About Me

My photo
Pilgrim, priest and ponderer. European living in Northumberland. I have been a parish priest, theological educator, cathedral precentor and dean of Sheffield, then Durham.**** I blog on faith, society, church matters, the North East, European issues, the arts, travel and anything else that intrigues.**** My sermons and addresses are at: http://northernambo.blogspot.com.**** Blogs during my time as Dean of Durham: http://decanalwoolgatherer.blogspot.com.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Sacred Space and Community in a North Pennine Village

During Easter time 1930, a couple of young men came down off the fells south of the village and walked over the Derwent into Blanchland. They had roamed over the top from Stanhope and crossed the watershed between the Wear and the Derwent. They stayed the night at the Lord Crewe Arms. “No other spot brings me sweeter memories” said the one who felt so much at home in this landscape. He ordered champagne at the bar and played Brahms on an ancient piano. He was of course the poet W. H. Auden.[1]

Writing for the American Vogue magazine in 1954, Auden poses the question: where do we place our own Eden, that “Innocent Place where no contradiction has yet arisen between the demands of Pleasure and the demands of Duty. What is its landscape, the ethnic origin of its inhabitants, its religion, its form of state, its architecture, its system of weights and measures, et cetera?” For that child of the Midlands, his compass always pointed north.[2] His favourite landscapes were not the olive groves and classical ruins of the Mediterranean but the sombre Pennine Fells, whale-backed and lonely under the grim grey lowering sky that the North does so well. And best of all, what he called his “great good place, the part of the Pennines bounded on the south by Swaledale, on the North by the Roman Wall and on the West by the Eden Valley”.[3] Precisely where we find ourselves today, indeed, what he called “the Never-Never Land of my dreams”.[4]
To Auden, I think we can say, the North Pennines were a sacred landscape. It wasn’t only the natural beauty of the area that loved for its own sake, but for the way it had been worked and reworked since prehistoric times, through antiquity and the middle ages into the industrial era of modernity. Especially the industrial relics of its lead mines. Alan Myers and Robert Forsythe have painstakingly documented Auden’s knowledge of the North Pennine’s mine workings in their study W. H. Auden: Pennine Poet from which I have already quoted. He reckoned the loneliest Pennine Dale of all, Rookhope, where we once owned a lead-miner’s cottage, to be the best. Specifically, the watershed between that dale and this. A poem of 1940 tells us why.

Always my boy of wish returns
To those peat-stained deserted burns
That feed the WEAR and TYNE and TEES,
And, turning states to strata, sees
How basalt long oppressed broke out
In wild revolt at CAULDRON SNOUT….
The derelict lead-smelting mill,
Flued to its chimney up the hill,
That smokes no answer any more
But points, a landmark on BOLT’S LAW
The finger of all questions. There
In ROOKHOPE I was first aware
Of self and not-self, Death and Dread….
There I dropped pebbles, listened, heard
The reservoir of darkness stirred.[5]
What he tells us is that it was here among these landscapes that Auden found his poetic voice, where juvenilia metamorphosed into a maturing poet. The first poem he admitted to his adult canon was a poem called “The Watershed”.

Who stands, the crux left of the watershed,
On the wet road between the chafing grass
Below him sees dismantled washing-floors,
Snatches of tramline running to a wood.
An industry already comatose…

He sees an almost mystical significance in the relics of an obsolete industry, as numinous to him as the monuments that we admire that have come down to us from the ancient world or the middle ages. Numinous may seem a strong word in that context. Not when a place has become charged with meaning because you became a poet there, where you saw “into the life of things” for the first time, to quote Wordsworth. Auden ventures up to a derelict mine working somewhere on the fells above this village and drops a pebble down the shaft, and, he says, listens and hears, senses the reservoir of darkness stirring, becomes aware of self and not-self, Death and Dread. The language is redolent of religious experience, the kind of primal awe described by Rudolph Otto in his great book The Idea of the Holy. For him the reservoir of darkness doesn’t mean what is sinister and frightening, rather, the hidden depths of the land, of life, of the soul, of God even, which it is the vocation of every human being to uncover and explore if we want not to live in the shallows all our lives. The experience may be raw and disorientating. But that is the whole point. That’s where watersheds in human life are crossed and our human existence becomes significant in new way. To encounter the native spirit of a place in this visceral, life-changing way is, I think, how we become more truly alive, and therefore more truly ourselves.

I find Auden’s discovery of the sacred within the landscape intriguing. I think he can help us reflect on our theme today, Sacred Space and Community. What he suggests is that “sacredness” is a bigger concept than simply marking a site where people of faith have gathered and done religious things, where “prayer has been valid” to quote T. S. Eliot. The sacred is about finding meaning in a place, recognising in it that which evokes responses like attachment and belonging, reverence and awe. Sacred literally means “set apart”, so it defines space marked by thresholds that we cross where we behave in particular ways. The classic instance is Moses at the burning bush where he is told to “take off your shoes, for the place where you are standing is holy ground”.[6] It’s to recognise the rich, coalescence of myth, memory and story, symbols, images and human community past and present – clusters of associations that compel us to stop like Moses, to consider and reflect, discover who we are under God. I think it works like that for people of faith who want to enter into the cultural, historical, and theological meaning of religious sites and artefacts, what we call our spiritual heritage.
Let me offer you three theses about sacred space that I hope will help us understand what we are talking about here in Blanchland.

********
My first thesis is: Sacred Space is an Aspect of Landscape.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I were in Greece visiting classical sites. It was our first visit. We landed at the same time as the mini-cyclone Zorba that you may have read about. There was torrential rain in Athens. So we experienced what many visitors never do, the sight of the Parthenon sailing above a sea of umbrellas. After that we went to Delphi. The rain had moderated but the skies were leaden, dark clouds sitting over Mount Parnassus and that cleft in the hills where without warning you come across that extraordinary site. Having never been there, the effect was overwhelming, walking up the via sancta or pilgrim’s path along which temples and treasuries, theatre and stadium and the seat of the oracle itself perched on a cliff-edge beneath crags that soared up into the cloud-cover.

