Back to the Future. . .
Tonight will be my last night at the Northumbria Community. I will miss my time here. I have experienced much and have learned much. I return home with a full heart and a re-energized prayer life. Yet, I am so looking forward to my return home. God has much more to teach me in the coming days.
Last night the Community celebrated Communion together. After dinner, we learned about St. Hild and Caedmon. One of the unique features of Celtic Christianity was a more equal role for men and women in the early church. When the Roman Church later re-asserted its authority over the church in England, those roles were reduced considerably.
Hild, or St. Hilda, was a noblewoman who became a Christian at an early age. She was especially fond of and cared for the poor, dressed simply, and refused to wear jewelry. At the age of thirty-three, she chose to enter the monastic life, joining her sister, who had already entered a monastery, in France.
Bishop Aidan asked Hilda to take charge of a monastery and Hilda became a very able administrator of a monastery on the river Wear. Later, she was given charge of what became Whitby Monastery, a double monastery (men and women, living separately, but worshiping together).
Of her, the Venerable Bede writes, "Her prudence was so great that no only meaner men in their need, but sometimes even kings and princes, sought and received her counsel; she obliged those who were under direction to give so much time to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and to exercise themselves so much in works of justice, that many might readily be found there fit for the priesthood and the service of the altar."
As a Presbyterian, I was not raised with an understanding of, appreciation for, or knowledge of those who would be called saints. Study of the saints or veneration of the saints was seen and perceived as something foreign, Roman Catholic, and to be avoided at all costs.
What I am finding is a rich source of stories and role models. . . people who have sought to follow Christ wholeheartedly and with devotion. They serve as excellent examples of what is possible in the spiritual life, making holiness and a life of prayer very practical and accessible.
I am also finding that there are other seekers from a variety of denominational backgrounds who share the same frustrations as I. There are pastors, church workers, and Christians from Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian backgrounds who are here seeking the same things that I am seeking. . . a fresh experience and understanding of the living God for ourselves and for the Church today.
We are finding it by walking ancient paths together. Back to the future!
Perhaps the greatest gift of this journey is the broader and deeper perspective I have gained. I will return knowing that there is a breadth and depth to the Christian faith available through Celtic Christianity that can inform what I do in ministry and my personal faith each.
I have only begun to scratch the surface!