At the top of St Mary’s Church in Krakow, Poland, where I stood just a couple of weeks ago, a lone herald sounds the trumpet. These days it simply marks the passing of another hour, but in previous centuries, it was played by the city guard to warn people of fires and other dangers, such as the arrival of hostile armies. It was a steel-tipped arrow from one such army that pierced the throat of the herald in 1257, but not before he had sounded the alarm: the city gates were closed and many lives were saved. You can still hear the tune played every hour, on the hour, but it is deliberately and abruptly cut short, to commemorate the death of Krakow’s brave herald.
As I gazed up at St. Mary’s balcony, considering how important it was for the trumpeter to sound the alarm, I couldn’t help but think about the Church’s need to herald the message of Christ. The reason of such heralding is greater than civic safety; it is God’s appointed means for saving the world, one that is motivated by the fire of one’s heart, as Peter Akinola explains.
Archbishop Peter Akinola (1944 – ), Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, is the most prominent name in a burgeoning movement of African, Asian, and Latin American Anglican leaders. He was recently appointed chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, with more than 37 million believers.
Akinola sees Christian ministry as Bible-based and mission-minded:
“We in Nigeria believe very strongly in the priority of Scripture. We want to see ourselves as a church that seeks to live in obedience to the dictates of the Scripture, regardless of whether that is convenient or inconvenient . . . If a fire is not burning, then it is no longer fire. If the Church is not evangelizing, then it is like a dead fire.1?
1 Peter J. Akinola, interview with Philip Jenkins, “Defender of the Faith,” The Atlantic Monthly 292, no. 4, November 2003, http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/11/jenkins.htm (accessed December 12, 2003).