Thursday, 19 November 2009

St Hilda of Whitby.

Right, a wee blast of devotion for youse!

Hilda was born in 614 of the royal house of Northumbria. Baptised in York at the age of twelve by the Roman missionary Paulinus, she was later an influential lay leader of the Church. She was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to become a Religious, and subsequently established a monastery at Streanaeshalch (Whitby). This house became a great centre of learning and was the meeting-place for the important Synod of Whitby in the year 664 at which Hilda's role was that of a reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions. She is remembered as a great educator, exemplified in her nurturing of Caedmon's gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November in the year 680.


Eternal God,
who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land
and through her holiness and leadership
blessed your Church with new life and unity:
help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ
and to reconcile those who are divided;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It seems mindful to point out that Hilda was one of the great reconcilers of the Romanising and Celtic strains of English Christianity. She (probably rightly) saw that the great Celtic tradition had had its day of being the driving force of English Christianity and that the new energy of Augustine's Roman mission was what was needed to take things forward. And it did, gradually melding into the potent English school of spirituality of the Middle Ages (Dame Julian, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Margery Kempe et al). There is a case that can be made that the waning power of English Establishment Anglicanism means that the new drive of more popular and acceptable RC-ism is what England needs just now (thanks to Basil Hume in no small part). That said it is also probably true that what the Church of England needs to rediscover its impact is freedom from the internal strife of trying to hold Anglo-Papalist, Evangelical and Liberal streams together at all costs. If FiF go to Rome, then the C of E can square the circle more easily between Evangelical and liberal (perhaps saying Ta Ta to the Puritans) and recover its nerve and strength. Perhaps the Scottish Church can help best by genuinely being itself and giving an example of good, generous and principled liberality of spirit to keep the Church of Englandshire alert to best practice!


  1. I've never been convinced that the departure of swathes of the C of E, however large, will solve the current problems. There will still be enough misogynistic and homophobic members left to perpetuate the internal schism. Rome's 'offer' doesn't help this at all, in my view.

  2. Sadly, you are probably right.