25th May is celebrated as St Aldhelm’s day, this saint being particularly associated with our part of Salisbury diocese. He was born in around the year 639 and died on this day in 709 and was Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey, and Bishop of Sherborne, hence his connection with us, and, more especially, with Bishop Karen.
Today most people know of him through the walk from Worth Matravers to see St Aldhelm’s chapel on St Aldhelm’s Head, a pleasant three miles there and back, often extended to take in one of the other sights either way along the coast, usually Chapman’s Pool, but finer still is that the other way, taking in Winspit and even Seacombe Bottom and Quarry also.
This day is also that for The Venerable Bede, a slightly later near contemporary of Aldhelm’s, albeit at the other end of the country, born in Jarrow and serving in the Church in what is now that north east corner of England. Of formidable intellect, Bede was monk, scholar and historian, and his History of the English Church and People is amongst the most important of historical texts that this country possesses. He died in 735 and his remains were transferred to Durham Cathedral after its construction.
So, this is a day of remembering the Church in a very different guise in a very different era, but in this period after Pentecost also an indication of just how the Church has been inspired and spread through the agencies of devoted and committed people in every age. Perhaps each period of history has seen itself as the time of challenge, and maybe we see that in our own day, but equally we are aware that in every generation the Holy Spirit raises up individuals to fulfil the mission of Christ’s Church in every land.