Why the name, Saint Patrick Presbyterian Church?
When church planter, Shane Sunn, started Saint Patrick in 2001, he chose the name Saint Patrick Presbyterian Church because it connected his vision of a church for the city of Greeley with an ancient story. The original Saint Patrick was born in Roman occupied Britain in the fourth century. At age sixteen, Celtic warriors from Ireland raided his home and took him back to Ireland as a slave. After six years of slavery, he heard the voice of God saying, “Go home,” so he literally left the fields, made his way to the coast boarded a ship and sailed home. He entered the priesthood and some years later again heard the call of God to take the message of the gospel to his former captors, the Irish. When his superiors heard of his desire they at first were shocked and refused because no one to this point had even considered preaching the gospel to the barbaric polytheistic Celts who fought naked, painted their bodies with blue woad (paint), and offered human sacrifices. That anybody would attempt such a thing was considered insane from the point of view of personal longevity, much less to think one might be remotely successful. Patrick’s superiors finally relented, however, and with a cross, a chalice and faith, he went to Ireland to preach the good news of the Gospel.
Amazingly, the Irish nation was converted without bloodshed representing the first time Christianity was enculturated outside the Greco-Roman world. But unlike the Greco-Roman civilization, with it’s Platonic suspicion of the body as unholy, Patrick capitalized on the Celts outright hedonistic and lewd worship of the body and of creation by explaining that the body as well as all of creation was the handiwork of a benevolent God. The major non-sequitir was that this benevolent God sacrificed Himself for the brokenness of His creation so that it could be enjoyed in the light of its original intent. This message, far from causing the Irish to separate creation into it’s spiritual and desirable aspects versus its physical and evil aspects, helped give meaning and purpose to what they were already pursuing. We might say, they fell captive to the compulsive power of a new beauty (the beauty of the Gospel message). Now, all beauty was seen, understood and defined in light of the ultimate beauty. For the first time, they could keep beauty in its proper place, appreciating it without going to the beautiful for ultimate life. Now, all love was seen, understood, and defined in light of the ultimate love. Consequently, they could love not to get life, but to give life. Now, all courage and valor was seen, understood and defined in light of the ultimate courage and valor. Now rather than proving themselves by taking life, they could prove themselves by giving their lives. And this they did with great vigor pouring themselves into what has been come to be know as the monastic movement. And far from causing the Irish to despise culture the Gospel message gave them a transformed and purposed love for art, literature, and life. The converted Irish copied and preserved the European classical literature on an island safe from barbaric hoards. In time Patrick’s Ireland began to send missionaries back to Europe reconnecting her to her historic roots in Christianity. They also brought with them a robust spirituality full of a love for beauty and creation. A spirituality while being very human and practical, was also one which was very powerful and very divine.
Our church bears Saint Patrick’s name because we believe we face a similar task. Many today have rejected traditional religion and are seeking life in one form of creation’s abundance or another. And of course they are finding a semblance of life because after all this is God’s creation, but “by-in-large” they are left empty and disillusioned. Often Christianity has simply condemned this hedonism without ever offering a more compelling vision of true beauty and real life. Consequently like Europe, before Patrick’s mission, we live in a post-Christian society where a distant memory tells us we should be Christian, but where existing evidence seems unpersuasive and powerless. We have lost the melody to the Song we once knew - the Song that makes life worth singing in all its varying scales of richness. And thus we need to be taught afresh. We need a new and fresh retelling of the historic Gospel. Our hope is that the people who come to Saint Patrick Church will own the mission of Saint Patrick and that through their speech, their lives and their love will tell a true and compelling story of a God who has entered into the brokenness of his creation in order to heal all that is hurting and restore all that has been lost.