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The Origin of the York Christian Heritage Walk

“The evil of men lives after them, but the good of men is often interred with their bones “. Thus wrote William Shakespeare. To somewhat reverse this statement was one reason for the launch of the YCHW. Another reason was to offer an opportunity for York folk, plus visitors & tourists alike to learn about the men & women who down through the ages & in various ways were instrumental under God in establishing Christianity in York & the Northern Kingdom, some of whom paid the supreme sacrifice in their desire to obey God.

The Walk is essentially a celebration, based on fact as we have been able to establish it by industrious research into archives etc. It is accompanied by a cocktail of humor, history, mild evangelism & maybe even a touch of theology. Guides preface each Walk with the words “errors & omissions excepted” E&OE, this in the nature of protective armour should any stated fact not eventually line up with further revealed truth. It is an amazing journey through York’s Christian past. We enjoy religious freedom now because there were those who not only heard God speaking, but at whatever cost to themselves were prepared to put it into action.

The Walk uncovers persecution, healings, judicial murders, faith, orators, evangelists, social vision, disgrace renewed churches. Many guests have spoken of fascination & challenge at the end of the Walk. Some thirteen stops, not in chronological order, covering sixteen centuries from Constantine the Great to the Revd David Watson taking only 1 ½  hrs.

Such was the wealth of material at our disposal that the problem was not what to put into the Walk; but what to leave out. In preparation we were determined not to be partisan or biased denominationally but to always bear in mind what is true history & scriptural that “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform “.

The launching pad had to be Constantine, later called the Great, when in AD 306 he set out to become Roman Emperor. Whilst doing so he saw a vision which caused him to instruct his army to fight with shields bearing the Greek letters X & P, standing for the first two letters of the name Christ. Under this symbol he was victorious. Soon after he made Christianity a legal religion, enabling Christians to practice their faith openly.

The story then unfolds – Edwin, the English king of the North, converted to Christianity through the preaching of Bishop Paulinus & was baptised on Easter Day AD 627 in York Minster. Mile Coverdale, 16`h. Century English Reformer of the National Church, translates of the entire bible into English – George Fox,  17th. Century preacher who claimed that baptism, holy communion & priests were unnecessary & that the inner light of conscience prompted by the Holy Spirit  (light of Christ) was of prime importance for godly living.

Joseph Rowntree, one of the great philanthropists & social reformers of his day of his day . Billy Graham, who in 1946 in York preached a powerful sermon including the prophetic statement – “Unless the young generation is reached for Jesus Christ we are going to have a pagan Britain in days to come ”

Dwight L. Moody, accompanied by his pianist Ira D. Sankey preached many times in York & caused a young Baptist minister by the name of F.B.Meyer to say – “I learned from Mr.Moody’s preaching the psychology of the soul – I learned to point men to God”

John Wesley, 1703 – 1791 of whose preaching historians have said “staved off national revolution ” George Whitfield, perhaps the greatest of all preachers . Margaret Clitheroe, baptised in York, put to death in 1586 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth P. for harbouring & protecting Catholic Priests from persecution & death.

George Jeffreys, preacher of Divine Healing, Jesus as Saviour, Healer, Baptiser & Coming King. Converted to Christ in the Welsh Revival of 1904 under the ministry of Evan Roberts.

David Watson, of whom many still speak in awed & nostalgic respect about his work for Renewal in the Holy Spirit, Evangelism & Reconciliation. He died of cancer in 1984. And so on & so on…

If in any way you have been interested, perhaps even inspired by this story do make sure that you join one of the York Christian Heritage Walks by simply turning up at 10.30 am at the Constantine Memorial outside the south door of the Minster on any Wednesday morning. Should you wish to book a party from your particular organisation, school or church, please phone 01904 622100 – 01904 758208 – 01904 427091. The Walk is supported by the One Voice York Trust

Douglas Greenfield

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