Shetlands House Of Prayer

I am at Sumbaugh airport, ready to depart from the Shetland Isles to Norway. The Norway Vikings once ruled here. The King of Norway declared his country Christian in 995, including the Shetlands, but behind this there is a story.

Picts who lived here turned to Christ in the 700's. There is evidence of monastic communities on most of the islands. It seems the Vikings who settled here in succeeding centuries were peaceful traders, befriended by Picts. For by the second Viking generation Christian symbols appear on their grave markers.

The story of Christianity's spread in Viking lands has parallels with its spread in the Roman Empire. It spread like wildfire because Christians modelled their faith by prayer and compassionate deeds and mercy for the poorest people. But when emperors adopted Christianity, seeing it as a glue for their fractious society, power perverted the Gospel. The expulsive power of a new affection came to the Vikings through Christian monks and women from Celtic lands whom they turned into slaves back home. Later, Viking rulers adopted this faith and imposed it on the subjects through the sword.

Now both Scandinavian and Celtic lands are becoming post-Christian. Who will re-build the foundations? People like Graham and Ruth Booth, our hosts this last fortnight, who have purchased The Old Manse near the kirk, which tomorrow has its last service to be taken by a minister in a Shetlands post. Judith helped them order their library. All four pulled up weeds and stones so that lawns can be created. Work on guest rooms is now complete, though much else remains to be done. At 8.0 am, 12.30, 5.30 and 9.30 we climbed 32 stairs to the chapel to share in the prayers of the dispersed Community of Aidan and Hilda. Before I left I climbed the steps into the kirk pulpit and prayed that revival would break out on the island, and that houses of prayer would multiply.

Posted at 23:23pm on 28th July 2017
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