When we were back, I talked about Delphi with a retired school teacher who was also a reader in her cathedral. She had taken A-level student groups there to perform classical drama in the theatre. “Of course, what you sense when you’re there is that this is a holy site” she said. “And that’s something to do with the landscape setting itself. It’s not simply the centuries during which people went there to seek wisdom and worship at the shrines. Something about the place itself suggested the numinous, the sacred.” I dare say it might not have struck us so powerfully on a hot sunny day, for the weather seemed so much part of our experience of Delphi – but then again, who knows?
Haydon Bridge on the South Tyne, where I live, is best known as the birthplace of the early nineteenth century painter John Martin. You will know him for the vast canvasses he painted such as The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle or The Plains of Heaven at Tait Britain, said to be modelled on his native Tynedale. His art tried to capture what people of that time called “the sublime” in landscape that cuts us down to size and inculcates a response of awe in the presence of the divine, what Freud called that “oceanic” feeling that overwhelms us at times and that we often associate with religion. As far as I know he didn’t paint Delphi but I couldn’t help thinking about him as we clambered up the Pilgrims’ Way to the top of the site and looked across the valley.
Landscapes don’t have to be overwhelming or sublime to speak to us. They can be beautiful in quieter, more intimate ways. Perhaps this is true of Blanchland “nestling” (as the usual travel-writer’s cliché has it) in its remote but sheltered valley beneath the Pennine fells. When we observe where our ancient or medieval forebears established sacred sites, we often comment on the appropriateness of the chosen place – not, or not only because of some ancient pre-existing religious history (which it may or may not possess) but because somehow the landscape setting almost seems to require it. Blanchland is not Delphi but who is to say that this tranquil valley didn’t entice the Premonstratensians to found their new Abbey here? (Though some historians of a more pragmatic hue suggest that it was the lead mines that drew them here.)

I think it’s important to underline the landscape context in which we are sitting. You often hear it said that “church” is not a place or a building but is people. There is a truth in that, as I’ll go on to say, but that cliché is as much false as it is true. It’s false because it implies that sacred space is only ever configured by what human beings have historically done and continue to do at particular sites and buildings. But a more robust theology of creation would at once challenge that assumption. If the created order was declared “very good” when God finished his work on the sixth day,[7] then we should expect that the Creator continues to disclose his presence in and through the natural world as the Psalmist affirms: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims hs handiwork.[8] Or again, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”[9] Discerning the holy in the created world, however flawed or broken it is and we are, is a primary God-given instinct.
Natural theology claims that this is a fundamental aspect of our creaturehood. My former colleague David Brown has stoutly defended it in a magisterial book that calls for a sacramental reading of nature and the re-enchantment of place. This, he believes, is what the arts have always responded to in the natural environment, even if religious believers have sometimes been more ambivalent about it. He concludes a long chapter on theology, spirituality, art and the natural world by saying: “The excitement of place, as with the natural world, is of a God valuing more than the simply human, and instead using the material. Even where decisively shaped by human beings, to tell us something of himself and thereby draw us more deeply into his presence”.[10] Which is to say that the “sacred” is, and always needs to be, more elusive than we think. It should take us by surprise, open our eyes and ears in new ways, challenge our assumptions and yes – overwhelm us at times, disturb or alarm us as well as inspire us. “Sacred geography” is about landscapes before it is about humans inhabiting them.

 
Here at Blanchland, then, we should not be too quick to assume that “sacred space” only means the Abbey and its surroundings. Residents in this village may tell different stories about sacredness that may not wholly align to the church’s preferred narrative. When people talk about communing with God in nature, we shouldn’t dismiss the importance of such spiritual experience. When Jacob exclaims at Bethel, “Surely God was in this place and I did not know it!”[11] he was speaking not of a formally-established place of worship but of a numinous experience in the open air where he had a dream about heaven and earth that shook him to the core. The shrine followed the experience, not the other way round. And I did not know it is the crucial point. It may be precisely where we do not know God, or expect to find him, that he discloses himself. Beth-El means “house of God”. God has many mansions. Most of them are not churches.
********
My second thesis is: Sacred Space Tells Stories.

I said that Auden’s experience of this part of his beloved North was of a highly-textured landscape. Geomorphology and natural history are a big part of the story of the North Pennines: this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated as a UNESCO geo-park, one of only seven in the UK. The focus is “on using Earth Heritage to support sustainable economic development of the area, primarily through geological and responsible tourism”.[12] This has included “geology events, developing trails across the landscape, creating displays in local museums and visitor centres, producing educational resources, working in local schools and more”. So the story of this particular sacred space predates any human story by hundreds of millions of years. In Durham Cathedral I always pointed out to visitors the fossils embedded in the black Frosterley Marble piers. These are the oldest living things whose traces can be read in the fabric of this building. Every building, every site, tells such a story.
Blanchland’s narrative is especially rich. It is told in the church guidebook[13] first issued in 1951, originally privately printed, we are told, for Vaux and Associated Breweries Limited, Sunderland, and reprinted in the 1990s for the Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland Post Office and Blanchland Stores. There can be a whole story in the obverse of a title page! It’s an invaluable guide, and is now available on the village website[14].

There are key historical layers of this story. The foundation story is of the establishment of the Abbey in the twelfth century. Despite its remoteness, this site was not far from Dere Street, the Roman road that crossed the Tyne at the town of Coria, Corbridge as it headed north to the Stanegate and the Roman Wall just beyond. In Saxon times, it was on the edge of the Shire, the land given by Queen Etheldreda to Wilfrid to endow his great church at Hexham which he began in 674. Later, as we know because the stories are documented, the valley found itself in the English Middle March, a frontier land where Scots raiders and reivers would sweep down and plunder. Northumberland has a long history of being fought over, and as I said in a recent lecture[15], this sense of liminality has coloured much of the county’s history, even on its southernmost flank as we are here. The Palatinate County of Durham, just across the river where the king’s writ did not run, was established precisely as a buffer-state to protect England from invasion out of the North.

Blanchland would not exist but for the Abbey. Its very name tells us that its origins belong to a religious story, Blanch-Land, meaning, probably, the land of the White Canons as the Premonstratensians were known. In this, its foundation story has many parallels in medieval Europe, like Durham, the city that grew up around the shrine of St Cuthbert, or Salisbury, the city of New Sarum that established itself in the same way when the Romanesque cathedral of Old Sarum was abandoned on its hilltop and a new Gothic cathedral begun down in the valley. In both cases, you can draw concentric circles round the formal sacred space of the church itself: its conventual or college buildings, the enclosure of the precinct, the city that sat on the far side of the precinct wall, and the hinterland beyond. As in Greek or Roman cities, the pro-fanum was not some barbarous place where the holy did not penetrate; rather, it was the space before the temple in which holiness took a civic, rather than cultic, form. “Ordinary space” as compared with sacred space. So sacred and profane co-exist in the localities that are within the orbit of holy sites. In this locality, for instance, life in the upper Derwent Valley would not only fall within the cultural and spiritual “reach” of the Abbey, but, all-importantly, it would be wholly under its economic power as well.

