52: Boys Playing Church

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Matthew 18:1

It was the year 313AD in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. The Christian Bishop of the city, whose name also was Alexander, was going through the streets on his regular business.

As Bishop Alexander observed from a distance he could see something earnest in the behaviour of these boys. He discerned the reason. In every group there is a leader, an influencer. One boy took the lead in performing this acting out of worship. He had such a grasp of church order, the various components of the liturgy, and no doubt a little theology that the Bishop was deeply impressed. The young man even performed a baptism by immersion! – which of course raises questions as to the historicity of this particular mode.

A company of boys caught his eye. They weren’t engaged in the regular sports and games that so often took up the attention of young lads. These boys were different, they were playing church.

But the real story is Alexander’s interest in the boy. Seeing the potential he made his approach and offered the lad a position in his office as secretary.

The boy’s name was Athanasius. Twelve years later he would accompany Alexander to the famous council at Nicea. The boy was destined to be the greatest proponent of the Holy Trinity in the history of the Christian Church. Known as Athanasius the Great he would surpass anything that Bishop Alexander achieved. Yet without Alexander’s vision and discernment the great champion of truth would not have been nurtured into the man he was to become.

Let us today, be interested in our youth, be nurturers…the future of the faith depends upon this work. We need both the Alexander and the Athanasius spirit within the Church.

Children of Jerusalem 
Sang the praise of Jesus’ name;
Children, too, of modern days
Join to sing the Saviour’s praise.

John Henley

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