This was not your typical monastic community.
Around 630, King Aethelfrith of Northumbria, was killed. His two sons, Oswald and Oswith, went into exile off the west coast of Scotland. We believe they were taken in by the Celtic monks on Iona.
Some years later, the young princes returned to rule Northumbria, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom north of Hadrian’s Wall. And they invited a team of monks from Iona to come to their kingdom, share the Gospel, and make disciples for Christ Jesus.
The monks elected to begin a monastery on a tidal island called Lindisfarne, seated off the eastern tip of the most northern corner of England.
Over the next 29 years, the monks, led by St. Aidan, traveled throughout the region as ambassadors of the Gospel. First they established a school for twelve Anglo-saxon boys, nurturing the faith and the minds of the future leaders of the kingdom. Then they tirelessly preached and healed and taught and loved on the Britons and Saxons of the region. All the while modeling a profound commitment to Christ, living extremely humble and aesthetic lives.
The foundation of faith they established would endure despite Viking raids and the Norman invasion. The monks created extraordinary illustrated copies of the Bible in Latin, and trained up believers in northern England in a spirituality rooted in prayer, study, and service.
That is, in part, the legacy on which Anglican spirituality is founded.
The morning air was crisp as we walked through the seventh century church, and very quiet as we prayed amid the ruins of the monastery on Holy Island. We gathered in the chancel on the ground where the monks had prayed eight times a day, decade after decade, over several centuries. Praying for the Gospel to spread among English speaking people like me.
Lindisfarne is a secluded, still space that calls us back to a simple, deep, and courageous faith in Christ.