This is easier to understand in Durham, where so much has survived of the medieval Priory, than in Blanchland where the dissolution of the Abbey resulted in the creation of an altogether new townscape. We know that Abbey buildings were despoiled for stone with the village began to be re-imagined as we currently have it. The Abbey Church was severely truncated, losing its nave, south transept and pretty well all its conventual buildings – cloister, refectory, chapter house, dormitory, abbot’s lodging and infirmary. Unless you know what you are looking at, reading the layout of the conventual site from the present-day village can be difficult.
So when I say that the village would not exist but for the Abbey, it would be more accurate to say, but for the despoiled Abbey out of which it was created. This means that the townscape we look at and admire is the legacy of the bitter religious upheavals of the sixteenth century when so much of the legacy of the middle ages was swept away across England. It isn’t correct to say, as some of the promotional material does, that Blanchland is an unspoiled medieval village. Far from being unspoiled, the canons of Blanchland would certainly have said that their holy and beautiful house had been spoiled beyond recognition by Henry VIII and his commissioners. It is true that its stones are (largely) medieval, and a few of its buildings, those that preserve the Abbey’s footprint. But the fabric of medieval Blanchland with its severed limb of a church refashioned in the eighteenth century, like its village, is paradoxically both familiar and remote.

It doesn’t stop there. The Abbey estates passed to the Derwentwaters of Dilston Castle and became part of Jacobite history for a while until the sympathisers James and his younger brother Charles Radcliffe were executed following the abortive 1715 and 1745 Jacobite rebellions. You need to read Walter Besant’s novel of 1884, Dorothy Forster to get the feel of those times, or more recently (and accessibly), Devil Water by Anya Seton, both of which are set in this locality. From then, the key player in the story of Blanchland is Nathaniel Lord Crewe, the Bishop of Durham who cherished this village and created the model village as it is today. The Lord Crewe Trust has managed it ever since. You see how densely textured the story of this place turns out to be. The brand may say unspoilt medieval village. The story tells us that the reality is a lot more complex than that, but Lord Crewe’s village may be closer to what visitors actually see.  

My point is that the story of Blanchland’s concentric circles of sacred space is ambiguous. It preserves the memory of centuries of worship and piety on the part of the white canons, the goodness and purity of heart that flowed out of the Premonstratensian vision of life lived in the service of God and neighbour. Yet it’s an ambiguous history like the story of the landscape here in the North Pennines. You could say that the natural beauty of our Pennine landscape carries a shadow side, the evidence of how it was despoiled by the raids on it of centuries of lead-mining. Now, the mines have gone too, and with them the livelihood of many a Pennine village and family. In the same way, the Abbey was done violence to by a Reformation that some welcomed as the work of God, but many, particularly in the North, saw nothing but disaster in the abandonment of the old faith. Loss is written into this place. I tried to capture the spirit of the place in my book of 2013, Landscapes of Faith. Having described the village and the Abbey, I wrote, a trifle nostalgically, “It offers an emotive, living memorial to a lost way of life, with the remoteness of the village’s beautiful setting and its still obvious monastic layout a powerful memorial to those long-dead white canons”.[16] The story of sacred space is always ambivalent, carries a shadow, or at the very least can be read in different ways.

In the Ignatian spiritual tradition, the words consolation and desolation stand for different states of the soul in the discernment of God’s Spirit at work in human life. Consolation means the comfort and strength that comes from the Spirit’s presence as Comforter or Advocate, while desolation is the darkness and disturbance of the soul through sorrow, hopelessness or anxiety when God is, or appears to be, far off or altogether absent. Is it fanciful to ask whether some aspects of the story of a place’s speak of consolation while others testify to its opposite, desolation? If so, then Blanchland with its noble but troubled history could be a case-study of how to read a story and, importantly, learn how to place ourselves within it.
********
Which brings me to my final thesis. Sacred Space Must Be Inhabited and Reimagined.

I come back to the point I made earlier about landscape, that it is just not the case that “the church is people, not a place or a building”. When people speak about churchgoing, as Philip Larkin did in his famous poem of that name, that’s precisely what they mean. And if sacred geography and our theology of place[17] are well grounded (to coin a phrase), they are right to speak as they do.
However, places, landscapes, buildings are for populating. People do not by themselves necessarily create sacred spaces (though they can do), but by inhabiting them they add to their textures and assign new layers of meaning to them. I learned this when I wrote a new guide book to Durham Cathedral in 2003. In it I suggested that there were three emblems of North East England (I believe I called them icons, but I use that word much more sparingly now) that were instantly recognisable by everybody who lives in the region or has the slightest acquaintance with it. They were the Roman Wall, Durham Cathedral, and the Angel of the North. I was taken to task by a professor of history from eastern Europe who remarked that I wasn’t comparing objects of the same type. The Roman Wall had once been populated by a community (the army that served along it and the communities that lived in its hinterland) but whose people were now simply a memory. The Angel of the North was an artefact pure and simple and was not inhabited by anyone other than in the most attenuated sense. But Durham Cathedral was home to a living, worshipping community and continued to be the goal of pilgrims as it had always been. The textures of these emblems were entirely different.

I now see that it is not as simple as the professor thought. The Wall is the focus of a community of guardians, conservators and volunteers to whom its destiny is a matter of almost mystical significance. The Angel, intriguingly, draws to it people who want to mark rites of passage at its foot: birthdays, renewing wedding vows, scattering the ashes of loved ones. All of these are temporary communities brought into being by a sculpture created out of cold steel on the site of a former mine working. And all three attract big crowds of visitors (who may well describe themselves as pilgrims, in which group I include people walking along the Wall) who, for the time they are in relationship with the object of their visit, can be said to form another kind of temporary community. 
When we come to Blanchland, we realise how the textures of the place involve the different communities that have populated it in its history, from the White Canons and lay brothers to the Anglican congregation that worshipped there after the dissolution, and the villagers who lived and continue to live around their church. (The literal meaning of parish, paroikia, is the locality that lies around, and by extension, the people who live in it.) So a key question for the village and the Abbey community now is, how are we inhabiting our place today, the church itself and its pro-fanum, that which lies before, i.e. the physical and human setting of village and valley? How do we honour its sacredness and the sanctity of life in the wider community? And how are we thinking about its development into the future as a sacred space that will serve its resident and temporary communities in new ways? And how shall we embrace the heritage and tourism activity that is so central to the economy of the North Pennines without sacrificing the integrity whether of our “sacred space” and its landscape setting, or of the local community that inhabits it?

