The Friends of Lastingham Church is a registered charity founded in 2004.
It has the following aims:
• to encourage exploration into the historical and spiritual connections of Lastingham Church,
• to help maintain and enhance the Church and its Churchyard.
The Friends of Lastingham Church is a registered charity for all those for whom Lastingham is important. For a good many of its long years since it was founded as a monastery ad 654, Lastingham has been a centre of pilgrimage, and today attracts many visitors. The reasons why people come to Lastingham vary enormously but few leave unmoved. Many people find they visit repeatedly over the years and that, during times of stress and trouble, they find some strength or comfort here. Others find a fascination with the sheer age of the place, its beauty and its historical importance.
It is for all these people that the Friends was established. The Friends seeks to help those who wish to maintain a link with a special and rather different place, ensuring that they have regular news, and in the hope that they will feel they are 'coming home' when they visit.
The Friends works with the Vicar and Parochial Church Council to help maintain the building and to foster research into its history. If this place is important to you for whatever reason, please consider becoming a Friend of Lastingham Church. For further details, please call the Chairman Peneolope Dawson-Brown on 01751 417 251
What our Patrons said about Lastingham
Soon after the founding of the Friends in 2004, the three Patrons each gave their views on ‘The Place of History and the Holiness of Place’
1. Dr Michelle P. Brown, FSA, British Library;
Lay Canon, St Paul’s Cathedral
What is it about certain places that draws people back time and time again, or that causes them to be reconstructed within our hearts as an inner sanctuary, which we revisit in our mind’s eye? It may be that they are imbued with our own special memories, that being in them marked a staging post or crossroads in our ongoing journeys. Perhaps the space itself, whether defined by architecture, the landscape or by people, gives us a particular sense of our place in the bigger picture - or allows us to retreat from it in order to regain perspective. Whatever the reason, we often feel the need to share the experience, or its recollection, with others when it has mattered to us so much, even if we desire to dwell there in solitude. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people feel that a sense of the sharing of hopes, fears and joys - the well from which true humanity and empathy spring - pervades such sites, imbuing them with ‘a spirit of place’ or a ‘cumulative holiness’.
Lastingham is just such a place, for me and for so very many others, now and across the ages. Always a refuge, since at least the 7th century this has been a place of pilgrimage for travellers of many guises, becoming for some of them a compelling place to set down roots. The way in which the village itself nestles within the moorland wilderness, nurturing its community and welcoming the walker, at one with its environment, gives a sense of homecoming. At its heart lies the church, a sculpture in stone, set atop its emerald Celtic mound, its crypt penetrating into the embracing earth itself - an anchor for a turbulent world. Peace is to be found here: deep peace, which can be carried with one and which is so needful for life itself. For this is not a place to escape from the world, but one in which to replenish the will to commit, to make a difference for the good and to share a sense of completeness, of being whole. That oneness extends across time and space, our history giving us memory, identity and the confidence to inhabit the present and hope for the future. This for me is what the special places such as Lastingham represent. Sharing the gift it bestows is my wish for the Friends of Lastingham Church.
2. The Right Reverend Robert Ladds,
former Bishop of Whitby
Simon Jenkins, in his best selling England’s Thousand Best Churches writes ‘The Crypt at Lastingham is among England’s special places’. How right he is. My own first visit to St Mary’s Church and Saint Cedd’s Shrine Crypt was prior to my move to the Diocese. I found myself wordless on entering the Shrine Crypt and was brought to prayerful knees. How glad I was of those words of Eliot, provided so appositely on the prie-dieu, which expressed so perfectly those words of which I was at a loss:
You are not here to verify. . . or carry report.
You are here to kneel
where prayer has been valid.
And prayer is more than an order of words. . .
Thousands of visitors come to Lastingham and I believe it is our Christian duty and joy to offer every visitor the opportunity of becoming a pilgrim. We do this in a variety of ways, not hiding or masking the essence but providing those things necessary for the possibility and opportunity of that transition. Much has been done and achieved and the success of these developments clearly point the way for the future as we seek willingly to share the deep significance of Lastingham with visitors. A true response in love and mission.
The precious Shrine Crypt has a chequered history, and it is by the grace of God that its holiness rises above past periods of secular and profane misuse. More needs to be carefully planned and carried out to restore this ‘special place’ of prayer and pilgrimage.
I am delighted that it is now possible to establish the Friends of Lastingham. I thank those responsible for the initiative and those of you expressing an interest in this vital work. The task we share is for the proper provision and nurture of all we hold dear at Lastingham. Above all, our Christian mission is to share what we have with others so that all may perceive more of the love of God and of the grace of his Kingdom.
With my warm good wishes and blessings,
3. Timothy Wright OSB, former
Abbot of Ampleforth
Lastingham is a place of Christian history. Christian faith is rooted in history. Our ancestors played the central part in that story; we continue it today.
In Lastingham church we find a special atmosphere. Its history takes us back to the early seventh century; there are few churches with a fully functional crypt of that age. Now protected by its medieval church above, it preserves a special atmosphere of history, the history of Christian faith, reaching back almost to the century of St Columba and St Augustine. To spend time in the dark and silent crypt is to be in a place hallowed by holy people coming week by week to worship the God who loves so much. The walls preserve the memory of their faith, and the building is testimony to the protection the local community has given its church.
During those moments of silent recollection we reflect on that history and our world is put into perspective. We may be quicker in our movements, we may be better cared for in our homes, but we face the same problems of life and death, of rivalry and jealousy, of success and failure. We know that to travel from Lindisfarne to Lastingham in those days would have taken weeks, while today it takes only a few hours. We know that the only protection against the dark and cold were candles and wood fires. Nevertheless these were times of great scholarship, shown by the work of St Bede in Monkwearmouth, of inspiring bishops like Aidan and Cuthbert from Lindisfarne, of remarkable women like Hilda in Whitby and of great preachers like Chad and Cedd, who brought fame to Lastingham. To pause and reflect on the heritage they have bequeathed to us gives us cause for wonder and thanksgiving. They faced problems of faith and meaning, of love and hate, of commitment and failure. We live in a different environment but human problems remain.
While we sit and ponder in this way we transform the past; no longer a history dead in its past, but now a human drama in which we have our own part to play. As we immerse ourselves in that tradition, as we put up with the cold stones, the musty atmosphere, we feel in that crypt the power of the spirit inviting us to respond to the challenge of discovering what this tradition is about, of finding out where this history is leading. In the answering those questions, we add meaning to our own lives. That is the gift we receive while we ponder in that crypt.
Those with faith find themselves not simply in chronological time measuring the past and the present, but in a kairos moment inviting us to make a decision. In the silence of the crypt, I have sensed the presence of God, a gentle hint to greater commitment. Perhaps you may do too. Don’t worry; it is a way to greater self-acceptance and greater awareness of the Lord’s support. With it comes a sense of peace, the peace of being accepted and loved. In the silence of unspoken prayer I have found myself surrounded by the spiritual reality of this remarkable place. It is quiet, it is unannounced, it is very affirming.