Welcome to the Blog of the Well Community

“The Well is a place of encounter…”

Fr Frank Green, SSM. 1997.

"The Well 'creates' community, it makes for encounter. No two people come to a well to fill their buckets without talking and, if that well be the living spirit of Christ, then the Jew talks to the Samaritan, the man to the woman, the prophet to the sinner (with a good deal of banter and laughter), the stranger and the traveller to the locals.

People find one another at the well; share gossip, laughter and deep things as they work at the rope; have time for one another; travel to and from; bring empty buckets and take them away full for the use of others in the house or wherever. Things happen at the well.

The well is the symbol of the life-giving God whom we seek. It is not 'our' well' we may be the locals, but the well is for all as God is for all - the Heart of the matter - a deep, still entry into the vast, inexhaustible, unseen source below"

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


 From our last meeting for Pilgrims - not long to go now. 21st July

-         500-700 AD

Saint Columba (Irish: Colm Cille, 'church dove'; 7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the Patron Saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Christian saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Early 600s: Columba Sends Aidan
Aidan and Priory
Cuthbert follows in mid 600s
Bede writes it all up

Aidan of Lindisfarne died 31 August 651 was an Irish monk and missionary credited with restoring Christianity to Northumbria. He founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, served as its first bishop, and travelled ceaselessly throughout the countryside, spreading the gospel to both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and to the socially disenfranchised (including children and slaves).

AIDAN: He is known as the Apostle of Northumbria and is recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion and others.

In the years prior to Aidan's mission, Christianity, which had been propagated throughout Britain but not Ireland by the Roman Empire, was being largely displaced by Anglo-Saxon paganism. Though it seemed a foregone conclusion that the region was returning to its indigenous religion, bastions of Christian thought continued to thrive. In the monastery of Iona (founded by Columba of the Irish Church), the religion soon found one of its principal exponents in Oswald of Northumbria, a noble youth who had been raised there as a king in exile since 616. Divested of his earlier beliefs and baptised as a Christian, the young king vowed to bring Christianity back to his people—an opportunity that presented itself in 634, when he gained the crown of Northumbria.
Owing to his historical connection to Iona's monastic community, King Oswald requested that missionaries be sent from that monastery instead of the Roman-sponsored monasteries of Southern England. At first, they sent him a bishop named Cormán, but he returned in abject failure to Iona and reported that the Northumbrians were too stubborn to be converted. Aidan criticised Cormán's methods and was soon sent as his replacement in 635.

!!!!!King Oswald of Northumbria translates the sermon of Aidan into the Anglo-Saxon language.!!!!!!

Allying himself with the pious king, Aidan chose the island of Lindisfarne, which was close to the ROYAL CASTLE AT BAMBRUGH, as the seat of his diocese.

An inspired missionary, Aidan would walk from one village to another, politely conversing with the people he saw and slowly interesting them in Christianity: in this, he followed the early apostolic model of conversion, by offering "them first the milk of gentle doctrine, to bring them by degrees, while nourishing them with the Divine Word, to the true understanding and practice of the more advanced precepts." 

By patiently talking to the people on their own level (and by taking an active interest in their lives and communities), Aidan and his monks slowly restored Christianity to the Northumbrian countryside. King Oswald, who after his years of exile had a perfect command of Irish, often had to translate for Aidan and his monks, who did not speak English at first.

In his years of proselytising, Aidan was responsible for the construction of churches, monasteries and schools throughout Northumbria. At the same time, he earned a tremendous reputation for his pious charity and dedication to the less fortunate—such as his tendency to provide room, board and education to orphans, and his use of contributions to pay for the freedom of slaves:
Bede : 672/673 – 26 May 735): was an English monk at the monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth and its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow = both of which were located in the Kingdom of Northumbria. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The Father of English History".

In 1899, Bede was made a Doctor of the Church by Leo XIII, a position of theological significance; he is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation (Anselm of Canterbury, also a Doctor of the Church, was originally from Italy). Bede was moreover a skilled linguist and translator, and his work made the Latin and Greek writings of the early Church Fathers much more accessible to his fellow Anglo-Saxons, contributing significantly to English Christianity. Bede's monastery had access to a superb library which included works by Eusebius and Orosius, among many others.

Early Anglo-Saxon history (410-660)
Migration (c.410-c.560)
Development of an Anglo-Saxon society (560–610)
Conversion to Christianity (590-660)
Middle Anglo-Saxon history (660-899)
Mercian supremacy (626-821)
Learning and monasticism (660-793)
West Saxon hegemony and the Anglo-Scandinavian Wars (793-878)
King Alfred and the rebuilding (878-899)
Late Anglo-Saxon history (899-1066)
Reform and formation of England (899-978)
Athelred and the return of the Scandinavians (978-1016)
Conquest England: Danes and Normans (1016-1066)
Aidan was an Irish monk from the monastery St.Columba had founded on the island of Iona. The Britons had been Christian before the Irish, since Britain, though not Ireland, was part of the Roman Empire.

Some of the missionaries who first took the faith to Ireland were British: St.Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland) was the most famous but not the only one. But when the power of Rome declined the English (from North Germany) began to infiltrate into Britain and gradually turned it into England.

These incoming English were pagans. Up here in the north the kingdom of Northumbria was largely created by the English warrior-leader Aethelfrith but when he was killed in battle (616AD) his children fled into exile and some of these children found their way to what is now South-West Scotland.

Here they met the Irish monks of Iona and accepted the the Christian faith. Oswald, the second son of Aethelfrith, grew up determined to re-gain the throne of Northumbria and to let the pagans among his people hear about Christianity. In 633 he fought a successful battle and established himself as king, choosing Bamburgh, a natural outcrop of rock on the North-East coast, as his main fortress. He then invited the monks of Iona to send a mission and eventually Aidan arrived with 12 other monks and chose to settle on the island the English had renamed Lindisfarne.

Here Aidan established an Irish-type monastery of wooden buildings: a small church, small, circular dwelling huts, perhaps one larger building for communal purposes and in time, workshops etc as needed. Here the monks lived a life of prayer, study and austerity (although in this Aidan was said to be moderate - by Irish standards!). From here they went out on mission. First they needed to learn the English language and their English king, Oswald, who had learnt Irish in his boyhood in exile, helped them. Then they went out, using Aidan's only method as a missionary, which was to walk the lanes, talk to all the people he met and interest them in the faith if he could. His monks visited and revisited the villages where he sowed the seeds and in time local Christian communities were formed. One story tells that the king, worried that bishop Aidan would walk like a peasant, gave him a horse but Aidan gave it away to a beggar. He wanted to walk, to be on the same level as the people he met and no doubt to vary his approach when he discovered something of their background and attitudes.

Aidan had to ensure that his efforts did not die with himself and his Ionian monks. What was needed was an English leadership of the English church. He had to educate the next generation of leaders. Irish monks were very keen on Christian education, which required the new skills of book-learning, reading and writing and Latin - the language in which all the books they could obtain were written.

Once the essentials of literacy had been grasped the expansion of mental horizons must have been amazing. Books could bridge the natural restrictions of time and space! They began with the 150 psalms (in Latin) and then went on to the four gospels (in Latin). These were the essentials; then they could master as much as their library offered and their minds could hold. Such education at this time could be obtained only in monastic schools. Aidan began with 12 boys, who of course would learn the practical work of being monks, priests and missionaries by observing and working with the older monks. It seems to have been a good system.

The monastery on the Island was for men and boys only. This was not true everywhere. As the Christian faith spread in England double monasteries became popular; under the rule of an Abbess monks and nuns, girls and boys, lived and worked in the same establishment, though not necessarily in close contact!

But Lindisfarne was different in that it had been founded specifically to be the centre for mission – and it took centuries for the Church to begin to question male hegemony.  Yet many of the nuns became very learned and their contribution to the success of the mission was great, for everywhere that Christianity spread books were required and many of these were copied by the nuns in their monasteries.

Aidan himself had made sure that it was possible in Northumbria for women to become nuns if they so wished. He had "discovered" the woman who was to become the most famous Abbess of her day, Hild, who was to be in turn the Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby. Her contribution to the church was great: at least five of her (male) students became bishops.