I don’t know Blanchland well enough to suggest specific responses to these questions. But if I am right about the landscape and narrative dimensions of sacred space, then the way we inhabit and reimagine it must honour the setting and story if it is to continue to be a source of inspiration and renewal. That has always been the task, to make sure that sacred space doesn’t remain fixed in a past that is daily becoming more and more remote from the present. What matters is the kind of dynamic remembering that both respects the pastness of the past, but also its capacity to speak into the present and help shape the future. Christian theologians call this kind of memory anamnesis. It’s what we do at the eucharist as the sacred space and its story gather us together to tell of God’s mighty acts in the past, so that they come alive in the present and transform us with a vision of what we could become under God.
Heritage is a difficult concept. Like it or not, all of us who are responsible for sacred spaces with long histories, beautiful settings and noble architecture are caught up in the heritage industry. Funding bids have to demonstrate access to heritage and activity plans that encourage people to discover, learn about and enjoy it. The risk is that we package our spiritual heritage, subtly (or not so subtly) through literature, signage, guided tours or the visitor centre, condition people to experience it in approved ways. What this can do is to rob them of the raw experience of encountering the place on its own terms with all the surprise, delight, awe or even shock that this can bring. Most of us can tell stories of childhood visits to heritage sites that laid down memories for a lifetime. When we went back as adults with our own children, we found we had to negotiate a barrage of information, officialdom and retail opportunity before we were allowed anywhere near what we had come to see. The effect of this is to distance us intellectually, spiritually and emotionally from our heritage by over-managing it, and controlling our encounter with it by keeping in its place. An influential book warns against “othering” the past and thereby exoticising it “as a place for tourists and schoolchildren to visit, or as a site of lost romance and betrayed glory”.[18] Either is a failure to honour the integrity both of the heritage itself, and of the people who have come to see it.

I’m not in the least decrying the heritage industry and church heritage in particular: I’ve spent three decades of my working life trying to open up the heritage of three very different cathedrals and encouraging people with little or no church background to cross the threshold and come inside. The growing awareness of our heritage “offer” as sacred spaces is not only a key aspect of outreach, but it also professionalises our practice and humanises our welcome to guests as we help them orientate themselves in our buildings, understand something of what they see and respond. You’ll note the word: not tourists who only come to observe, but guests with the potential to become pilgrims who, however tentatively, are encouraged to participate, become part of the temporary community that the sacred space calls into being. Benedict’s Rule says that we should receive guests as if they were Christ himself. Generous hospitality and intelligent interpretation are, I think, among the gospel values that should shape how we inhabit our sacred spaces. We could put it another way and say that sacred space is “shaped” by vocation, as the Hebrew Bible speaks about the land of promise, a call that affirms a particular geography not only for its physical aspects but for the spiritual, ethical and personal values it represents.[19]
What’s clear is that here at Blanchland, inhabiting and reimagining sacred space are not tasks for the church alone. I’ve pointed out how in this place, church and community are historically deeply intertwined. That gives the village and the valley a vital interest in what happens inside and around the Abbey. It’s partnerships in the community that are going to enable the Abbey’s vision of its future to be achieved and flourish. That’s necessarily true of how every church needs to reimagine itself, for the natural population of a sacred space is the paroikia, “the people who live around”. But this sacred space and this community, because of their story, are woven fine into an entity that cannot be divided into churchgoers and everyone else. One of the hazards of our secularising times is the tendency church people, clergy among them, to think that a congregation and its priests somehow own the building they worship in. They don’t. Sacred space is public space that belongs to all and is open to all because it is God’s space, and God offers hospitality and welcome to all humanity. “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.”[20]


Perhaps that’s the most important insight for today. Allow it to shape our thinking about “sacred space and community” and it will make all the difference. Create a place where all can come, as Auden did, and drop pebbles down metaphorical shafts that plumb the depths of place and life and God, and listen in case something stirs.



[1] Myers, Alan & Forsythe, Robert (1999), W.H. Auden: Pennine Poet, 55ff.
[2] Davison, Peter (2007), The Idea of North
[3] Myers & Forsythe (1999), 8.
[4] Sadgrove, Michael, “Durham: A Northern Cathedral” in Wakefield, Gavin & Rooms, Nigel, eds., (2016), Northern Gospel, Northern Church, 183.
[5] Quoted by Myers & Forsythe (1999), 24.
[6] Exodus 3.5.
[7] Genesis 1.31.
[8] Psalm 19.1.
[9] Psalm 8.3-4.
[10] Brown, David (2004), God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience, 152.
[11] Genesis 29.17.
[12] www.northpennines.org.uk, accessed on 23 October 2018.
[13] Addleshaw, G.W.O. (1951), Blanchland: A Short History.
[14] www.blanchlandhistory.org.uk/docs/BLANCHLAND%20A%20short%20history%20G.W.O.%20Addleshaw.pdf
[15] https://northernambo.blogspot.com/2018/10/christianity-with-north-east-accent.html?spref=tw
[16] Sadgrove, Michael (2013), Landscapes of Faith: the Christian Heritage of the North East, 129.
[17] Rumsey, Andrew (2017), Parish: an Anglican Theology of Place.
[18] Wright, Patrick (2009), On Living in an Old Country, 137.
[19] Rumsey (2017), 79, citing the work of Walter Brueggemann.
[20] Mark 11.17.





Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Christianity with a North East Accent


Let me begin, not in North East England but in the eastern Mediterranean. Two weeks ago I was on Mars Hill in the centre of Athens. I thought the Areopagus was a proper hill with a ruined temple or two on top, and an open space for argument and debate. In fact it’s no more than a outcrop of the Acropolis, separated from it by a narrow fault. You clamber up an ancient stair cut out of the rock and emerge on an uneven plateau - perilously slippery for the marble has been worn smooth by centuries of human footfall.

