Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Feast of St. Polycarp: Celebrating a Multiracial, Multicultural Church

Today is the feast of St. Polycarp, Church Father and 2nd cent. Bishop of Smyrna (Now Izmir, in Turkey). 

Polycarp occupies an important place in the history of the early Christian Church. 

He is among the earliest Christians whose writings survive, and is revered equally by Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Evangelicals, mainstream Protestants and Catholics alike. 

But what's most important at this moment of rising hate, intolerance, nativism, racism, the 'war on terror', the 'migrant crises', and willful ignorance is not the fact that he was a righteous man, a scholar, or even that he was a Christian.

I think the most important aspect of Polycarp to us, right now, is that he was Turkish. 

Christianity was birthed in an incredibly multi racial, multicultural region. And Polycarp was bishop of an important city. 

Walking the streets of Smyrna, you would have seen goods and wares for sale from the Caucasus, India, China, Africa...

You would have heard the majority speaking Greek, but also would have heard Arabic, Armenian, Aramaic, Amharic, Farsi, Balkan dialects, Celtic-speaking Gauls...

Asia Minor was a global crossroads... And the Christian Church was in the middle of it. 

To be Christian is to be multiracial and multicultural. 

We were black, brown, and multilingual long- long- before we were white and English-speaking.

When we forget that, Christianity dies. 

Holy St. Polycarp, pray for us...

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