In steps of saints 

Worship on Wednesday  for 23 March 2022  – In steps of saints 

‘Cuthbert of Farne’ by Fenwick Lawson A.R.C.A 2001

This act of worship was prepared by a friend of St Cuthbert’s, Carol Dixon, as part of Worship on Wednesday in her own church in Morpeth, to mark St Cuthbert’s Day.  The reflection within it was also published on the website to which Carol contributes from time to time.  We have left the whole order of service as you may find this helpful rather than just the reflection on its own – though you could do worse than start there if time is short! Our thanks to Carol for this contribution.

Welcome & Introduction: Welcome to worship on Wednesday. Today I’d like to invite you to accompany me on a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert whose saint’s day was 20 March. To go on pilgrimage isn’t to withdraw from the world and all its pains and problems, rather it is a way of setting aside time to spend with God in order to reinvigorate our souls and get  ‘God’s eye view’ on life.   Our guide will be David Adam, former vicar of Lindisfarne whose books on Celtic Christianity and prayers (which we will be using today) are inspirational.  Let’s settle ourselves in God’s presence as we listen to our opening music. – Holy Island hymn from my CD ‘In steps of saints’. (click on link – the words are in the text box below the video)

A Prayer for the journey: Abide with us,Lord. Abide with us today, Abide with us in the brightness. Abide with us in our strength, Abide with us in our weakness. Abide with us in our joys, Abide with us in our sorrows. Abide with us tonight, Abide with us in the darkness. Abide with us in life, Abide with us in death. Abide with us in time, Abide with us for eternity [David Adam]

HYMN   All Saints (Tune: Bard of Armagh Rejoice& Sing 583)

With thanks we remember the songs & the stories

of saints and great heroes from long ago day,

of Aidan and Cuthbert, of Hilda and Caedmon,

who lived out the Gospel and walked in the Way.


They followed the calling of Jesus their Master

obeying the teachings they found in God’s word.

They preached & they practised the love that they found there;

By rich folk & poor folk their teaching was heard.


And saints there are many right up to our own day,

who live quiet goodness & love in Christ’s name.

Their unsung devotion and generous giving

Seeks no recognition, publicity, fame.


We follow the footsteps of these saints & heroes

as we try to follow our Lord in our day,

and with all God’s people both well-known & unknown

we love and we care and so walk in Christ’s Way.

© Stuart Brock 2006

Bible reading: 1 Peter 2:9-17  GNB (selected verses)

But you are a chosen race, the King’s priests, a holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light. 10At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy.   11I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to selfish passions, which are always at war against the soul. 12 Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.  16 Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17 Respect everyone, love other believers, honour God.


One of my favourite books about Saint Cuthbert is David Adams’ Fire of the North in which David tells the story of Cuthbert’s life. It is a very moving and evocative account of the Northumbrian patron saint who was embraced by the whole of England after his death because of his example of holiness and humility. I have been looking through this lovely book again recently and the Chapter that caught my eye was entitled Plague Days which seemed very pertinent for our times. After Cuthbert’s conversion he joined the Abbey at Melrose as a novice but his particular skills soon caught the Abbot’s attention and at the end of his novitiate he was sent to set up a new Foundation in Ripon.

Because of his love of welcoming strangers Cuthbert was appointed as guest master and his commitment to prayer and praying for others for many hours at night gave him great joy. Unfortunately dark clouds were gathering on the horizon.

The Celtic style of Christianity was falling out of favour and when Wilfred arrived from Rome with a group of monks intending to follow the Roman tradition of worship, Cuthbert and his brothers were moved on and left Ripon to return to Melrose.

As they journeyed North Cuthbert felt weary, sad at heart, low in spirit and exhausted in body. Cuthbert had caught the plague which was raging through the entire country and further afield into Europe and beyond. This yellow sickness (as it was called) had caused the death of many and day by day Cuthbert was getting weaker. The brothers prayed for him all night and when one of the younger novices came to see if Cuthbert needed a drink and told him that the whole of Melrose was praying for him Cuthbert said ‘Why then do I lie here for I do not doubt that God has listened to the prayers of many good men. Give me my shoes and staff. ‘

Although very weak he got up and went to the Abbot, his dear friend who was dying of the plague and sat with him as they read the Gospel of John together. Cuthbert was saddened to hear that that he had been chosen to succeed Abbot Boisil as it was his desire to become a hermit but bowing to the greater wisdom and grace of God, Cuthbert took up the reins of leadership and led the Abbey. Even though he was happy at Melrose, he longed for the solitude of the small islet, Hobthrush (now known as Cuthbert’s Isle) just off the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne so close to his heart and he often repeated the words of saint Columba : Delight for it would be for me, to be on a pinnacle of rock, that I may often see the face of the ocean deep, that I might watch  it’s heaving swell, when foaming white horses chant music to the Father upon their course. That I might look on its sparkling shore and hear the thunder of the watery waves in their constant ebb and flow. These evocative words inspired my friend Rose Reeve to write her beautiful song ‘Whisper of Peace’ in her musical on Cuthbert’s life which was recorded at a live performance here in St George’s.

