Today the Church of England celebrated the life of Hilda Abbess of Whitby who died this day in 680. She was born into the royal house of Northumbria. Baptized at 13 and she became and an influential lay leader in the church before became a religious at the age of 33. She established monasteries first in Hartlepool and later in Whitby. When the Synod of Whitby met in 664 it did so in the monastery and she became a great reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions.
We celebrate her in the week the General Synod of the Church of England formally adopted legislation which means that women can be ordained as bishops. It also comes in the week when the Diocese of Salisbury celebrated those first women to be ordained priest in 1994.
During the service at Salisbury Cathedral on Sunday Evening Canon Jane Lloyd reminded us of words that Florence Nightingale wrote to Dean Stanley in 1853. “I would have given her (the church) my head, my hand, my heart. She would not have them. She did not know what to do with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother’s drawing room; or if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my husband’s table. ‘You may go to the Sunday School if you like it’ she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it”
As we see social history in the making let us celebrate the women who we stand on the shoulders of and rejoice at the richer store of gifts now available to the Church of England.