Tag Archives: Whitby

Hild — November 17


Bible connection

Read Matthew 10:5-15

You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment.

All about Hild of Whitby (614-680)

Hild (or Hilda) lived in the 7th Century and made her mark in the kingdom of Northumbria, now part of England. She took her first vows as a nun somewhat later in life, at the age of 33, but managed to help start several monasteries and become the founding Abbess at Whitby, a monastery where men and women had residence. Her reputation for wise counsel made her a coveted adviser to several kings and crucial to the conversion of much her territory to Christianity. She also is known for her great love and devotion to ordinary people.

While her Celtic people were pushed further and further North by the pagan groups such as the Saxons, a vital mission to the invaders remained. The church in Rome often competed with the Celtic tradition, and Hild was known for helping to settle the big question of when Easter would be celebrated. This was just one example of the peacemaking she was known for in rather turbulent times.

Her relationship with the farmhand, Caedmon, is a good example of her devotion to developing regular people. She recognized Caedmon’s gifts for music and poetry and encouraged them. He became the first published poet in English.

We mostly know about Hild from Bede’s Ecclesistical History. In it we often read about miracles accompanying his subject’s death. These miracles seem more likely when we remember they occured among people who keep a common schedule and regimen of prayer, who are sealed by a common love for God and one another. Here is an example from his account of Hild:

It is also told, that her death was, in a vision, made known the same night to one of the virgins dedicated to God, who loved her with a great love, in the same monastery where the said handmaid of God died. This nun saw her soul ascend to heaven in the company of angels; and this she openly declared, in the very same hour that it happened, to those handmaids of Christ that were with her; and aroused them to pray for her soul, even before the rest of the community had heard of her death. The truth of which was known to the whole community in the morning. This same nun was at that time with some other handmaids of Christ, in the remotest part of the monastery, where the women who had lately entered the monastic life were wont to pass their time of probation, till they were instructed according to rule, and admitted into the fellowship of the community.


From an Anglican church named after her: [link]

Saint Hilda’s snakes

Bede’s account of Hild and Caedmon [link] [Nicola Griffith’s novel]

Malcolm Guite’s tribute.

Whitby Abbey ruins [link] Love letter to Whitby was their pandemic project. [beautiful]

Three-minute bio:

What do we do with this?

Hild was an unusual leader, mainly because she was a woman leading men in a time when that was almost unheard of. She was also a leader in difficult times when the church was challenged by antagonists and also divided from within. Her native Celtic church was being overrun by the legalists from Rome who desired to unite the church under the monarchy of the Pope.

The United States and the Church worldwide are changing. In some instances, old and better ways provide an alternative to the turmoil and self-interest around us. Like Hild, look around your church, starting with the places you touch most directly, and notice the gifts and love the Spirit God is providing to make Jesus known and followed.