We met on the 16th June to discuss ‘Hilda of Whitby - A spirituality for now’ by Ray Simpson. There was a mixed response to this book. Most found it a difficult book to get into because of the historical content in the first chapter. Hilda lived from around 614 - 680 during the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain. We found the many Anglo-Saxon names very difficult; some of us would have liked more source references for the historical background. It was a book that needed concentration and although a small book it took time to read. However, there were some parts of the book that we found interesting, especially the reflections at the end of each chapter.
There was detail about the Council of Whitby and the schism between Celtic/Iona Christianity and the practises of Rome. In Celtic tradition “you belong and come to believe”, in the Roman tradition “you believe so (you) can belong”. This prompted a discussion about Iona Christianity and the fact that today we relate more to Hilda’s Celtic Christianity than we would have a hundred years ago.
We spoke about double monasteries (monasteries where monks and nuns lived together, although in separate quarters, under the authority of an abbess) that existed in Hilda’s day, their importance to the local community and the fact that women like Hilda could became abbesses and leaders. Hilda was a very good leader and nurtured people’s gifts; in particular she took an interest in a herdsman, called Caedmon and enabled him to leave his farm work and devote his time compose songs about Bible stories.
The various issues raised in the book led to an interesting discussion. We considered whether we are too constrained by the our church building; whether we are like Rome expecting people to come to us rather than us going into the community as Aiden, an Irish monk who was a big influence on Hilda, did.
Most of us found something of interest in reading the book. There is a copy in the library which anyone is welcome to borrow.
The next book is “Archbishop” by Michele Guinness published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2015. A novel set in 2020 when the Church of England has just appointed its first female archbishop of Canterbury, Vicky Burnham-Woods; this novel tells her story. We shall meet on Wednesday 14th October to discuss this book.
The Church Library
Please take the time to have a look in St. John’s library, which is in the foyer. It has a very wide selection of books from, novels with Christian themes, to books on prayer, bible study and poetry.
The book mentioned in the Book club report ‘Hilda of Whitby - a spirituality for now’ by Ray Simpson, has been kindly donated to the library and is well worth reading.
There are also a number of poetry books in the library, such as “Learning to Love” which is a collection contemporary new poems by ordinary people who for the most part would not describe themselves as poets. Maybe with summer holidays just around the corner there is time to read something different? So why not take time out to read a St. John’s library book.