Up here climbed St Paul one day in around AD50, for Mars Hill was where philosophers had argued and debated since the days of Pericles. Once, the city had been governed from here, and cases tried: discerning truth and wisdom had always been the business of the Areopagus. Perhaps Paul had come down from the temples of the Acropolis, or up from the Agora; either way, his mind was full of the vivid experiences this visit to the city had given him. Athens has that effect on travellers. And the Athenians, who had learned curiosity from Socrates, wanted to know more about this doctrine Paul was propounding that seemed to point to new deities, “Jesus” and “Anastasis” (Resurrection). Of all the novelties the Athenians loved so much, nothing pleased them more than new ideas they could discuss among themselves on the marble Areopagus.
I read Acts 17 on my phone and wondered what Paul thought he was doing, according to St Luke’s account. Some think that this attempt to engage with Greek culture was an experiment that failed. Brilliant rhetorician that he was, quoting poets and philosophers and winning intellectual arguments was not the way to promote the gospel. From then on, it is suggested, the apostle resolved not to tangle with Greeks who sought wisdom or with Jews who looked for signs. His sole task was “to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified”.[1]

Except that his time on Mars Hill, whether it was an hour or a day, was not seen as a failure by St Luke. When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” At that point Paul left them. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.[2] A street below the Acropolis is named after Dionysius the Areopagite, said to be the first bishop of Athens. Christianity took root in the city. After the collapse of Roman civilisation in the fifth century, Christians occupied the Parthenon and worshipped there.

On that afternoon I sat on Mars Hill, there weren’t many philosophers to be seen arguing about religion. But it was still a crowded place animated by lively conversation. Throngs of tourists were taking selfies. The young of Athens were enjoying lovers’ trysts, or talking and laughing among themselves. Everyone had their mobile phones and were sharing photos and social media posts and for all I knew, reading and discussing Acts 17. 
What would Paul do there today? The same as he did then. He would engage with the culture of the day, contemporary wisdoms that clamour to be heard in the market-place of ideas, try to point out how they both cloak and yet give clues to our fascination with unknown gods. He would draw out how the universal human longing is for truth and reality and meaning in life. To search for the God who is not far from any of us, so that perhaps we might feel after him and find him. And yes, share his faith in Jesus and the resurrection, and the reckoning that is due to the Creator by his creatures, whether we know it or not. 

The insights of what we call “contextual theology” are familiar. But they took on a new significance as I pondered how Paul theologised in an Athenian accent. Pope Benedict described our postmodern digital age as the Areopagus of our own day, an environment as slippery as the polished marble on Mars Hill where it’s easy to put a foot wrong. It’s here that the church must engage with the project of helping people with no explicit religious background - worshippers of unknown gods? - make sense of Christianity. That means placing ourselves in mind and imagination on Mars Hill, asking what it means to bear Christian witness in this place and at this time.
********

In 2016, a book was published called Northern Gospel, Northern Church: Reflections on Identity and Mission. Its essays respond to the question, is there a gospel for the North? Can we consider the North of England as a distinct entity with its own particular identity? I think this may be the first attempt to do this for thirty years, since the publication of a couple of books in 1986 by Margaret Kane and James Dunn.[3] I contributed an essay on “Durham: a Northern Cathedral” in which I tried to articulate what made it distinctive among English cathedrals because of its North Eastern setting and the part it has played in helping to shape regional culture and spirituality. That essay in turn built on a book I had written to mark the visit of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham in 2013, Landscapes of Faith.[4] In it, I explored the people, places, artefacts and settings of the Christian heritage of our region, and had a lot of fun taking the photographs for it. 

One of the best chapters in Northern Gospel is by Nigel Rooms, the Director of Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. He takes issue with what he calls the “translation” model of contextual theology: embedding the “timeless message” of the gospel in the new cultures in which it is proclaimed. When we try to find new languages to speak of eternal truth, we need to ask whether this approach separates form from content, does it take the “receptor” culture seriously by submitting to its interrogation of our assumptions? “Has deep, real listening gone on?”[5] He quotes Clemens Sedmark on “regional” and “little” theologies. “Regional theologies try to do justice to the key features of a regional context. They pay special attention to key events, persons and features. They look at the social realities in which people live and try to highlight the core constitutive elements of a regional social setting. Little theologies are made for a particular situation, taking particular circumstances into account, using local questions and concerns, local stories as their starting point. People should be able to recognise themselves in little theologies.”[6]
We can put these questions in a specific Church of England context. Andrew Rumsey is a parish priest whose book of 2017, Parish: an Anglican Theology of Place is an important contribution to the literature of Anglican parochial ministry, not least because of how it draws on his own pastoral experience. In an era when the rhetoric of missional leadership and church growth are sweeping all before them, this rigorous analysis of contemporary practice in the light of historic Anglican thought is much needed, and complements Andrew Davison and Alison Milbank’s more polemical book of 2010, For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions. Rumsey says: “God’s being is in revelation, for in the biblical tradition, God is perceived as giving himself to be known by those he has created – and this self-revelation occurs within created space-time. God, Christians affirm, is only ever encountered locally: not because he is local, but because we are, and God elects to be known by us. Knowledge of God is always local knowledge – from a particular standpoint.” He quotes Jacob at Bethel: “Surely God was in this place” and goes on to explore how the incarnate life of Jesus Christ, which happened in a particular locality in a particular era of history, “once upon a time”, yet extends to all times and places.[7]

St Paul’s Areopagus address as the Acts portrays it is clearly part of Luke’s project to show how the Christian proclamation encounters and inculturates itself in the widening concentric circles of antiquity: first Jewish, then Samaritan, then Greek, then Roman. So where, I wonder, do we find Areopagus in North East England? Where are the places that have lodged in the minds and imaginations of North Eastern people, and where Areopagites need to do immersive theology so as to bear Christian witness? I am thinking of material “markers” of particular histories or geographies – buildings, landscapes, heritage sites, institutions – that not only hold a palpable sense of place but that embody and symbolise the “idea” of the North East (to acknowledge a debt to a book that has influenced me as I’ve thought about the northern places that as a southerner I’ve learned to call home, Peter Davidson’s marvellously inventive The Idea of North[8]).

********
Here are three landmarks familiar to all of us for whom this part of England is home and that can function as pointers towards a Christianity with a North East accent.


