Sacred Places Journal
10 October, 2001: Lindisfarne-Whitby: The Most Important Work
8 a.m. communion. I kneel in silence in the old church with its thick stone walls and listen to the wind raging outrside. But inside all is peaceful. What a metaphor for the church in a troubled world.
The vicar monk David Adam is one of the best-known of Celtic writers. It is the feast day of Northumbrian St. Paulinus, so paraments and vestments are red and gold, richly embroidered with designs from the Lindisfarne Gospels. The intercessions for our world are fervent. "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace."
Getting off the island in time to catch our train may be a bit tricky. The causeway should open about 10:25 (Tourist Board says 11:04, but the locals have an "insiders' tide table"). Stormy weather, however, can make the tide slower to receed-or make it go up higher first-I'm not sure. Anyway, we need to catch an 11:41 train in Berwick 15 miles away.
Seventy miles, three trains and four hours later, including travelling through North Yorkshire's picturesque Esk Valley, we arrive in Whitby, home of such disparate luminaries as Dracula and Hilda, abbess and saint.
Our accommodations are at Sneaton Castle Centre, a retreat center run by St. Hilda's Priory, one of the most thriving houses of Anglican nuns in England. We walk in the walled garden before Vespers. The grey-habited sisters of the community sing the evening office in a stone chapel with a high barrel ceiling that echoes their angelic plainchant. Dinner in the refectory is shared with a group of hospital chaplains, and then we are back in the chapel by 9:00 for Compline to share in the sisters' most important work-prayer.