Well, a late night last night and an early morning make for a tired boy as I write in the late afternoon reflecting on the day thus far.
This morning’s guest speaker was Kate Tristram. What a fascinating woman! Raised in Stourbridge just south of Solihull, she trained at Oxford to be a teacher in religious studies and history, taught in secondary school for a few years, then began lecturing at Durham University in their theological college. Having moved to Lindisfarne in 1979 after 16 years at Durham, this energetic 83 years young Anglican church leader spoke for two hours on the history of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, and early Celtic and English (Anglo-Saxon) leaders (monks and saints).
Amazingly, at age 63 she decided to get a post-graduate degree in both Medieval Latin and Medieval Irish. She said the Latin was fairly easy and interesting, but the Irish nearly drove her crackers! If anyone has come across such names as Naimh (pronounced ‘neeve’), then you’ll have a little flavour of what she means.
Kate described the beginnings of Lindisfarne as a monastic site in 635AD. She described it’s relation to Iona (off western coast of Scotland), and the education the band of 12 monks with him began. They took in 12 non-literate children (Anglo-Saxons were illiterate but an oral culture) and Year 1 was learning to read and write Latin and memorize, in Latin all 150 Psalms! Graduating to Year 2 was to learn the Gospels in Latin by heart, and the years following included laws of the OT, the prophets, epistles, and so on.
Aiden, who started this monastic community, promptly left it and travelled the lands of Northumbria. When he began his journeys, the King gave him the finest horse (think F1 or Porsche or Ferrari) which Aiden promptly gave to a beggar on his first journey outside of the castle gates. When taken to task by the King, he challenged him, saying “How can you care more for the son of a mare then for a son of God?!” This humble man journeyed the lands, and all his monastic band did so without weapons (knife) in a violent society. (Kate mentioned that in this warrior society, it was not uncommon for a young girl of 12 to be married and be widowed up to 3 times by the time she was 18; her husband(s) in battle as early as aged 14 would often be killed.)
Significantly, ‘pilgrimage’ in those days was not about one’s personal journey to a religious or holy site for one’s own spiritual life and development, it was a one-way trip of adventuring with God to wherever He might take them. Hence these wanderers travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles and Continent with humility, identifying with the peoples to whom they travelled to bring the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Kate’s final recitation of an Irish poem about pilgrimage sums up that God was with these peregrinatio: ‘To go to Rome. Much problem. Much difficulty. You will not find there the God you seek unless you take him with you.’
There was more to the afternoon, with Ray Simpson (The Open Gate) and the evening yet to come with Andrew Raine (Northumbria Community), but I am tired and think I will take a nap!