ST HILDA’S, COWCLIFFE, HUDDERSFIELD – A PLACE TO MEET GOD
People nowadays often don’t know what to make of the idea of ‘God’. When some family catastrophe, like the serious illness of a child, strikes they say ‘I can’t believe in a God who allows this kind of thing to happen’. How much more when the catastrophe is on a mega scale? We hear about natural disasters, disease and starvation and the horrors of war, violence and ethnic cleansing, dreadful acts sometimes committed in the name of ‘religion’.
People who go to church don’t necessarily have a nice tidy answers to the problem of how people can still say they believe in God in the face of suffering and evil, but they do know about some of the questions.
What do we actually mean when we say ‘God? –not an all-powerful ‘old man up in the sky’ certainly. A loving and strengthening force maybe. A force which people experience and which keeps them going when times are hard?
How does Jesus fit into all of this? He experienced a lot of bad stuff in his life. Christians believe that God was with him in a special way so that in his life and death and teachings he communicated what God s is like – bothered about people in trouble and suffering with them.
People who go to St. Hilda’s feel they are on a journey – coping with their own problems, trying not to run away from the world’s problems – caring for one another, caring about the community around, seeking the help and strengthening of God.
Our Sunday services are at 5pm, except the first Sunday in the month when we celebrate Holy Communion at 10.30am
Have you ever been to Whitby on the East coast? If so you will probably have noticed some ancient ruins high above the town. If you visit again go and look at them. They were originally an abbey. This place was home to a very special lady, Saint Hilda. She was the abbess and the story of her life is extraordinary – for several reasons.
She lived from 614 to 680 and was a great niece of the king of Northumbria. She was baptised at the age of thirteen and became a nun twenty years later. She eventually became abbess of Hartlepool and later of the great monastery of Whitby. We usually think of a ‘monastery’ as being a home for monks, but in this case it housed members of both sexes. We may be surprised to find that it had a female leader, given the problems the Church of England has had in recent decades about accepting female priests and bishops!
People wonder if she was a ‘bossy’ person but the evidence is that she was regarded as a woman of great compassion, sought out for her wise counsel by ordinary folk and rulers alike. Some came from as far away as mainland Europe.
Down the ages Christians seem to have got bogged down with things that do not seem to us nowadays to be of major importance. In the days of Hilda the issue was the right way to calculate the date of Easter. The original British Celtic church had one tradition. A newer grouping, who owed allegiance to Rome, had another. It was really not desirable for different members of the same family to be celebrating this major festival at different times! A special meeting or ‘synod’ was called at Whitby to deal with this and a few related issues.
It was decided to follow the Roman way. Hilda may well have been disappointed but she accepted the decision pf the synod and called on others to do likewise. She believed in the primacy of peace and love.
Under Hilda Whitby Abbey became a great centre of learning. At this time books were expensive and hard to come by, but she began to build a library. This was long before the invention of printing.
Although she lived a long time ago, well before the coming of William the Conqueror, she is still a powerful example to is all. She is remembered by the Church of England each year on November 17th.
The following ‘Hilda’s blessing‘ was written in her honour by Barrie Williams:
Have peace with one another as children of one mother.
Let each defer to other and may your hearts be one.
Have peace with all around you; sweet love of earth surround you;
and may no harm confound you or break the peace within.
Have peace with God your maker. In Jesus be partaker
and Spirit consecrator. God, three in one, grant peace.
The peace of God possess you. The love of God caress you,
The grace of heaven bless you; peace everlastingly.