The first belongs to the landscapes where I now live in South Tynedale, the Roman Wall. Our benefice of Haydon Bridge with Beltingham and Henshaw has running through it the Northumberland National Park, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. This is the English Middle March where the Anglo-Scottish border traces a jagged diagonal line across the empty fells to the north, with the Debateable Lands not far to the west. It was the territory of the border reivers who swept down the valleys from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries and plundered without regard to the rights of either person or property. Bastions and fortified towers testify to these lands that were so long fought over in Anglo-Scottish wars. In a way, the entire marches both English and Scottish could be called “debateable”, ambiguous, contested territory that was not securely established as “England” or “Scotland” until the Act of Union in 1707.
Two recent books have explored the liminality of the far north of England. Graham Robb[9] traces the history and character of the Debateable Land in which he has made his home, while Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, charts his walks in the area, interweaving the idea of a border line with his own relationship with his late father.[10] I find both books suggestive when it comes to theologising close to a national border. Medieval and modern history are illuminating when it comes to understanding how our social and cultural contexts have been shaped, because culture is so often formed not at the centre but on a boundary. And we find that the distinctive liminality of the northern Marches goes back to antiquity (even into pre-history, claims Graham Robb). The Emperor Hadrian, whose influence would be as far-reaching in Athens two generations after Paul’s visit as it has been in the north of England, began to construct his wall in AD 122, famously commemorated by the bus that bears that route number that plies up and down the Military Road.

Our benefice has recently begun to call itself the “Parishes by the Wall”, coining the phrase “living faith on the frontier”. This perfectly captures the idea of liminality, living, working, worshipping as we do so close to this north-west boundary of a great world empire, a border that is not simply a line on a map but a powerful, visible presence in the landscape. Bede, whose History was perhaps written to establish the idea of “Christian England”, knew it, educated as he was at Jarrow on the river bank opposite Wallsend; perhaps like St Benedict surveying the ruins of ancient Rome, he found both poignancy and inspiration in the already disintegrating signs of his beloved Roman culture with its remembered order and sobriety.

The liminality of the edge of Empire is written into the stones of our Christian churches. All along the line of the Wall, you find stones plundered by medieval builders. In Hexham Abbey, the seventh century crypt of Wilfrid’s Saxon church is entirely constructed out of Roman ashlar including decoration and a Latin inscription. You can also see there the magnificent first century grave marker of the young cavalry officer Flavinus who, bearing the standard, is depicted crushing a poor native Briton who has stumbled beneath his horse. Placed face down, it formed part of the floor of the slype passage and was unearthed only in the nineteenth century. Corbridge has an intact Roman arch, and several churches have Roman altars, including our own Haydon Old Church where it was hollowed out to make a font, from which I was glad to baptise the vicar’s daughter a couple of years ago.
To stay in the benefice where I live, let me mention the Anglican clergyman Anthony Hedley who served as secretary of the “Lit and Phil” and advised on the construction of this building we are sitting in. He bought the estate we know as Vindolanda, built a house there which he called Chesterholm, now part of the museum, and began to excavate the site. He died in 1835 and was buried in Beltingham churchyard. There is a memorial to him in the church: A zealous and faithful preacher and pastor…a steady advocate of civil and religious freedom, a skilful enquirer into the history of this his native county.[11] That epitaph connects religion to story and place, a linkage that was entirely natural to clergy at that time.

So Christianity in the North East feels very old, or at least rests on very old foundations. That’s not unique to the region. But antiquity married to liminality perhaps is. What the precise purpose of the Roman Wall really was remains much debated. Hadrian’s biographer recognises the project he calls “imperial containment”, defining the extent of empire, and says of it, “As with his building programme in Rome, he used the visual language of architecture and engineering to make a political point. The white ribbon thrown across an empty landscape and the monumental vallum were politics as spectacular art.”[12] But it clearly marked a threshold from one culture to another, and in the post-Constantinian era, this threshold began to be perceived as identifying a boundary between Christianity and the old native faiths of the far north. Thresholds have a way of “othering” places and societies “on the other side”, and it’s at least possible that the Wall had the effect of consolidating Christian identity once it had begun to establish itself in the pax romana. Who can say?
But metaphorically, we must always understand Christianity as a liminal borderland. I mean that “living faith on the frontier” stands for the two worlds Christians always live in, the seen and the unseen, the transient and the eternal, earth and heaven, this world and the next, or if you like, Augustine’s two cities, the human one that we construct as our place of civilisation, lawful order, learning, trade, gymnasium, theatre and governance on the one hand, and the eschatological (but being-realised) city of God that is the destiny of humanity as it embraces his reign of justice and love. Contested lands are like the medieval images of the soul: a battle ground that has been long fought-over where the provisional and the permanent encounter each other and vie for sovereignty over human life. If our perspectives as Christians are not able to look in the directions both of the transient and the eternal, I believe we are not paying sufficient attention to the borderland-character of Christianity. North East England is well placed to point the way.

********

My second landmark is the one you are no doubt expecting me to mention, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which stands for the legacy of the northern saints. I don’t think it’s possible to understand North East England let alone North Eastern Christianity unless we grasp their significance. You need to stand on the site of Aidan’s monastery on Holy Island, looking across to Bamburgh, the seat of King Oswald who launched the Christian mission to Northumbria by bringing Aidan across from Iona; and in Wilfrid’s crypt at Hexham Abbey, or Benedict Biscop’s church at Wearmouth where you grasp how European and catholic and missionary the Saxon vision of Christianity was becoming. And at Cuthbert’s shrine in Durham Cathedral where you are touched by the simplicity and holiness of the best Saxon saints; and on the headland at Hartlepool where Hild presided over a community of women and men and demonstrated the inclusiveness of Saxon Christianity; and Jarrow where Bede wrote his incomparable History and plausibly gave birth to the idea of England and an indigenous English church.  

No-one will deny the influence of these saints on Christianity in the North East. But I’m not sure whether it was altogether conscious before the work of early nineteenth century antiquarians like James Raine the librarian at Durham Cathedral and founder of the Surtees Society. He was ordained priest two hundred years ago this autumn. His first important work was to write a learned piece on St Cuthbert’s shrine at Durham in 1828. It was only with the historicising approach of nineteenth century scholarship that Saxon Christianity began to be seen as a distinctive expression of native English faith, very different from the imported French model that arrived with the Norman Conquest.
In particular, historians have helped us understand the political and social context of the Saxon church. This is important if we are not to have a rose-tinted image of its saints. Faith and politics were interwoven in the Northumbrian mission from the very outset, when Oswald gave Aidan land on Lindisfarne to establish a monastery in clear sight of the royal court at Bamburgh. A recent study of the three successive kings Oswald, Oswiu and Ecgfrith[13] shows how Saxon sanctity was at all times embedded in the Realpolitik of royal rule, ambition and conflict. For example, David Brown writes: “St Cuthbert is often represented as having purely spiritual motives for retreating to the island of Lindisfarne and subsequently to the still more remote inner Farne, but the Northumbrian royal capital of Bamburgh in fact lay nearby, and so it is impossible to discount the desire for political influence in the first move, if not the second”.[14]This gives the lie to the popular but wholly misleading idea of “Celtic Christianity” as an imagined prelapsarian state of holy innocence before the Synod of Whitby in 664. Romantic idylls are enjoyable, but they don’t serve history well. Saxon faith was both a lot tougher and more alien than some of the popular spiritual literature gives it credit for.

