and encouraged. Erc was an incredibly fruitful and faithful Irish Bishop, he could have sat back and enjoyed success but instead he gave it all up to start again from scratch to share the message of Jesus by living amongst the people of Cornwall.

Ia was Erc’s much younger sister, she was just 17 when Erc and the others headed for Cornwall and they left her behind, which broke her heart, she wanted to serve Christ with her friends and family. Yet she managed to get herself to Cornwall and joined with some other local Christians. She planted a Christian Prayer Community ‘or Oritory’ in a clearing in the woods, which had at its peak 777 members, sadly Ia was martyred for her faith by Teudar a Cornish King.

I wondered what Cornwall was like in the 5th century, where few people here knew, loved and followed Jesus? What did they do that saw so many people come to faith in Jesus?

I wonder what Saints of pre-christendom would share with those of us trying to follow and make Jesus known in our post-Christendom existence?

How did people like Erc and Ia talk, share and live amongst these people and how did they manage to see an indigenous and authentic Christianity birthed here?
What did the Churches and groups they founded look like? What would they say to someone like me who wants to see this nation reached again for Christ?


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