The Woman With The Crozier

Throughout the world we renewed our vows on Saint Hilda's Day.  I led a retreat at Pleshey on this woman of unparalled authority in the English church. Never before or after in Christendom had women such authority as had the royal abbesses of 7th century England, 'France', and then 9th century Germany.  By Hilda's time the monasteries were the significant settlements, the heartlands of Christianity.  Whereas bishops were lone, travelling figures, the abbesses led men, women, future bishops, and the bustling community that made up its hinterland. In art these abbesses are pictured with a bishop's crozier in their hand. Last week also I completed the first draft of a book on Hilda which includes news of educational foundations throughout the world who carry forward her inspired vision today. 

The Community of Aidan and Hilda weaves with Catholic and Protestant churches with and without bishops,  some of whom have women bishops and some do not. On the day that lay members of the Church of England General Synod vetoed a proposal to allow women bishops, against the votes of the laity in their dioceses, I received an email from the Vicar of Saint Hilda's Church, Hartlepool. This adjoins the site of Hilda's first double monastery for men and women, and displays a copy of the portrait of Hilda from Oxford's St. Hilda's College.  The email informed me: 'We pray daily under a picture of a woman with a crozier'.  Where might this lead?

Posted at 22:28pm on 23rd November 2012
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