METHLICK PARISH CHURCH
The beautiful village of Methlick has its church right at the centre of the community.
With an ever-growing congregation, the Reverend Will Stalder and his family are always delighted to welcome new worshippers at services, extending the long history of Methlick Parish into the next generation.
Worship is held every Sunday morning at 10:30am, along with a vibrant Sunday school for children. Matt is always keen to welcome any visitor, whether sceptical or devout, to discuss their relationship with Jesus and their views on Christianity. Contact him at The Manse on 01651 806215 to arrange a meeting.
In addition, if you wish to join the Choir, attend prayer meetings or get involved in the Parish in any other way, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
METHLICK PARISH, CHURCH OF SCOTLAND: FOUNDED IN THE 5TH CENTURY
by Rev. Matt Canlis
“Peace I leave you. My peace I give you.
I do not give you as the world gives.”
Methlick Parish Church is the original church plant of North East Scotland. In 397 AD, Saint Ninianfounded Candida Casa at Whithorn, the first Christian community north of Hadrian’s Wall. Following Roman roads that once carried Roman soldiers, Ninian continued north preaching a Gospel very different from that of his predecessors. The Roman Empire boasted of its Pax Romana – “Roman Peace” – but this peace came at a price. “Peace through violent victory” is how one historian summarizes Rome’s global ambition. Ninian, however, came preaching “peace through Jesus Christ”.
St. Ninian explained that while Ceasar brought ‘peace’ by sacrificing others, Jesus brought peace by sacrificing himself. And though most Roman citizens hailed Ceasar as Lord, Christians made the dangerous claim that ‘Jesus is Lord’. The life, death and resurrection of the carpenter from Nazareth proved him more powerful than any mere emperor in Rome.
Ninian preached this Gospel in a tradition that traces back to Jesus himself. Methlick church has a unique historical link to Jesus through a surprisingly short list of people who spent their lives – and often lost them – bearing witness to the peace Jesus is able to give us in our suffering. This short list of people includes many great men and women who not only changed history, but whose personal and geographical links are striking.
Ninian was mentored by Martin of Tours (316 – 397 AD), the former Roman soldier turned Christian missionary famed for his pioneering work among Celtic tribes in modern-day France. Martin was among the first to abandon the imperial Latin language in exchange for the ‘barbaric tongue’ of the Gauls. Some local historians believe that the name Formartine, which comes from the Gaelic meaning “Martin’s land”, traces back to St Ninian dedicating the area to his former mentor.
Martin was himself a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers (300 – 368 AD), the down-to-earth theologian who was so respected by the people that he was unanimously elected bishop, despite the usual disqualifier of being a married man.
Hilary was influenced by Anthony the Great (251 – 356 AD), the desert father who fled Roman luxury to pursue a life of poverty in obedience to the teachings of Jesus. It was Anthony who said: “As long as we have peace with the world, we are at war with God, and his angels, and all the saints”. And lest we modern readers think this quote an over-spiritualized methaphor, remember that Christians were being killed for following Jesus.
Lucian and Marcian (martyred in 250 AD) were two converts from the occult who sold their magic books, gave their money to the poor, and declared Jesus the Lord and Master of all spirits. When the edict of Emperor Decius denouncing Christians reached their native region of Bithynia, Lucian and Marcian were brought before the Roman proconsul Sabinus. They refused to renounce their statements that “Jesus is Lord”, and as they were led off to be further tortured and killed sang hymns and prayed:
“Lord Jesus, we offer you our poor praises . . . in your mercy you have brought us to the supreme sufferings, which it is a privilege to undergo for the glory of your Name”.
Bithynia was a neighbouring region to Anatolia. It was here that Irenaeus, the 2nd Century’s greatest theologian was born. (Julie Canlis, the wife of Methlick’s minister Matt, has written several chapters about Irenaeus in her book Calvin’s Ladder which won the Templeton Prize for outstanding PhD). During severe persecutions in Gaul (see the Martyrdom of Blandina), Irenaeus was made bishop of Lyon and wrote several treatises on the Old and New Testaments describing how “the glory of the God is a human being fully alive.”
Irenaeus had himself seen Polycarp fully alive (69 – 155 AD) in their native home town of Smyrna, where Polycarp served as bishop. In the Book of Revelation chapter 2, John writes a letter to the church in Smyrna, following a letter to what may be his own church in neighboring Ephesus. What is certain is that Polycarp was a disciple of John, who himself was a disciple of Jesus.
John records the words of Jesus in chapter 14 verse 27, where just before his death Jesus comforts his disciples saying:
“Peace I leave you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.
John concludes his biography of Jesus in chapter 20, verse 30 writing:
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his Name.”
Nowadays, new members of the Methlick Church family echo the old profession of faith spoken by Ninian’s converts – and 400 years earlier by the first Christians. Twice a year, on Pentecost Sunday and during Harvest, the church family gathers either inside the church, or out beside the River Ythan to say without shame, “Jesus is Lord.”
New members are welcomed into the church family, not because of anything they have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us. Our own lives, deaths, and sins remind us how fallen we are, and how fragile. In saying we trust Jesus, we are really saying: “Jesus is Lord – and I am not!”
This is not done lightly. Before speaking these words from our hearts, we need also be convinced in our heads. New members either take an Alpha Course, or spend time exploring the historic roots of Christianity, investigating the truth of its claims, and asking hard questions. That’s why Methlick Church takes time to pay attention to the ‘two-fold witness’ of the Christian faith – both as historical fact, and as present reality. Jesus never meant for us to have blind faith. He means for us to have a thinking faith that uses our hearts, minds and bodies to know the truth, which sets us free.
Jesus came to conquer human arrogance with his divine humility – the triple arrogance of our ignorance about God, our criticisms of other people and over-confidence in ourselves. On the cross, Jesus exposed these sins and forgave us. By rising from the dead and now sending the Holy Spirit, Jesus exchanges our hypocrisy for his own ability to help us love God, our neighbours and ourselves.
We are still far from perfect! But we can all bear witness to the ways that Jesus Christ is freeing us from modern myths about religion, mistaken impressions about God and misplaced confidence in ourselves. By God’s grace, we are becoming family by following Jesus and by following the example of countless men, women, and children who endured great suffering to see that we were entrusted with the life and peace Jesus stands ready to give. Our Father in heaven has been so faithful to us across the centuries. Come and see what his Spirit will do next.
Here are some guiding verses that have helped direct the people of Methlick parish
in 3 stages of growth in our stubborn pursuit of God, and his patient pursuit of us . . .
1st Century testimony of Luke, an outsider who investigated the life of Jesus and wrote this biography: Luke 1: 1 – 4
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may know
of the things you have been taught.”
Paul’s 1st Century letter to the first church in Rome, at the time of Nero Claudius Caesar:
Romans 10: 8
The word is near you.
It is in your mouth and in your heart.
That is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
That if you confess with your mouth,
‘Jesus is Lord,’
and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
. . . As the Scriptures says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.’
Having been imprisoned for his faith, this is Paul’s letter to the first church in modern-day Greece: Philippians 4: 4 – 7
“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God
which passes all understanding
will guard your hearts
and your minds
in Christ Jesus.”