Whisper of Peace

Sea, rhymical and raging,

Roars, harsh of voice, demanding,

Ruthless, unrelenting,

Rushing at rocks and carving channels,

Wild movements never cease.

Sea, calm in early sunlight,

Blue gentle waves and shimmering light.

Smoothest sand and flowing tides,

Foaming & white, stretch out to touch the shore;

Soft voices whisper, ‘Peace’.


Birds, white and wheeling overhead,

Seals weaving through the water,

Silver fish dart through the deep,

Rock-pools that teem with tiny creatures,

Everything has its place.

Home, isle of contemplation,

Man, lone, but one with sea and sky,

Friend to otter, bird and seal,

Watching the slowly circling seasons,

While sea songs whisper, ‘Peace’.

© Words & Music Rose Reeve.  (click on link – the words are also in the text below the video)

Cuthbert finally got his wish to move to Holy Island, eventually becoming Bishop of Lindisfarne.  Towards the end of his life he lived as a hermit on Inner Farne, though he was still visited by great and poor who came to him for his wisdom, comfort and healing.  As we try to recover from this plague of our time and learn to live with Covid in a world beset by conflict, let us take heart and rejoice with St Cuthbert whose faith, compassion, and life of service resonates down the ages as a shining example to us in our time.


In steps of Saints

To lead us into our prayers Let’s sing another song  (set to the traditional tune O waly waly )


In steps of saints from long ago

who came to serve on this small isle,

we tread the pilgrim path and draw

apart from daily work awhile.


We share our journey on the way

with others searching too for peace,

and find God present in each one

who honestly and humbly seeks.


We long for space to hear God’s voice,

and find it in the milling crowd

as well as hushed in holy church

at prayer, in silence and aloud.


We gaze upon the sunlit sea,

or stroll along in mist and rain,

rejoicing that our God is seen

and understood in joy and pain.


In steps of saints we travel on,

forever changed, yet still the same;

we serve and follow in Christ’s way

in daily work, to praise his name.

© Carol Dixon  (original music available from me)


There will be a short silence after each prayer so we can bring our own petitions to God.  We begin with the Collect for St Cuthbert’s day & end with a  poem by David Adam.

Prayers: Almighty God, who called your servant Cuthbert from following the flock to follow your Son and be a shepherd of your people, in your mercy grant that we, following his example, may bring those who are lost, home to your fold, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


I drop a pebble in a pool to pray for myself and my own needs (silence)

As I watch the ripples circling outwards I remember my family, friends and neighbours – those I know in need of God’s healing love today (silence)

As the circle expands I think of our country with its conflicts and cares,  the poor, and the powerful (silence)

Widening out my prayers I encompass the whole world, its persecuted peoples, and for the ravaged environment  (silence)

Finally I commit my concerns to the loving grace of God, confident in his love for all, thanking him for Jesus, our Saviour who hears the unspoken cries of our hearts, bringing healing and hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit, alive and active in every time and place.



(A poem by David Adam)

You come to us God, in each other,

In a sister or a brother,

in a stranger or a friend,

We see you Lord in them descend.

You come to us God in their need.

In the challenge to our greed;

You come knocking at our door

As a child or as the poor.

You come in every cry or plea

When we respond then we shall be

True worshippers as you desire,

Our hearts aflame with heavenly fire.


Angels with us then will share

When we show our love and care.

Holy beings fill each place

Where we show your love and grace.

Let us not be unaware

Of the moment rich and rare

When the opening heavens descend

Coming in a new-found friend,

And we see, Lord, that you come

Seeking entrance to our home.

For we truly hear your call

When we care for one and all.

Give us eyes and heart to see

You visit us eternally;

Come to us today we pray,

As we follow in your way.

Then we’ll meet you as a friend

With us always, to the end. Amen.


HYMN 474:  Brother, sister, let me serve you

Brother, sister let me serve you.

Let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to

let you be my servant too.


We are pilgrims on a journey,

and companions on the road;

we are here to help each other

walk the mile and bear the load.


I will hold the Christ-light for you

in the night-time of your fear;

I will hold my hand out to you,

speak the peace you long to hear.


I will weep when you are weeping;

when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;

I will share your joy and sorrow

till we’ve seen this journey through.


When we sing to God in heaven

we shall find such harmony,

born of all we’ve known together

of Christ’s love and agony.


Brother, sister let me serve you.

Let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to

let you be my servant too.

© Richard Gilliard.  Words printed by permission under St George’s CCL Licence No. 45325


Blessing: (David Adam) Almighty God, who called Cuthbert out of the darkness of night to be the Fire of the North, set our hearts on fire with your love, and help us to show forth your light today, through Christ our Lord, who is the Light of the world.  And the blessing of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit rest upon us, this day and always.  Amen.

Closing music: May the road rise to meet you

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