Andrew and the Referendum

David Winter writes following the Scottish vote on 18th September and bearing in mind that November the 30th is St Andrew’s Day.

Andrew and the Referendum: BETTER TOGETHER?

saint    Scotland seems to have been a very busy place these last couple of months. The amazing exuberance of the devolution referendum and its consequences have kept the spotlight firmly north of the border and now, at the end of this month, the Scots will be celebrating once again, this time to honour their patron saint, Andrew.

   The referendum campaign earned universal respect for its enthusiasm, mass participation and generous spirit. It was good to be reminded that it is possible to disagree agreeably, to hold passionate convictions oneself and yet respect the equally passionate convictions of others. In the end ‘Better Together’ just beat ‘Let’s Separate’, but there was little bitterness at the end of a fiercely fought but fair exercise in democracy.

   And now it is time for St Andrew to be honoured – the disciple who is noted for the way in which he longed to share with others the good thing he had discovered. It was not enough for him simply to decide for himself to recognise Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and follow him. He went straight off and introduced his brother Peter to the Saviour, and followed that up by bringing Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) to Jesus. ‘Better Together’ seems to have been his slogan, too! ‘We have found the Messiah!’, he told them, unable to keep the good news to himself.

   Andrew’s connection with Scotland dates back to the claimed translation of his remains from Patras in Achaia to Scotland in the eighth century. The church in Fife where these remains were buried became a place of pilgrimage during the tenth century. All of this may be no more than pious legend, of course, but that St Andrew was highly regarded in Scotland and became its patron saint is beyond doubt.

   Perhaps in the new spirit of togetherness engendered in these islands by the referendum result we might take a fresh look at our four patron saints. Patrick and David are secure, genuinely historical and undoubtedly linked to the lands that now honour them. Andrew has little proven connection with Scotland but presents an admirable historical example of faith and commitment to the good of others. St George, by contrast, has not the remotest connection with England (and indeed may never have existed). Might this be the time to look again at England’s patron saint and even (dare one say it?) replace him with a more credible candidate – St Alban, the first English martyr, might fill the role admirably?

   Meanwhile, this month Scotland remembers one of the very first disciples of Jesus, a man more honoured for those he brought into the kingdom of heaven than for his own mighty miracles or deeds of faith. Perhaps with him, and the saintly Patrick and David, we can all learn to march ‘better together’ into what one hopes will be a generous and bright future for these islands? And I suspect that George, the Turkish soldier-martyr, would enjoy the journey too!

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