The Community of Aidan and Hilda in Canada

Land of the Maple

Land of the Trinity

Land with Roots in the Celtic Tradition


Randy Goodfellow is the main contact for Canada, while Barbara Hudspith, one of our voyagers, is a soul friend and runs a retreat Centre in Durham, Ontario. You see her website here.

Ray Simpson's Summer 2010 Visit

You can listen to an interview with Ray Simpson recorded for the Drew Marshall Show on March 3rd 2011 here

You can download Ray's itinery here.

2011: Ray Simpson is invited back to Sorrento Retreat Centre, BC the first week of May.  If you wish to set up events in BC (or over the US border) before or after that please contact him.

British Columbia

Sorrento Anglican Retreat and Conference Centre

A Scandinavian name and he thinks the Vikings must have given Lindisfarne its name.

On the long plane flight I read the book Scott Brennan suggested 'Why Men don't go to church'. Scott wonders if he and I might collaborate to write about Celtic and modern examples of men who build, struggle, adventure to create God's kingdom on earth - which is true church. Here at Sorrento I meet men who are competitive in sport but compassionate and inclusive in the way they encourage youngsters.

The new Director of the Centre is Chris Lind. His is a Scandinavian name, derived from the Linden tree, and he believes this is the origin of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne’s name. Chris is a theologian, and we had some invaluable conversations.  He has invited me back to lead  the Associates of Sorrento Week the first week of May 2011, with the hope that other events might be arranged in Vancouver or even Seattle USA.

I drove to Kirk and Karen Pidcock for an Ascension Day gathering at their landholding - along with what he calls their Celtic chickens. I drove six hours between snow-capped mountains, on deer-frequented roads which require cars to have snow chains between October and April, over the 1,200m Monashee Pass, across Arrow Lake on a ferry, to the small town of Kaslo, where Karen and Dirk Pidcock were my generous hosts. Dirk has Voyager vows with our Community. Someone at Sorrento Centre told me they had Celtic chickens. I found out what this meant. Two chickens had been named after Celtic saints – Brigid and Hilda – but a bear had attacked the chicken house and they are no more. Never mind – there is still a rooster named Cuthbert.

The Pidcocks had invited folk from local churches to an Ascension Day gathering at their church of St. Mark. Following a 10.0 am service, at which I preached on Christ and creation, nearly thirty people gathered round large tables for a teaching day. Dirk asked me to give people a sense of who I am, what the Community of Aidan and Hilda is, what Lindisfarne is about, and four key things about Celtic Christianity that we can take hold of today.

The church has made a labyrinth in its grounds, which walkers on the riverside trail sometimes use. We had a lunch break beside it. For the final session Dirk invited people to say what they would like to know more about. A brief outline of early Celtic church history, how to make a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne, and how Kaslo church could develop as a village of God were three requests.

Dirk is the Community contact person for British Columbia:


I came to Tyndale University College and Seminary, to give four 85 minutes lectures on themes such as 'How Pagan Ireland became a land of saints and scholars', 'How the Irish birthed an English church', ''Celtic Monastic churches and the emerging church today', and 'Celtic Spirituality in the 21st Century'. These were followed by talks with students, who seem electrified by these themes. I gave a taster of our new course 'Igniting the Flame' and they queued with lap-top stick to make copies. No more of these. Orders please to our office. The written work forms credits towards students’ yqualifications.

Tyndale has mushroomed from a small evangelical Bible College to an expanding enterprise that embraces 20 Christian denominations and many cultures. Chinese is the second language after English. The college has purchased the large St Joseph's Convent nearby, sponsors a spiritual direction network and training courses of Christian leaders. It also uses the Jesuit Manresa Centre where I will led a teaching retreat  on how Celtic spirituality helps us re-connect with holistic rhythms. Three professors who have visited the Open Gate and two wives shared a meal: Arthur and Lorna de Boers, Paul and Marlene Bramer, and David Sherbinho. Arthur gave me a copy of his new book 'The Rhythm of God's grace'. Anne Crosthwaite of Contemplative Fire took me out. On Victoria Day staff in the Doctorate of Ministry department hosted a holiday meal when I spoke of the new monasticism and of my recent book High Street Monasteries.

