St. Cuthbert, Vikings, Brexit And Peace Tables

The recent Berwick Literary Festival etc included three brilliant talks.

1) In the first Katherine Tierman spoke about her new novel on St. Cuthbert.  She revealed a narrative that  the historian Bede was too embarassed to highlight. The monk Cuthbert, the humble servant of God, was the same age as the monk Wilfred, who with alpha plus energy  spread churches of prestige and power politics. Rather than get locked into permament dispute with Wilfred, Cuthbert made a 'Desert Father gesture' and fled to Farne Isle to live as a hermit.  On the surface, Wilfred had won.  But King Ecgfric also lived for prestige and power politics, and eventually imprisoned and then exiled Wilfred.  Only then, after a popular vote at an Almouth synod, did he press Cuthbert to become the senior bishop of the English. In the end the way of self-sacrifice and hermit disciplines proved more powerful.

2) The second talk was by Max Adams, whose book about St. Oswald, King of the North, is outstanding, and who has just published a book on King Alfred.  The concept of England had died away by Alfred's time; he thought only of his own kingdom of Wessex. Why were the Vikings so successful in taking over much of the British Isles? Max Adams' answer is that whereas the pragmatic Saxons arranged their settlements around a centre and self-sufficient farming, the Vikings, short of land for advancement in their home countries, developed brilliant ship engineering and a strategic grasp of waterways and road ways. When they came to Britain they were lords of the waterways, they hired horses, and they made maps of the ancient Roman road networks.  Thus they became the pre-eminent traders.  I told this to  a church evangelist: 'Yes', she said, 'that is exactly what the church needs today - strategy.'

3) The third lecture was  by Rev. Dr. Sarah Hills (vicar of Holy Island) about conflict resolution and reconciliation, informed by her work in South Africa, Northern Ireland and Coventry Cathedral's Cross of Nails ministry. She talked of 'Peace Tables' where people on opposite sides of a conflict may explain what they believe without blame or judgement, and be listened to. She said that even in families and churches people are scared to mention  the 'B' word (Brexit) because it is so divisive.  The Archbishop of Canterbury called last year for after church coffee and cake where people 'can disagree well'. Something more is now called for in order to rebuild the fabric of community throughout the British and Irish Isles and beyond.  I told her of a CAH suggestion of Peace Pilgrim walks in Wales, N. Ireland, Scotland and England, and we agreed that the time has come for  Peace Tables. Peace Tables can be a way forward in every land.



Posted at 08:10am on 25th October 2019
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