The figure of Cuthbert is critical in all this, both the historical figure himself and the cult that developed after his death. It’s not too much to claim that the “idea” of a distinctive North East Christianity goes back to him. Already in his lifetime, this much-travelled saint had begun to trace what we might call a “sacred geography” of the North, along the axes he must have walked that were laid down in antiquity, principally the east-west Roman road known as the Stanegate that ran through the Tyne Gap and linked Pons Aelius (Newcastle) and Hexham to Luguvalium (Carlisle), and Dere Street that struck out northwards from the Roman town at Corbridge across the Cheviots, from where he would have crossed the low sandstone hills (via St Cuthbert’s Cave) to reach Lindisfarne.   

The saint’s “reach” became greater still after his death when, in the aftermath of the Viking raids on Lindisfarne that began in 793, his community set out on its long journey in search of a permanent resting place for his body and for the Gospel Book written in his honour, what we call the Lindisfarne Gospels. At its greatest extent, the community acquired estates across the North East and North West, the Borders and in Galloway, largely given in thanksgiving for Cuthbert’s intercession and protection. Wherever you find a medieval church dedicated to Cuthbert, you can safely presume a connection either to the living saint, or to his community that halted there during its pilgrimage. Thus the Saxon community of St Cuthbert that eventually found its way to Chester le Street by 883 and to Durham in 995 became one of the wealthiest and most powerful land-owners in the North and helped to define a region that has always felt distinct from the rest of England where there is no real parallel to this story. Indeed, Northumbrian Christians acquired a distinctive name of their own, Haliwerfolk or “people of the saint”.
The saints of Northumbria, then, bestow a distinctive accent to Christianity in the North East. They do this in ways that are perhaps more elusive, more alien even, than we sometimes think, not least in the extreme ascetic practices to which they were drawn following the examples of the Irish monks and the Egyptian Desert Fathers. Where northern Saxon Christianity touches us most deeply, perhaps, is in its purity of heart and motive, its belief that the offering of life to God must be everything or else it is nothing, its extraordinary energy for mission and evangelism, its devotion to the poor as God’s treasure, and its profound humility in living close to the earth and to the natural world. We are rightly proud of “Northumbria’s Golden Age” in the seventh and eighth centuries, but what we should admire in it is not only the artistic beauty of the Lindisfarne Gospel Book or the Bewcastle Cross or St Cuthbert’s coffin but what they symbolise in affirming and proclaiming the Gospel itself as the word of salvation and life.

Pilgrimage routes across the region focusing on places associated with the saints like Melrose, Lindisfarne, Jarrow, Hexham, Hartlepool and Whitby are becoming a popular way both of reclaiming the Christian history of the North and reflecting on its significance for contemporary life. A new project, “Northern Saints’ Trails”, focused on Durham Cathedral, is designed to bring these together and introduce coherence to the idea of pilgrimage in the North East. Inspired by the Canterbury pilgrimage, the Camino to Santiago and the Via Francigena to Rome, they will, I’m sure, help us to appreciate our sacred history and geography in new ways and enable us more intelligently to enter into a genuinely embodied “Christianity with a North East accent”.
********

My third landmark brings us into modernity. It is Anthony Gormley’s emblematic sculpture The Angel of the North in Gateshead unveiled twenty years ago this summer. According to the sculptor, the Angel has a threefold significance: to honour the memory of the Great Northern Coalfield and the men who once worked the mine on whose site the Angel stands; to mark the transition from an industrial to an information age; and to be “a focus for our evolving hopes and fears”. He speaks about “an attempt to give form to the future with methods and materials of the present… so the material is part of the message but the meaning is an ongoing project”.[15] I think that is as good a description of the notion of sacrament as you will find.
Among those hopes were the regeneration of an area severely damaged by the loss of Tyneside’s heavy industries, especially shipbuilding and mining; the choice of materials and the anchoring of the sculpture in old mine workings are a conscious homage to the days when the North East was a powerhouse of the British economy. But Gormley is keenly aware of place which, he says, “can be reinforced by collective art which in some way puts human being in a much wider context”. I think the singular, human being, is deliberate: a verb, not a noun, to suggest how the symbolic enriches our very existence by stimulating the imaginations and kindling hope.

It’s intriguing to watch how the Angel has become, I think for once in the true sense, an icon of North East England. This can only be because it resonates so successfully with what North Easterners not only know to be true of their region, but how they feel about it. It is a place of anamnesis, deep and living memory because it preserves cherished stories of a great past and celebrates them in the present. It is elegiac because of the loss it represents not only of heavy industry but the soul of working communities, the pit villages of Northumberland and Durham, the shipbuilding terraces of Tyneside and Wearside, the steel works at Consett. You could add to those the decline of communities that grew up around lead mining and iron works in the Pennine dales and the birth of the railways in the early phases of the Industrial Revolution. But it is aspirational because it stands for regeneration and hope, not only of the North East’s economy but more important, its people and communities.
In all these ways, the Angel captures the native spirit of the working communities of the North East, its daimon that gives it such a strong sense of place. Nigel Rooms calls it a “transitional object” in the passages of which it acts as a marker. But my friend Mark Bryant, the retiring Bishop of Jarrow, will tell you that it is unexpectedly functioning as a religious symbol as well. He lives close to the sculpture, and has watched how people gather there for informal rituals and ceremonies such as celebrating birthdays, becoming engaged and remembering those who have died. He lingers by the Angel from time to time, talking to people, and has invited couples to renew their wedding vows there. He sees the Angel as giving implicit religion a visible focus that does not carry the baggage of “church”. You could call it an unofficial “fresh expression”.

