Q & A – Why not “Why I am Celtic?”

Q: I am a … pastor … and a former RC priest. Your book A Generous Orthodoxy has clarified for me many of the concerns about mission that have jumped around in my head for a long time. A question arises: With a last name beginning with “Mc,” how come you don’t have a section called “Why I Am Celtic?”
[Question and reply after the jump]


Q: I am a … pastor … and a former RC priest. Your book A Generous Orthodoxy has clarified for me many of the concerns about mission that have jumped around in my head for a long time. A question arises: With a last name beginning with “Mc,” how come you don’t have a section called “Why I Am Celtic?”
I would have enjoyed your analysis of what the Celtic Christian Church was and what it could have become in our time if the Synod of Whitby in the seventh century had never occurred. The synod was ostensibly about trivial issues such as tonsure and the date of Easter, but the whole spiritual dynamic of the Anamchara or “soul friend” was destroyed or at least corrupted by the dominant Roman authorities. For example, individual confession, which was supposed to bring comfort and spiritual and missional growth to troubled sinners became a legalistic requirement to go to heaven.
I think Whitby was one of the major causes that led to all the religious warfare between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland that still persists. Both the Roman and the Anglican sides in the conflict come out of the Whitby heritage. Had the anamchara concept of mission/ministry been allowed to flourish over the centuries, Celtic Christianity would have become a great source of spiritual leadership for our 21st-century Christian faith and work.
Poet and former priest John O’Donohue’s marvelous book Anam Cara is a wonderful source of inspiration in this area. Perhaps you could continue John’s work. He died about a year ago.
Reply: Great insights – which leave me wishing I had written a chapter with that title! I got the chance to very briefly celebrate some aspects of Celtic Christianity in my 2007 book Finding Our Way Again, especially Chapter 19.
The book I’m currently deep at work on, which will come out in 2010 (details TBA), explores exactly the issues you raise regarding Whitby, so your question and insights come at a good time.
Like you, I’m a huge fan of John O’D’s work. If you haven’t seen his last book of blessings, it will be a treasure.

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