Thursday 22 January 2015

Lindisfarne: a well-known secular place

I read in the local Evening Chronicle about trouble on Lindisfarne. I have no idea of the rights and wrongs of the issue other than what the paper says but it appears there is local opposition to a new church being built on the island. The ecumenical community of St Aidan and St Hilda want to build a chapel as their present arrangement has fallen foul of  health and safety rules. However some residents think three churches on the island are enough and are campaigning against permission being granted. What interested me was the quotation from the resident who said: `We are a secular community. There are people who go to church. We are not all agnostic or atheist but we are secular.”

How do you decide if you are in a secular place? Especially when that place is described as the `Cradle of Christianity` for the North East? After all Mr Cameron claimed we are a Christian country and surely the law of the land backs him up. As I say I have only a flimsy grasp of the issues but if you are an atheist living on Holy Island life could be somewhat uncomfortable.

Bishop Kevin Dunn to his credit, made it a priority to do something about the small Catholic chapel on Lindisfarne. It looks a bit more like a church now. It is surprising how little attention has been given to this major pilgrimage site. I suppose it is rather off the beaten track and fairly inaccessible given the tidal timetable. I`ve always thought if we were serious about our heritage the Catholics would by now have built a great baroque basilica to house relics of the Northumbrian saints such as St Cuthbert`s ring ( last heard of at Ushaw). Given the mood of the locals however perhaps now is not the time....


  1. Even if there are 3 churches on Holy Island, there will still be more pubs. Atheists and secularists are a most miserable bunch of pathetic whingers.
    By the way - St Cuthbert's Ring: the 1961 Tyne Tees documentary about life in Ushaw, believed lost has reappeared. Access on the St Wilfrid's parish blog, or YouTube, where the 2 televised Masses, 1960 and 1962 are also featured. The documentary shows the President, Mgr Grant showing the ring in front of the cameras. For Ushaw men, a fascinating film, featuring Frs Milburn, Hollis, Payne, Loftus and others. Fleeting glimpses of yours truly.
    Terry Middleton.
    ps. Watching the Masses brings tears to the eyes, noting what we have lost. (Apart from St Joseph's)

  2. Further to the comment by 1569 Rising I, too, watched the documentary. When it finished there were links to other programmes from Ushaw. One of these programmes showed the 'funeral liturgies' of Mons McReevy at Ushaw in 1990. By this time the chapel had been vandalised (I believe the current terminology is 're-ordered') and a ghastly metal screen had been erected to partition off the glorious high altar. Watching these 'funeral liturgies' (as much as I could bear) also brought tears to my eyes but of a different kind to 1569. When watching and comparing life at Ushaw over such a short space of 29 years from 1961 to 1990 It is quite obvious why seminary failed: the demotion of the High Altar as irrelevant and the standard of the liturgy so unworthy to be called Catholic, would deter anyone of faith from going there. Two or three years ago I was involved in a scheme to try and save Ushaw and we started an internet appeal to gain support. What was very instructive was the fact that the most ardent supporters for its CLOSURE came from priests who had the misfortune to be there in the past 40 years or so. If the current authorities are unable to run it successfully as a Catholic seminary then they should give it to a priestly society which could do so.

  3. I cannot disagree with anything Leo has written. What the "authorities" at Ushaw did to the Chapel would have been approved wholeheartedly by Thomas Cromwell, Cranmer and Edward VI. But the same "authorities", two years after the making of the documentary, began construction of the new wing, on the basis that the seminary was bursting at the seams.

    Full marks for foresight!

  4. "For Ushaw men, a fascinating film, featuring Frs Milburn, Hollis, Payne, Loftus and others. Fleeting glimpses of yours truly."

    Does this refer to the dreaded, and dreadful, Msgr Basil Loftus?


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