It hap­pened in March

The Covington News - - Religion -

Here are some in­ter­est­ing events that hap­pened in March, from the Church His­tory In­sti­tute. Jo­hannes Guten­berg printed the first Bibles on March 22, 1457. Prior to this, Bibles had all been copied by hand. Guten­berg had in­vented mov­able type, and the thick gothic-style type-set meant that the first printed Bibles took three vol­umes each, for a to­tal of 1,282 pages. It was on March 15, 1517, that Pope Leo de­cided to raise money by sell­ing in­dul­gences. Leo was in the process of re­build­ing St. Peter’s Basil­ica in Rome, so as a fund raiser it was de­cided that peo­ple who con­trib­uted to the ren­o­va­tion would be granted an “in­dul­gence” — for­give­ness for a sin. Ev­ery­thing went ac­cord­ing to plan; money poured in, un­til fi­nally out of Ger­many a priest named Martin Luther stood up and said this is wrong, and the Protes­tant Ref­or­ma­tion was be­gun.

It was on March 30, 1533, that Henry the Eighth of Eng­land made the young priest and scholar named Thomas Cran­mer the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury. Henry then broke away from the Ro­man Catholic Church, and Cran­mer found him­self or­ga­niz­ing a new branch of Chris­tian­ity. Cran­mer rose to the task. He com­piled, wrote and pub­lished the first Book of Com­mon Prayer; he made sure ev­ery church had at least one copy of the Bi­ble, and he wrote the 39 Ar­ti­cles of Re­li­gion — a state­ment of key be­liefs. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter Henry the Eighth’s death — and af­ter the short reign of her brother Ed­ward — Henry’s daugh­ter Mary was made Queen. She tried to bring Eng­land back into the Ro­man Catholic Church and earned the ti­tle “Bloody Mary” for hav­ing over 300 Angli­can Church lead­ers ex­e­cuted, in­clud­ing Thomas Cran­mer.

It was on March 25, 1740, that con­struc­tion be­gan on Bethesda Home for Boys, just south of Savannah. It was founded by Ge­orge White­field, just 25 years old at the time. He was an evan­ge­list in both Eng­land and Amer­ica and made 13 trips across the At­lantic. Ben­jamin Franklin heard him preach once in Philadel­phia, where White­field was tak­ing a col­lec­tion for the or­phan­age.

Franklin said at first he re­solved to give noth­ing, then a shilling, and fi­nally emp­tied his purse in the of­fer­ing. Franklin wrote af­ter­wards, “By all means hear White­field, but leave your money at home.” Bethesda Home for Boys is the old­est ex­ist­ing chil­dren’s home in Amer­ica.

It was on March 21, 1747, that John New­ton, a cap­tain of a slave ship, woke up with wa­ter pour­ing into his cabin. He hur­ried above to find that his ship was in a ter­ri­ble storm. He helped with the pumps and then took the wheel of the ship. Cer­tain that he was about to die, New­ton prayed for for­give­ness. Then, even with chaos all around, the peace of God came upon him.

The storm passed, but New­ton was for­ever a changed per­son. Re­turn­ing to Eng­land he went into the min­istry and would later write th­ese words, “Amaz­ing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

And it was on March 2, 1938, (70 years ago, Sun­day) that Martin Niemoller’s trial was con­cluded. He was a Lutheran pas­tor and op­posed Adolf Hitler’s move to take con­trol of the churches in Ger­many. Niemoller was ar­rested. In the trial, Niemoller said he was first a Chris­tian, then a Ger­man. He spent seven years in prison camps, but sur­vived and lived to be in his 90s. Af­ter the war he said that he should have spo­ken up sooner, “When the Nazis came for the com­mu­nists, I re­mained silent; I was not a com­mu­nist. When they locked up the so­cial democrats, I re­mained silent; I was not a so­cial demo­crat. When they came for the trade union­ists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade union­ist. When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

I hope you all have a great month of March. Live your faith and you will make a dif­fer­ence in the world, and as Longfel­low wrote, “Leave be­hind foot­prints on the sands of time.”

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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