In a recent post, we began to explore the phenomenon of Western ancestor worship from an African perspective. Last Saturday, as we were leaving the British New Testament Conference, we visited Durham Cathredral and found that it proudly features a shrine to an ancestor. Take a look at the header on the Durham Cathedral website which includes this paragraph:
The Cathedral houses the shrine of the seventh-century saint, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. There are some objects on display in The Treasures which date back to Cuthbert himself – including his cross and his coffin. Other items tell the story of the Cathedral and the community associated with it right up to recent times. (emphasis mine)
This is not just any church; it is the home of the Rt Rev Dr Nicholas Thomas Wright (aka NT), someone who will surely be named among the revered ancestors of our time.
Lest we try want diminish the religious significance of the shrine, I (illegally) took a picture of the sign on the door. (I did otherwise respect their request – “No digital photography” – and resisted the temptation to photograph the tombs or statues of any of the ancestors housed in the church.)
Tomorrow I will post a special guest essay arguing against the myth that Africans worship (or have worshipped) their ancestors. Stay tuned!