Benefice of Bethersden with High Halden and Woodchurch

Know God, Show His Love, Spread His Word

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  • Woodchurch
  • Ashford
  • TN26 3NX

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Celtic saints and sites – and Pentecost


I have just returned from a retreat on the theme of Celtic saints and sites which was inspirational.  We had a trip to Holy Island to see where Aidan often preached long ago and had needed King Oswald to interpret for him because he spoke Irish rather than Anglo-Saxon.  Aidan was followed by Cuthbert who established a monastery on the island which was burned by Vikings.  Centuries later the Norwegians officially apologised for the burning down of the monastery and that document is on display in the parish church alongside one which says that we didn’t know we were still at war with Norway but peace definitely broke out over a cup of tea.  A typically British response.

I think that the site I found most moving was the one at Holywell where either Paulinus or Ninian is thought to have baptised 3000 people in a ceremony that went on for days.  Paulinus had travelled up from Kent because Edwin, the King of Northumbria, wanted to marry the sister of King Edbald of Kent.  She was a Christian and Paulinus travelled with her as chaplain because Edwin had guaranteed her freedom to practise her faith and stated he might even become a Christian.  Paulinus eventually baptised Edwin in Easter 627 or 628.  There are parallels with the day of Pentecost which we have not long celebrated, because on both occasions  3000 people were baptised.

There are also parallels with our situation today.  There are many around us who actually have never really heard the gospel.  They have certainly never seen it lived out.  The challenge of the Great Commission at the end of the gospel according to Matthew is just the same as when it was originally given and when the early Celtic saints were on earth.  ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’  This is the message of both Pentecost and of our own church history.

May God bless us as we seek to carry out His divine commission,