Saint Kyneburgha

I had an unforgettable week-end at a unique place. Castor, near Peterbotough was one of the largest Roman sites in Britain, Inside its praetorium a fouth century Christian church was built. Last century the 'Water Newton Treasure' was found nearby. It includes the earliest Christian Communion plate in the world, archeologists claim. That church may have withered, as pagan Anglo-Saxons (the English) colonised the area.  Not all was lost, however.

To the north, in Northumbria, Aidan's Irish Mission spread Christianity far and wide. though King Penda of Mercia (the Midlands) remained barbously pagan. Kyneburgha was his daughter. She became a Christian and married Aldfrith, a son of Northumbria's Christian King Oswy, whose bishop was Aidan. It seems she was influenced by the missionaries who came from Aidan's training school at Lindisfarne and that after she was widowed she went south to found a double monastery for men and women, Northumbrian style. She chose a site with Roman and Christian foundations in a strategic place - Castor - and became abbess. Following her death this became a shrine. After the Vikings destroyed it, the place was rebuilt and became  a Minster Church that served a wide area, but it became a shadow of its former self after the Reformation.

In 1995 however, the parish was united with six others and a remarkable man, Revd William Burke, was placed in charge. I met William by chance during Lent studies at St. Deiniol's Library, Wales. We made pilgrimage together to Saint Mellangeth's shrine. He visits Holy Island. In each parish he has established a charitable trust run by local people  who may not be churchgoers but who care about the building and historical heritage. The Saint Kyneburgha Preservation Trust has enlisted some brilliant and visionary people. They organise history weekends with lectures and meals. The Roman and post-Roman period had already been addressed. I was invited to talk on the period of Aidan's Irish Mission.  Antonia, the chair of the Trust, devoured our Community of Aidan and Hilda web site before I arrived and summed up our ethos brilliantly.  She asked me, for the final session after dinner, to leave past history aside and tell people about the practical implications for people who follow our Way of Life, which owes some inspiration to the heritage they are so wonderfully keeping alive. I did a power point presentation of 'Living by a Way of Life'. History-in-the-making.

Posted at 06:32am on 28th October 2012
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