One of the joys of Southwark Cathedral is our links with other churches. Rouen Cathedral is our longest standing link and then the link with the Cathedral and its community in Bergen is the second. Each year we try to do something together and today was the start of the ecumenical pilgrimage weekend that people from Southwark and Bergen Cathedrals are making to Whitby.
We are staying in Sneaton Castle which is where the sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete are based. The OHP sisters are an Anglican order and have been here since the turn of the twentieth century. The small town of Whitby, a fishing village in many ways, was the place where St Hilda presided over a double monastery and as Bede records, in 664, led the Synod of Whitby. That Synod made the decision to follow the Roman as opposed to Celtic church traditions, which particularly impacted on how the date of Easter was fixed. They were important decisions at that stage of the life of the early church and set the scene for all that would subsequently happen, and I suppose, the demise of the influence of the Celtic tradition in a formal sense. The last 50 years have, of course, seen a rediscovery of the riches of that tradition, native to these shores and one which we share with the people of the Norwegian church. They were deeply influenced in their own development by the Celts and it is good to remember that here together.
The weekend will also help us with the whole idea of ‘Living God’. The theme of our time here is ‘Religious Life and Us’ and we will be taking the opportunity to think about how the tradition of the religious life in the church can influence our own living out of the Christian faith. So we will be thinking about how we ‘live God’, how our lives echo the reality and the life of God.
But before we could begin on that we had to get here. Whitby is not served by main line rail and so, though we began the journey by train, we ended up on a coach for the final stage.
There are 30 in the group, a good mixture from the two Cathedrals. Many have not been to this part of Britain before and so there was a real sense of excitement as we met by the Harry Potter platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. We then boarded the train to York and changed there to another train to bring us to Scarborough. That was where the track ended and we were met by a coach which delivered us to Whitby and Sneaton Castle.
The castle only dates from the 19th century but is an imposing building which has been adapted, with the addition of a large chapel and other accommodation, to house a convent and facilities for welcoming guests. So it will be a good place to spend time together thinking about what it means to be living a dedicated life.
The convent is dedicated to St Hilda and this is the Collect for her feast day.
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.