Posted on: Friday 23 July 2021
Posted in: Anglican Faith Connections
This week we celebrated our patron saint, St Hilda. Friday was the chosen day as it was the very date St Hilda’s as a school became part of the Anglican Church in 1912. Old Girls were invited back to the school and a special assembly was held in the Senior School. The Junior School heard about St Hilda in their classes and in their Chapel Services. St Hilda was a leading woman of her day in northern England.
She came from a royal house in one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which had replaced the Roman Empire after the 6th Century AD. St Hilda turned her back on the politics of her day and became religious – a nun. Her leadership skills, learning and wisdom were soon recognised, and she became an abbess or head of a monastery near the modern town of Whitby, Yorkshire. The Church in this part of England was based on the Celtic tradition because northern England had been converted from paganism to Christianity by Irish missionaries.
One of the aspects of Celtic Christianity was a certain equality between the genders. Thus, in Hilda’s monastery, there were both men and women living together rather than in separate gender specific communities. The Celtic Church also celebrated Easter on a different date from the rest of Europe. This and other differences caused friction for the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms which had converted to Christianity as some followed the Celtic tradition and others the tradition of the Church in Rome. It was decided that a meeting of the whole Church in England would be called and Hilda’s monastery at Whitby was chosen to be the site where this meeting was to take place. Thus, in 661AD the Church came together at Whitby and is now known as the Synod of Whitby.
Hilda argued for the Celtic tradition which she followed but had the grace to accept the Synod’s decision which was in favour of the Roman tradition. Her character shone out at this very important and historic synod and for the rest of her life, kings and leading figures in the Anglo-Saxon world seek her advice. The collect prayer said on her feast day sums up her great contributions as a Christian and the reason why she is such an appropriate choice as the patron saint of a girls’ school:
O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household: raise up these gifts in us, that we, following her example and prayers, may build up one another in love to the benefit of your church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Fr Patrick Duckworth