Last time I led a retreat in Canada (at Pembroke) I invited retreatants, who had visited 'thin places' such as Iona and Lindisfarne in another country, to make a list of Canada's thin places, where the gap between earth and heaven is thin. They mentioned a few Indian sacred places, and one place in Quebec where people felt they had been visited by the Virgin Mary's mother. That was all. No one imagined fast and fashionable Toronto as a thin place.

This week-end I encountered places in Toronto that are starting to thin. I met a group who call themselves 'The Carrying Place', after the trail of this name, starting by the river Humber, that links different regions and was used by the Indian, British and French peoples. The name comes from the Mohawk term toron-ten, meaning 'the place where the trees grow over the water', an important landmark on Lake Simcoe through which the trail passed. The Carrying Place group seek to re-hallow ancient sites.

One of these is Toronto island. On Saturday we took a ferry to this island whose different parts include residents, tourist facilities, nature, and the Lakeside church. There we had a retreat . This included stories of how Ireland was transformed from a place beholden to idols in to a land of saints, scholars and 'desert' places of prayer.The vision is to make, with permission, this little-used church a place of regular retreat and prayer.

My hosts were Deborah and Duke Vipperman. He is pastor of Resurrection Church. Following an evening event at St. Olave's church I preached at the morning service at Resurrection church. Ten years ago this was at a low ebb. Now it is vibrant with multi-cultural expressions of Christ. One example especially appeals to me. A member named Chris is a musician who grew up in India. He holds public events such as Yeshua Satsang, where, with Indian instruments like sitar tabla and harmonium they offer their hearts in praise of the Sat Guru (the True Teacher) with bhajans and kirtans in Indian style. Skeptics and believers are welcomed.

I also spoke to Norm Allen’s business network, Touchstone and spent time with Barb and Bob Hudspith at their Farne Retreat House.

Barb is a spiritual director and a contact for the Community in her region


A day conference and an informal Celtic Eucharist celebrated at the open air altar of Saint Mary’s Church, where Randy Goodfellow worships, were highlights of this visit.

Publishing in Canada

I spoke with a number of people about their frustration that our publications are not easily accessible in Canada (apart from Celtic Blessings and A Holy Island Prayer Book) and we discussed possible publishers, agents, and even a film-maker for a blockbuster on Saint Aidan.  Pray for this and watch this space.


Some Past Events

In the 1990’s Rob O’Gorman of Almonte, Ontario launched the Celtic Horizons web site, began wilderness training and Celtic workshops and visited the Community’s Retreat House on Britain’s Holy Island of Lindisfarne.  In 2002 he invited the CA&H international Guardian Ray Simpson to lead a retreat in the Anglican Retreat House on the Quebec/Ottawa border.

One of those who attended said ‘this new monasticism is exactly what the world needs, please take this forward’. Another, Randal Goodfellow, founded a Canada-wide organisation, BioProducts Canada to help Canada transition its economy to one focused on it sustainable biological resources feedstock versus non-renewable fossil derived feedstock.

In following years Dirk Pidcock, of Kalso, British Columbia, became a CA&H Voyager.  He seeks to connect with the seasons.  Norm Allen, of Toronto, became an Explorer.  He connects with the streets and works with business people. His soul friend, Ron Nikkel, of Dingwall, Nova Scotia, is another Explorer.

In 2007 Ray Simpson and Rob O’Gorman co-led a retreat at the  Catholic Sisters Marguerite Centre, Pembroke, Ontario   At this retreat interest was shown  in the Community’s e-studies courses.  Its Director, Paul Schwartzentruber has a vision for this to be a multi-faceted, inclusive centre for spiritual renewal that includes eco-theology, meditation and spiritual direction. 

Tyndale College Toronto are exploring possible links with the Community, including an invitation to Ray Simpson to lecture there in May 2010.

Explorer Barbara Hudspith and her husband Bob welcome visitors to their retreat house, The Farne, near Durham, Southern Ontario, Barbara offers spiritual direction and silent retreats.