After 16 years as bishop Aidan died at Bamburgh in 651AD. We do not know his age. What he had achieved may not have been clear to him at death but subsequent history showed the strong foundations and lasting success of his mission. The missionaries trained in his school went out and worked for the conversion of much of Anglo-Saxon England.

Apostle of England:
We do not know who first brought Christianity to this country way back in the days of the Roman Empire. We have no obvious original apostle. Yet, if we must choose one man to be called Apostle of England it has to be claimed that Aidan is that man. "Apostle of Northumbria" he certainly was and we are proud to make our apostle known to a wider world.

Prior of Melrose Abbey
Prior of Lindisfarne Priory
Born 635; Died 20 March, 687
Feast Day: March 20

Symbol: the head of St. Oswald, which Cuthbert carries in his hands
Although tradition says that Cuthbert was the son of an Irish king, it is most likely that he was born in the vicinity of Melrose, in present day Scotland, of poor parents. Certainly we know that he tended sheep on the hills above the abbey when he was older.

The young Cuthbert may have been influenced by the nearby monks of Melrose Abbey in his choice of vocation; when he was sixteen he received a vision of the soul of St. Aidan being carried to heaven by angels. This vision may have convinced him to enter holy orders at Melrose, but he did not rush to fulfil his calling.

Instead, Cuthbert spent several years as a soldier, probably in the service of the Kingdom of Northumbria against the attacks of King Penda of Mercia. After that conflict had ended, Cuthbert entered the monastery at Melrose, where his devotion earned him high praise. When the monastery at Ripon was founded, it was Cuthbert who acted as master.

These were years of conflict between the traditions of the Celtic Rite and the Roman Rite in the Catholic Church. In 661 Ripon adopted the Roman approach, and Cuthbert and his followers returned to Melrose. In 664 Cuthbert became Prior of Melrose after the death of Boisil.

Lindisfarne Priory
His reign as prior did not last long; in that same year of 664 the Synod of Whitby settled the ongoing dispute between Roman and Celtic Christianity in favour of the former. Cuthbert acquiesced with the Synod's decision, and adopted Roman rule. He was sent to the Priory of Lindisfarne to ease the transition to Roman tradition in that house.

Cuthbert was a perfect choice for such a sensitive role; his reputation for devotion and sanctity, and the fact that he himself had been raised in the Celtic tradition and now supported Roman rule made his gentle leadership ideal for the job at hand. He spent a great deal of his time at Lindisfarne evangelizing among the people of the area, and exercising the tact and patience for which he was renown to lead the conversion to Roman Christianity.

Cuthbert's time at Lindisfarne was short, however. He desired the peace of a life of contemplation, and in 676 the abbot granted him leave to retire to take up the simple life of a hermit. Just where Cuthbert chose for his retreat is uncertain. Some traditions say that the rocky islet of St. Cuthbert's Island, near Lindisfarne, was the spot. Other traditions place him in St. Cuthbert's Cave, near Howburn. In any case, he did not stay long, and soon moved to Farne Island, opposite Bamburgh.

After several years of austere life on Farne, Cuthbert was reluctantly persuaded to return to a more active role in the church, and became Bishop of Lindisfarne. His consecration was held at York on Easter, 685. He returned to Lindisfarne, but his time was short. By Christmas, 686 he felt his death approach, and Cuthbert resigned his see and returned to Farne Island. He died on March 20, 687.

 But the story of Cuthbert does not end there. He was buried at Lindisfarne Priory, where his tomb quickly became a magnet for pilgrims. Miracles were reported at his grave; in fact, so numerous were the reported miracles that Cuthbert was called the "Wonder-worker of England".

In 875 the monks of Lindisfarne became alarmed by the threat of Danish invasion. They fled the island, taking with them their most precious possessions, including the relics of Saint Cuthbert. The monks of Lindisfarne wandered for a full seven years, lugging the saint's bones about with them, until in 883 they were given a church at Chester-le-Street, near Durham. Ironically, their benefactor was a Danish king who had converted to Christianity.

In the late 10th century a fresh Danish invasion threatened, so Cuthbert's bones were moved again, this time to Ripon, over 300 years after he had first come to the great Abbey as a master. After only a few months at Ripon, Cuthbert was once more carted off. The intention was to return the saint to Chester-le-Street, but on the way the bones lay at Durham, where apparently signs were shown indicating that this was the place the saint wished to be buried.

A series of churches were built to house the relics. The first stone church was built on the site of the present cathedral, and was consecrated in about 999. During William the Conqueror's "Harrying of the North" (1069) the bones were moved to Lindisfarne for safety, but soon returned to Durham.

In 1104 they were finally moved to the new cathedral of Durham, where a suitable shrine had been prepared. During this final move the body was found to be incorrupt (i.e. perfectly preserved) as was the head of St. Oswald, which had been placed with Cuthbert's body for safety. It is from this point that the head of St. Oswald was adopted as the symbol of St. Cuthbert.

Throughout the Middle Ages the shrine of Cuthbert remained one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in the North of England. During the English Reformation the tomb of Cuthbert was plundered, but it seems that the monks had warning, and had hidden Cuthbert's body. In 1827 a secret tomb was found in the Cathedral. Was the body contained therein the body of St. Cuthbert. The question has never been adequately settled, though the bones are now displayed as authentic within the cathedral.

Saint Cuthbert is also associated with the Lindisfarne Gospels. This illuminated manuscript was produced by Eadfrid, Bishop of Lindisfarne, in the 8th century. It is without question one of the best surviving examples of traditional Celtic calligraphy and illustration. The gospel was placed by Eadfrid on the shrine of Cuthbert, where it stayed until the monks fled the priory.

In a delightful tale, which ought to be true even if it is not, the gospel was lost overboard as the monks crossed the Irish Sea. As the monks despaired, a vision of Cuthbert appeared before them and told them where to find the book. It was found on the shore three days later, in the spot foretold by Cuthbert, intact save for some minor staining from the seawater. When the gospel (now in the British Museum) was later analyzed, it was found marked with stains that seem likely to be from salt water. So the romantic tale contains more than a bit of truth.

When did XTY first come to UK isles??

In the 1st Century AD, Britain had its own set of religious icons: Pagan gods of the earth and Roman gods of the sky. Into this superstitious and violent world came a modern, fashionable cult from the east: Christianity.

We tend to associate the arrival of Christianity in Britain with the mission of Augustine in 597 AD. But in fact Christianity arrived long before then, and in the 1st Century AD, there wasn't an organised attempt to convert the British.
It began when Roman artisans and traders arriving in Britain spread the story of Jesus along with stories of their Pagan deities.

Christianity was just one cult amongst many, but unlike the cults of Rome, Christianity demanded exclusive allegiance from its followers. It was this intolerance of other gods, and its secrecy, which rattled the Roman authorities and led to repeated persecutions of Christians. Christians were forced to meet and worship in secret.

But a single religion with a single God appealed to the Roman Emperor Constantine. He saw that Christianity could be harnessed to unite his Empire and achieve military success. From 313 AD onwards, Christian worship was tolerated within the Roman Empire.

It looked as if Paganism might again get the better of Christianity when, after the departure of the Romans, new invaders arrived: Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

Yet somehow Christianity survived on the Western edges of Britain, even during the Dark Ages. Missionary activity continued in Wales and Ireland, and in Western Scotland Saint Columba helped to bring a distinctly Irish brand of Christianity to mainland Britain.

Some have  argued that it was Augustine's famous mission in 597 AD from the Pope in Rome to King Aethelbert of Kent that really set up the future course of Christianity in Britain, creating a strong alliance between Christianity and Kingship. Certainly the Venerable Bede wanted to see it this way. For Bede, a Christian England was part of God's master plan. It was Providence that meant it was the destiny of the Anglo-Saxons to become Christians, united in a single Christian nation. But how would this come about?

Bede ends his Ecclesiastical History bemoaning the laziness of the Anglo-Saxons who he saw as half-hearted Christians still holding onto Pagan practices. An organised and disciplined parish life which would regulate the beliefs and behaviour of the British people was still to mature.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

For your information, please do come and join us!




Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Pilgrimage 2014

Please see all te photgraphs and information concerning our Pilgrimage to Durham and Holy Island in July. Lots of information for fellow Pilgrims and regular updates each week.