Since the early days of Christianity, churches have taken the names of certain Christians as their patron saint of the parish. Sometimes this was because the church was founded on a site where a Christian was martyred for his or her faith. Other times, a church would adopt a patron saint because the members felt a special devotion to that particular saint’s mission or theology. The Episcopal Church in Brookings adopts Saint Paul as the patron of this parish church.
Paul was born of Jewish parents around the time of Jesus. Paul was trained as a Pharisee and a rabbi and was originally a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. Paul had a strong religious experience on a road trip to Damascus around AD 33. His life was changed, and he became a Christian and leader of the early church. He founded many churches and wrote pastoral letters to them, many of which are found in the Bible today. St. Paul was ultimately martyred for his faith by the persecutions in Rome under Emperor Nero around the year AD 67.
Paul was by no means a perfect man. He had some severe conflicts with other Christians, was prone to brag, and often spoke of a particular “thorn in the flesh” with which he constantly wrestled. But for all his faults, Paul was a brilliant teacher and leader who took Jesus’ message of grace and love to many corners of the Roman Empire. St. Paul, for all his personal faults, advocated that God’s grace and love was for all people of all races and nationalities, not just for God’s chosen people, the Jews.
Many years ago, the Episcopal church in Brookings decided to adopt St. Paul as the parish patron saint for this very reason. Having St. Paul as our patron is a perpetual call to remember that we, like St. Paul, all have our own faults, but we are still called above all else to ceaselessly proclaim God’s love and grace to all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or background.