St Andrew’s Day – Introducing St Andrew

St Andrew’s Day – Introducing St Andrew

St Andrew’s Day – Introducing St Andrew

In an exclusive article for Endeavour Public Affairs to mark St Andrew’s Day, The Most Reverend David Chillingworth introduces St Andrew and writes about his relevance for Scotland today.

David Chillingworth is the Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

This is a fascinating time in which to live in Scotland.  Next year’s Independence Referendum will test the extent to which the people of Scotland feel a distinct nationhood – distinct to the extent that it justifies expression in separate constitutional arrangements.  Much of the campaigning during the next year will focus on the everyday stuff of politics.  The economic case will be fiercely argued for and against.  Political issues will be explored – education, health, defence, pensions, currency, relationship with the European Union and many others.

But in the end, I suspect that the issue will be decided as a question of identity.  The question is whether or not the people who live in Scotland ‘feel’ Scottish.  Is there a Scottish identity and if so what is it?

One strand of that identity is the presence of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.   Patrick of Ireland is remembered for using a shamrock to explain the doctrine of the Trinity.  George of England is remembered for his dragon-slaying.  Andrew does not lodge in the national consciousness in quite the same way.  But let’s explore briefly who St Andrew was and his connection with Scotland.

Andrew is remembered as the first disciple of Jesus.  It was Andrew who brought the boy with the five loaves and two fish to Jesus before the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand – and the design of the Saltire as a symbol of multiplication is said to arise from that connection.

The question of how Andrew came to be connected with Scotland is slightly more tenuous.  After a life of missionary travel, he was crucified in Greece – asking that his cross should be diagonal so that his end might be more painful than that of Jesus.  There are several accounts of how his bones came to Scotland.  The most probable is that they were brought to St Andrews about 732 by Acca, Bishop of Hexham.  Over the centuries, St Andrew found his way into the psyche of Scotland.  The Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 was an appeal to Pope John XXII against the English view that Scotland fell within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York.  The Declaration argued that the Scots were a distinct people who had long enjoyed the protection of St Andrew, brother of St Peter. St Andrew is described in the Declaration of Arbroath as “our patron or protector”.

Returning to the Scotland of today and tomorrow, we need to ask what is the relevance of St Andrew as patron saint?   His place in Scottish consciousness is incontrovertible.  But we need to ask whether he gives a distinctive character to that sense of identity.

The most obvious question is whether it makes sense to say that Scotland is any longer a Christian country.  My best answer is to say, ‘Not in the way Scotland was Christian when I first visited as a teenager.’  The staunch Calvinism of that period is weaker now – Sabbath observance in much of Scotland has been replaced by leisure, sport and shopping.  The humanist and rationalist values of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment have shaped the distinctively secular character of Scottish society.  Yet there is a lively strand of faith, spirituality and religion in Scotland today – religious and cultural diversity are valued and celebrated.

On a broader level, Scottish society is shaped by religious and Christian values.  Scotland has not given way to the aggressive individualism seen elsewhere.  It is in some respects a gentler and more communitarian society although it is still shamed by visible poverty, particularly in the west of Scotland, and by displays of flagrant sectarianism.

The people of Scotland will decide the constitutional and political future of Scotland.  Whatever the outcome of the Referendum, we face a lively debate about the character and values of Scotland in the future.  The old certainties which shaped a particular kind of Christian Scotland may have gone – but the debate about the place of faith and faith communities in public life will continue.  There are insistent voices pushing for a completely secular society which relegates matters of faith to personal choice only.  Yet it seems to me that the legacy of St Andrew reminds us that faith is deeply embedded in the national and historic consciousness of Scotland.  What we need to develop is an understanding of how that tradition of faith – and an awareness of how Christian faith relates to a community of faiths – can add value and quality to a modern society.  The Scotland I first knew in which religion permeated society and culture is gone.  But we have an opportunity of developing a diverse society, proud of its Christian roots, aware of the way in which that historic tradition shapes attitudes, values and standards and happy to celebrate the contribution which a diversity of faiths can make.

Published: Friday 29 November 2013

© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2013

Photograph: © Copyright of The Scottish Episcopal Church

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.


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