The General Synod of the Church of England meets in York this weekend, and amongst other subjects of debate is the measure to allow women to become bishops. I know there are strong feelings and deeply held beliefs on both sides, as there were at another Synod in Yorkshire, at Whitby 850 years ago in 664. That Synod was presided over by the great Saint and leader of the Church Hilda of Whitby, the first patron of English Christian poetry, and she brought that Synod to a fruitful and peaceful conclusion. When I wrote this sonnet in her honour I also had in mind our need for her vision and for the gifts of women like her in the church now. So I post this today as part of my prayers for the current General Synod.
The icon of Hilda above is from the St. Albans Parish website The Daily Cup
The sonnet also appears in my new book with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl
As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on its title or on the play button
Hilda of Whitby
Called to a conflict and a clash of cultures,
Where insults flew whilst synod was in session,
You had the gift to find the gift in others,
A woman’s wisdom, deftness and discretion.
You made a space and place for poetry
When outcast Caedmon, crouching in the byre,
Was called by grace into community
And local language joined the Latin choir.
Abbess we need your help, we need your wisdom,
Your strong recourse to reconciliation,
Your power tempered by God’s hidden kingdom,
Your exercise of true imagination.
Pray for our synods now, princess of peace,
That every fettered gift may find release.