Bishops lead St Walstan's 1000th Norfolk celebration
The 1000th anniversary of the death of Norfolk saint, Walstan, has been marked by a weekend of celebrations at Bawburgh near Norwich, culminating in an open-air service led by the Bishop of Norwich and the Catholic Bishop of East Anglia on Sunday (May 29). Keith Morris reports.
The celebration of the life of St Walstan, the patron saint of food and farming, was held in his believed birthplace, Bawburgh. It also included a medieval pilgrimage and a three-day flower festival.
Around 150 people gathered for the open-air service on Sunday evening, near to Bawburgh’s St Mary and St Walstan church and St Walstan’s Well.
Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, spoke about pilgrimage: “Bawburgh was a place of pilgrimage in Medieval England, along with Walsingham and Canterbury - a place where people came to be near to someone who had lived a life of great devotion to God. The waters which sprang up at the time of Walstan’s death were said to have healing properties.
“In the New Testament, the image of pilgrimage is used to describe the Christian life itself. Like Christians in Bawburgh 1000 years ago, we are still here on the pilgrim journey, inspired by a holy life lived in this locality. We come on life’s journey and reflect on the greater pilgrimage to what we hope and pray will be our home in heaven,” said Bishop Graham.
Bishop of East Anglia, Rt Rev Alan Hopes, said Walstan was born into a wealthy family but renounced all the rights to that wealth so that he might work as a farm labourer.
“Walstan was a man in love with Jesus Christ. His example of holiness was lived not in any dramatic or extraordinary way but in the simple realities of life – that is what holiness is all about. He lived a simple life close to the land and realised that this was the way he must serve God.
“Walstan was also known for his generosity to the poor, offering them food and clothing, even his own shoes, to those in need – often going without himself. We are all called to holiness and we can fulfil this by being a people of sacrificial service – for in that one person we meet who is in need, we will find the person of Jesus Christ himself.
“As we celebrate the 1000th anniversary of St Walstan’s death, let us go away from here today learning from his example that even in the simple realities of life he was deeply immersed in the things of God. Let us follow his example, so that all of us in our different circumstances may meet Jesus Christ and grow in our relationship with him. Because then, through our lives, he will touch the lives of all those whom we meet,” said Bishop Alan.
See a picture gallery of the open-air service below.