The industrial heritage of the North East is as much part of its cultural legacy as the Roman Wall and Lindisfarne. Tourists can visit Beamish, Vindolanda and Holy Island all in one day and get a feel for them all. I want to suggest that it contributes to the region’s spiritual accent too. In Durham Cathedral, one of the highlights of the year is the Durham Miners’ Service which each Gala Day has celebrated the links between the mining communities and the cathedral for more than a century. (You must never call them ex-mining communities: the pit villages still process their banners with fierce pride even if most of those who carry them or play in their colliery bands have never been down a mine.) The ceremony is elegy, celebration and aspiration rolled into one. But even more important is the memorial in the nave where the names of miners killed in colliery disasters are recorded by date and the pages turned each day. The cathedral not only enshrines and interprets the memory of St Cuthbert, but, just as explicitly, the mining industry and by extension, the working life of the North East and God’s regard for it.
The book Northern Gospel, Northern Church has a lot to say about social awareness, the legacy of industrial decline and the church’s response to communities that continue to suffer from decades of neglect[16]. This phenomenon is not unique to the North, nor is the sense of being distant from London-centric structures of economic power and political decision-making. Nor is the church’s awareness of the social realities of the North East new. An essay[17] in the impressive book published in 1981 to mark Newcastle Diocese’s centenary documents a report, Industrial Tyneside: a Social Survey issued in 1928. William Temple came to preach at the Cathedral as Archbishop of York the following year and offered up the text of the Survey at the high altar.

I wonder whether, unconsciously, the sense of powerlessness plays into atavistic memories of a liminal, contested frontier land that was always being fought-over, despoiled by reivers and that until modern times, rarely knew the stability and prosperity that other parts of England enjoyed. “This land, cut off, will not communicate” says Auden in his first mature poem, an elegy for the death of lead-mining in the North Pennines[18]. What Peter Davidson says about the city of Durham, that “it is a place of dignity and stark beauty but mired in sadness, weighed down by missed chances civic and academic”[19] is perhaps true of the region as a whole. It’s a comment worth pondering.
And despite the unique richness of our spiritual legacy, church statistics endorse the same message of fragility and loss of confidence. For while church attendance figures are growing steadily in London, they are in seemingly relentless decline across the North East. The temptation is to imagine that methods of outreach evolved in affluent London suburbs are transferable to the densely urban or deeply rural communities that characterise North East England where the experience of powerlessness, dependency and uncertain futures are all too familiar. Nigel Rooms talks about the “persecuting south” and the “victim north” and suggests that far from colluding with this disparity, the church should act as a rescuer from it. If, that is, clergy and church leaders can be enticed to live and work in the North, a challenge that is becoming more acute than a generation ago when I made that journey myself to become a parish priest in rural Northumberland. I don’t think it’s true that only those born and bred in the North East can learn to speak with its accent. Paul, after all, was not an Athenian!
 
********
A different lecture might have traced a northern theology in the Hebrew Bible in texts that reflect the concerns of the kingdom of Israel in contrast to the southern kingdom of Judah. I’m thinking of texts like Hosea and Deuteronomy that affirm so strongly the desert-covenant traditions of Israel rather than the temple and monarchy traditions of the south. Jesus the Nazarene from northern Galilee inherits this if Nathaniel the contemptuous southerner is any clue: “can anything good come out of Nazareth?[20]
John Inge points out how “sacred geography” is linked in the early church to martyria, places where a Christian martyr had been buried and where worshippers gathered to remember and pray. “The holy place was the spot that bridged the gulf between past and present, between living and dead. Pilgrimages to sites which speak by their history, their story, of divine human encounter have served across the generations to root the Christian community in its identity…. Sacred geography has the power to speak of a God who revealed himself in the incarnation, and does so still in the lives of those who live in the faith of that incarnation.”[21]


Paul’s Areopagus address tells us any place can be sacralised, made holy, by the gospel that is proclaimed there. Martyrium, the location where we bear witness, is where we learn to enter into the spirit of the place, gather to understand its values and insights, its questions and dilemmas, and try to speak Christian wisdom within it. Rumsey says, “to be confident in the local is to be confident in the validity of human experience in God’s purposes”.[22] The preacher in me wants to say, “God cares about North East England”.

Can anything good come out of “North”? I’ve suggested themes that describe the North East that may help us echo that question and answer it with the gospel’s resounding “Come and see!” To reflect on story and place makes a difference to how we pray and work, minister and bear witness here, with all that we have in common with the rest of England, and all that makes the North East distinctive and, dare I say, special.  Why? So that we can put names to the unknown gods whose altars are all around us, and speak of Jesus and the Resurrection, and of the God “who is not far from any of us”, “in whom we live and move and have our being”, “whose Nature and whose Name is love”. 

The Lindisfarne College of Theology Alumni Lecture
given at the Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle
16 October 2018




[1] 1 Corinthians 2.2.
[2] Acts 17.32-34.
[3] Kane, Margaret (1986), What Kind of God? Reflections on working with people and churches in North-East England; Dunn, James (ed.) (1986), The Kingdom of God and North-East England.
[4] Sadgrove, Michael (2013), Landscapes of Faith: the Christian Heritage of the North East.
[5] Wakefield, Gavin & Rooms, Nigel, eds. (2016), Northern Gospel, Northern Church: reflections on identity and mission, 36-37.  
[6] Quoted by Rooms, “Bias to the North?” in Wakefield & Rooms (2016), 43.
[7] Rumsey, Andrew (2017), Parish: an Anglican Theology of Place, 36ff.
[8] Davidson, Peter (2005), The Idea of North
[9] Robb, Graham (2018), The Debateable Land: the Lost World between Scotland and England
[10] Stewart, Rory (2015), The Marches: a Borderland Journey between England and Scotland
[11] Birley, Robin (1995), The Making of Modern Vindolanda with The Life and Work of Anthony Hedley 1777-1835, 49.
[12] Everitt, Anthony (2009), Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome, 225.
[13] Higham, N. J. (2015), Ecgfrith: King of the Northumbrians, High-King of Britain, 111-4.
[14] Brown, David (2004), God and the Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience, 167.
[15] Gormley, Antony (1998), Making an Angel, 14.
[16] Wakefield, Gavin, “The Ebb and Flow of Power: Stories Told about the Northern Church in Mission” in Wakefield and Rooms (2016), 55ff. Compare Kane, Margaret (1986), 11ff.
[17] Lloyd, Katharine, “The Social Situation: awareness and response” in Pickering, W.S.F. ed. (1981), 200-1
[18] Auden, W.H., “The Watershed” in Astley, Neil, ed. (2017), Land of Three Rivers: The Poetry of North-East England 245.
[19] Davidson (2005), 225.
[20] John 1.46.
[21] Inge, John (2003), A Christian Theology of Place, 98.
[22] Rumsey (2017), 174.