25 January 2009

In which we consider the Reformation and the Covenanters

Saturday, 17 January 2009

In our preliminary reading (our textbook is Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World) we encountered the National Covenant as an examplar of Scottish independent-mindedness and illustrative of the bottom-up view of authority that has been generally favored throughout Scottish history. Today, one of the highlights of the class so far, we intimately encountered the Covenanters and the leaders of the Scottish Reformation. Our scholar-hosts for today were Ms. Kristin Cook, a doctoral candidate in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, and Rev. Michael Luehrmann (aka Mikey) of the Carrubbers Christian Centre in Edinburgh. We began our day together at Carrubbers, an evangelical church that meets one block from our hostel!

Michael led us on an engrossing tour of Edinburgh in light of the Scottish Reformation. Reading stirring quotations from Reformation leaders such as Knox and Melville, he walked us through the parking lot behind St. Giles' Cathedral, where a small yellow square in parking spot #23 marks the site of John Knox' grave. While a more suitable memorial to Knox stands several meters away within the church, many of us were sickened to see the huge equestrian statue of the villainous Charles II (who attempted to exterminate the Covenanters) looming over the humble parking spot.

Later, we were taken to the Magdalen Chapel, the small house of worship at which the first Scottish Reformers met and drafted the Scots Confession of 1560, launching the Scottish Reformation. We listened to a fascinating lecture by the wonderful and devoted caretaker of the chapel, then walked through the churchyard of Greyfriars Kirk, where the National Covenant was signed. Greyfriars is renowned for its memorial to the Greyfriars Bobby, but we were there to walk the ground on which so many of the Covenanters walked and to see the memorial for the 18,000 who were martyred during the "Killing Times" of the late 17th century. Michael and Kristin also led us through part of the National Museum, where copies of the National Covenant, Covenanter banners, and other interesting artifacts are displayed.

Kristin then led us on a walking lecture, commenting on interesting connections between the Presbyterian Christianity of the Scots and the Enlightenment ideas that emerged so notably in the 18th century. We ended our day with a pizza dinner in the hostel, with Kristin discussing her graduate work – focused on American literature of the Enlightenment period – surrounded by students.

Tomorrow: rest and worship at Carrubbers

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