From Pew Talk, the East & West Tilbury & Linford Parish Magazine October 2014 – sent by Kim & Chris Smith
FROM THE RECTORY by Canon Paul Robinson
I admit I had barely heard of St Cedd until I came to live in East Tilbury; he isn’t one of the Church’s Premier League saints. But he is our East Tilbury saint who around 653AD built a church and monastery where St Catherine’s stands today.
If you don’t know much about him, that’s because there’s only a little known about him personally. But his impact was huge. He was the eldest of four brothers (Cedd, Chad, Cynibil and Caelin) who all became monks and priests based at the dynamic 7th century Celtic spiritual, creative and artistic centre on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland. Cedd died of the plague at an early age, 1350 years ago, which he caught on a visit to another monastery he founded at Lastingham on the North York Moors.
St Augustine famously brought the Christian faith to Britain in 595AD on the instruction of Pope Gregory (the one who saw blonde Anglo-Saxon British slaves and said, “these are Angels not Angles”), but in reality Augustine’s mission was mainly in Kent. 50 years later the charismatic Celts began to have a big impact on the Kings of the various kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England. This time the Christian faith was brought by the Celts at the request of the local British peoples and it was in their language and related to their way of life; now the Christian faith took root and flourished.
Greatest among those celtic missionaries were the brothers Cedd and Chad. Cedd was first invited to go to the Midlands (the Kingdom of Mercia) and then he came twice to the East Saxons, sailing down from Lindisfarne and landing at Tilaburg – East Tilbury. Whatever it was Cedd did, his faith was infectious and in no time he had got teams of local people to share their Christian faith in their communities. Even in the 7th Century, with few methods of communication, the wonderful life and work of the church at Tilaburg / East Tilbury was famous and got back to the first English historian, St Bede, who wrote about it in his “History of the English People” in 731AD.
We may know little about our Saint Cedd but his reputation was someone whose faith was built on getting on with other people however different they were from him or each other. And he was a person who stayed committed to God and to the people he met. For Cedd, the church was not an organisation but a family, the caring Family of God. 1350 years later, St Cedd’s kind of faith and church is just what ours should be today.
ST CEDD 1350 AT TILABURG
26 October 2014 marks the 1350th Anniversary of the death of St Cedd and it is going to be a day of celebration of this unique missionary at the Church founded by the saintly Bishop Cedd, St Catherine’s East Tilbury. Bede in his famous 731AD Ecclesiastical History of the English People, recorded Cedd coming up the Thames and founding the church and monastery at Tilaburg (East Tilbury) most probably in 654AD.
Tilaburg had been the lowest crossing point of the Thames since Bronze Age times, and most probably the Thames was then shallow enough at low tide for there to be a ford linking Essex and Kent. In Emperor Cladius’ time, in 43AD, the Roman General Plautius and his legionaries marched south along the Roman road from Chelmsford and Billericay to East Tilbury and on to Kent across the ford. As the Thames river levels rose, the crossing was by ferry and by 1293 it was run by the Prioress of Higham in Kent and on the pilgrimage route to Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury. This pilgrim route was still in use until at least the mid 16th Century.
In Cedd’s day, as this Thames crossing was either still a ford or a shallow ferry route, it meant that the crossing at Tilaburg was the limit of navigation by sea going ships up the Thames. So Bishop Cedd and his companions would have left the boat that had brought them from Lindisfarne and began their mission in Essex at Tilaburg where they had landed and established what Bede called “a community of the servants of Christ” here under the patronage of the newly baptised, Anglo Saxon King Sigbert.
What made Cedd unique as a missionary, and what St Catherine’s East Tilbury is specially celebrating, is not that Cedd was a pioneer missionary going to communities that had never heard the Gospel. The East Saxons had been Christians but the imported and imposed Christianity of the Roman missionaries and bishops like Augustine and Mellitus had just not stuck in this area at least. Firstly, and important for the Church today, Cedd showed the Christian Faith could be re-ignited where it had become, at best, dying embers. But secondly, St Cedd’s gift came from his Celtic heritage which earthed the Christian faith in the life and experiences of the people he preached to. Those who are familiar with the history of mission will recognised this same pattern in other eras and mission areas, most distinctively in our time perhaps by Vincent Donovan in his “Epistle from the Masai – Christianity Rediscovered”. This time, the Gospel brought by Cedd took root and Bede celebrates how Cedd’s “Gospel of eternal life made daily headway throughout the province”.
Everyone is welcome to St Catherine’s on this 1350th Anniversary of St Cedd’s death. At 10am there’s a Celtic Eucharist. The church has an Open Day from 2 to 5pm to welcome the pilgrims of 2014 (with tea and home-made cakes!).
The day ends at 5.30pm with a Celtic evening service and, hopefully, the lighting of the Beacon on the shores of the Thames near where St Cedd and his companions would have landed.
THE CELTIC WAY
This month we are specially celebrating Cedd and the Celtic ways of faith. Alongside their fascinating designs in Celtic crosses and illuminated scripts, are their homely prayers.
At the start of the day
I bend my knee:
in the eye of the Father who created me,
in the eye of the Son who purchased me,
in the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me
in friendship and affection.
A blessing on the Day ahead
Bless to me, O God, each thing my eye sees;
Bless to me, O God, each sound my ear hears;
Bless to me, O God, each odour that goes to my nostrils;
Bless to me, O God, each taste that goes to my lips,
each note that goes to my song,
each ray that guides my way,
each thing that I pursue,
each lure that tempts my will.
The Three that seek my heart,
bless the zeal that seeks my living soul.
A washing prayer
The palmful of the God of Life
The palmful of the Christ of Love
The palmful of the Spirit of Peace
Pour on me O Trinity of Grace
A prayer for the day
Bless to me, O God, my soul and body.
Bless to me, O God, my belief and my condition.
Bless to me, O God, my heart and my speech.
Bless to me, O God, the handlings of my hands,
strength and busyness of morning,
habit and temper of modesty,
force and wisdom of thought;
And thine own path, O God of virtues,
till I go to sleep at night.
And thine own path, O God of virtues,
till I go to sleep at night.
A dressing prayer
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
cover Thou my soul
with the shadow of Thy wing.
For more on St Cedd see:
St Cedd also founded and built St Peter’s Chapel at Bradwell. For more information see:
Tim Harrold and John Espin went on the annual Bradwell pilgrimage in July 2009 – click on the link to the left of this page to find out what happened.
Photos of St Catherine’s, East Tilbury © Copyright David Kemp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence