While visiting Christian Focus Publications in the Highlands of Scotland last month, my wife Leeta and I were treated to “a wee ecclesiastical tour” by William and Carine Mackenzie. William is the General Director of Christian Focus while Carine is CFP’s best-selling author, with over 15 million copies (!) of her children’s books having been sold. They took us on an interesting and spiritually-inspiring half-day driving tour of several of the significant Church History sights in the area nearby CFP. Here are a few of the highlights of our time together, beginning with a couple personal pictures.
William, Carine and Vance in one of the warehouses where CFP books are stored and ready to be sent out around the world.
William, Carine and Leeta in one of the Mackenzie family wheat fields. William reminded us of Jesus Christ’s words about Himself in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
A seaside monument to Presbyterian missionary John Ross at the village of Balintore. The monument reads: “John Ross (1842-1914). A native of this place, minister, missionary in China and Korea, and the first to translate the New Testament into Korean.” CFP plans to publish Ross’s biography next year.
Nigg Old Parish Church. An evangelical revival, which started at this parish church in 1739, spread and influenced the nature of religious life throughout the Highlands. The church also houses an ornate 8th century cross-slab stone (approximately six feet long by three feet wide) which used to stand in the churchyard cemetery.
Thomas Hog Gravestone at Kiltearn Old Parish Church. Thomas Hog (1628-1692) was Kiltearn’s most prominent minister. He was banished from his parish for many years for his promotion of the Protestant Reformation but was restored to minister there the last few years of his life. His gravestone, which lies just outside the church wall, was inscribed: “This stone shall bear witness against the parishioners of Kiltearn if they bring any ungodly minister in here.” More will be said about Hog below.
Covenanters Communion Memorial Stone near Alness. The Covenanters were 17th century Scottish Presbyterians who were persecuted for holding to their biblical beliefs. This memorial reads in part: “This stone marks the only place in Ross-shire in which the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is known to have been dispensed to the Covenanters during the days of persecution. Respecting the command of their Divine Redeemer more than they feared the fury of the oppressor, they met here on a Sabbath in September 1675. Soldiers were sent to apprehend them but they did not arrive till the communion service was over and the congregation had dispersed.” William shared the rest of the story: The soldiers stopped at an apple orchard a couple miles away to have their fill of delicious autumn fruit. By the time they got back to carrying out their mission, the Covenanters had finished their meeting and were gone.
Saint Duthac Memorial Church, Tain. The church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Tain became a prominent place of pilgrimage and attracted many members of the nobility and royalty, including King James IV who visited the church eighteen times in twenty years. By 1487 the church had gained full collegiate status, with the main purpose of collegiate churches being to sing masses for the souls of their founders – in this case the King, his family and heirs. The church became a Protestant parish church after the Scottish Reformation in 1560.
Patrick Hamilton and Thomas Hog Memorial Stones at Saint Duthac Memorial Church. Prominent memorial stones for these two leading Scottish Reformers are placed under the beautiful stained glass window inside Saint Duthac Memorial Church. Thomas Hog was born at Tain in 1628. Hamilton’s memorial stone reads: “Patrick Hamilton, the youthful abbot of the monastery of Fearn near Tain. Of noble extraction and allied to royalty. Learned and full of faith. He was the first preacher of the Reformation in Scotland and the first to seal its doctrine by a martyr’s death, being burnt at the stake in St. Andrews 28th February 1528. ‘His reek’ it was said ‘infected as many as it did blow upon.’ His principles quickly spread over Scotland. Their influence was felt in the neighborhood of his monastery and was early and decidedly manifested within these walls where this tablet is erected to his memory.”
Church of Scotland Fearn Abbey, nearby Fearn. This was originally an Augustinian abbey, founded around AD 1240. Patrick Hamilton ministered as abbot here before his martyrdom as Scotland’s first Reformation preacher. A Church of Scotland congregation still worships at Fearn Abbey today.
Leeta and I thoroughly enjoyed and deeply appreciated the wee ecclesiastical tour to which William and Carine graciously hosted us. Such significant ecclesiastical sights and history can be found throughout Scotland if one goes looking for them. If you’re ever in Scotland I’d encourage you to investigate some of its rich history relating to the Protestant Reformation, evangelical revivals and Christian missions. I believe you’ll find those aspects of Scotland’s history spiritually beneficial as we have.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie