Ever since I heard that I had been accepted to train for the ordained ministry, St Hild of Whitby has been a companion on my journey. She is a real inspiration to me and today is her feast day. She is an inspiration because she was a female leader in a time when the world was far more hostile than it is now to women in leadership. She had a lasting impact on the church in England by being at the centre of bringing the Celtic and Roman traditions together. She was the equivalent in her day of a chancellor of a university and the Secretary of State and yet one of the things she is most remembered for (as Bede records) is her encouragement of the illiterate shepherd Caedmon who wrote a glorious hymn of praise to the Creator.
Here is some blurb on her from Exciting Holiness:
Hilda was born in 614 of the royal house of Northumbria. Baptised in York at the age of twelve by the Roman missionary Paulinus, she was later an influential lay leader of the Church. She was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to become a Religious, and subsequently established a monastery at Streanaeshalch (Whitby). This house became a great centre of learning and was the meeting-place for the important Synod of Whitby in the year 664 at which Hilda’s rôle was that of a reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions. She is remembered as a great educator, exemplified in her nurturing of Caedmon’s gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November in the year 680.