A few years ago, with members of two local parishes, I joined a pilgrimage to Holy Island, Lindisfarne. It is a significant place of pilgrimage still, as it has been for nearly a millennium and a half, when St Aidan came from that other famous holy island Iona, to found the new monastery in AD634.
A chance to re-visit recently reminded me of my previous experience, and I looked out some old photos, and a book of the journey, which some may be interested in glancing at.
St Aidan and St Cuthbert have been important characters on my northern horizon, particularly since my ordaining bishop David Lunn was a great fan of ‘our long established British christian saints, here spreading the gospel long before Augustine or any of those other johnny-come-lately Romans’.
The Celtic Cristian saints used to speak of ‘thin places’ where heaven comes very close to touching earth.
In May 2008 I joined a handful of others on 5-day pilgrimage. I had been to Iona several times, but only ever seen Lindisfarne – Holy Island – from the train window. A year later, reminiscing our little pilgrimage to the North East, I thought I would put some photos etc. up.
Today (26 May) may be the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, but I am reminded of comments by a previous Geordie Bishop of Sheffield, who over 20 years ago spoke to a group of us young curates of the diocese: his faith was built on the foundations laid by the British Christian Saints such as Cuthbert, Aidan, and Hilda, and he had little time for “those Johnny-come-lately Romans such as Augustine”. If memory serves correctly, it was these saints that adorned the stained-glass windows of the Woodlands parish, where I was then curate.
Cuthbert’s base in Lindisfarne became a key launchpad for Celtic Christianity in North-East England in the 7th Century. The island, still cut off from the mainland by the tide twice a day, is traditionally approached by pilgrims wading barefoot across the causeway. (We cheated, went by bus, and then walked the causeway at leisure a day or two later.)
Being on Lindisfarne – in blustery May – was surprisingly idyllic. I can still hear the skylark’s singing in the sky above the meadows near Lindisfarne castle. Far from the physical extremes of weather, distance and austerity that drew Cuthbert and the early settlers there. We were a bit ‘fair-weather’ pilgrims; but the feeling of being in a ‘thin place‘, as the Celtic Christians called such holy places, where heaven and earth are somehow much closer, was still very evident to us. A short, but very inspiring and refreshing and spiritual few days.
Some of the photos from our time are in this online Lindisfarne photo gallery; and we made a short photo journal book, which can be downloded in pdf format from the link below.
Oh, and here’s another panoramic photo, also in my Flickr panoramic set. I probably have way to many photos – it could have beeen more! – per page on this blog, which probably makes it load very slowly; but they are fun…