The Celtic Way

celticcross-Iona_finastiqueCeltic Christian spirituality emerged from the early years of the church before the time of the creeds and counsels that established orthodoxy among Christians. It was grounded in the earth, honored a wandering kind of pilgrimage, and trusted in the leading of the Spirit. Monastic settlements were established in Ireland, Scotland and the north of England many of them incorporating the local people into dwellings around the monastery. Well known monastics include Brendan the Navigator, Brigid of Kildare, Kevin of Glendalough, Patrick, Columba of Iona, Hild of Whitby, and Aidan of Holy Island. Following the Council of Whitby in the 7th century CE, where the orthodox Roman church challenged the loosely organized Celtic Christian movement the Celtic Christians were defeated but their people continued to worship underground. Exquisite manuscripts have survived the ravages of the years and Viking invasions such as the Book of Kells now in Dublin and the Lindisfarne Gospels in London.

Celtic spirituality is appealing to many today as the church is undergoing a time of disintegration and an Emergent/Emerging Christianity is gaining purchase. God seems to be doing a new thing among us and the wisdom of Celtic forms of Christianity appeal to many who seek a simpler form of worship free from rigid expectations of belief.


Elizabeth J. Canham is a priest in the Episcopal Church who leads retreats and workshops internationally. Through Hospites Mundi, a pilgrimage ministry, she invites others to join her on sacred journeys and to meet with local people, especially the poor. Elizabeth has published seven books, including A Table of Delight, and Finding your Voice in the Psalms

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