Coach to Churches

Ed Leidel is author of Awakening Grassroots Spirituality A Celtic Guide for Nurturing and Maturing the Soul He sometimes available to act as a coach to churches, see


Heartbeats in British Columbia

Ray Simpson reports on his visit in May 2011.

The Sorrento Centre lies amid snow-capped mountains in Canada's British Columbia. It began as a large retreat centre of the Anglican Diocese - now it is evolving into something more. It's Director, Christopher Lind, says 'Christendom is dying; certain places have the seeds of renewal that can make them sustainable in the future.' Sorrento has central accommodation and conference rooms, cabins, campsite, farm, beach, shop, refectory, memorial garden, youth programme, wi fi, sabbatical study facilities and is used by the local community. Chris invited me to lead the annual work week of associates who support the centre through finance or practical work. Some of them wonder whether the Centre could evolve into a village of God. We explored early Irish monastic villages of God and holistic Celtic spirituality. I invited them to consider whether a Rule and daily prayer might form part of the centre's evolution. Voyager Dirk Pidcock, a former director, helped, and his wife Karen provided the music for our worship. Dave, the young Jewish farmer, asked us to bless the crops so that they would do well, and we circled the land and their new baby.

A flight from Kelowna and a ferry to Vancouver Island brought me to Victoria, that most civilised capital of British Columbia, where art vendors never press you to buy, musicians grace the bridges, and indigenous history and art are honoured in the streets. Its FirstUnited MetropolitanChurch hosted a weekend on Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty First Century. Even the balconies of this large building were quite full. Six screens featured stunning pictures of Lindisfarne during the prayers and readings at the main Sunday service. The church plans a pilgrimage to Ireland, Iona and Lindisfarne next year. It also hosts an all-Canada Greenbelt- type event every Epiphany (without the tents), and I have been invited to contribute in January 2013. Hopefully invitations to lead workshops elsewhere in BC may come, and so enable the visit to be responsibly used.

A ferry to mainland Vancouver took me to our friends Gerry and Merry Carol Schonberg (he has a post at Regents College), to their pastor, Tim Dickau, and a lunch and afternoon with about twenty members of their down town church. Twenty years ago GrandView CalvaryBaptist Church was an aging, commuting congregation. Tim arrived with the vision that they should embrace the neighbourhood and build God's kingdom within it. Members began to buy houses in the neighbourhood. Several large houses are shared, as are organic gardens. Social enterprises have sprouted. The homeless, refugees, prostitutes, school kids are cared for. Now they consider whether they should form an intentional community with a Rule. They invited me to tell about the challenges and blessings of our Way of Life and to inter-act with their discussions. Tim Dickau's book about this experiment is in the New Monastic Library series.

By amazing co-incidence, which I take to be God's guidance, the Guardian of our USA NW Pacific Region,Tom Cashman, was engaged in spiritual direction on my last day in Vancouver, and we drove south across the USA border to his home town of Seattle, named after Chief Seattle who declared that 'we did not weave the web of life ... we are all sons and daughters of earth'. Members of the regional group came the house of Tom and his wife Lyn for a day. I gave news of the Community across the world and we shared Communion together. Pat Loughery, who manages the USA web site, was present. He hopes his friend will compete in the 2012 London Olympics, and that his family can support the athlete in London, and then visit The Open Gate. Carol Everson, my host, took me church crawling the following day. We began with her St. Columba's Church and ended with packed, twilight Compline in a cathedral, with young people reclining on cushions around the altar. In between we went to The Church of the Apostles, otherwise known as Fremont Abbey. Fremont is the arty section of Seattle which has declared itself the Arts Centre of the Universe. Some Christians started a Cafe Church in the area. They outgrew it and took over a dis-used Lutheran-Episcopal Church building opposite. The ground floor is now a six days-a-week arts and music centre with cafe. Upstairs is the worship area. A worship band was followed by an interview with a life prisoner who had gained release. Then there was Open Space. Each person could wander where they wished - to a silent chapel or ikon corner, outside, or to chat in the refreshment lounge. An Episcopal priest was on hand to finish with the prescribed form of Eucharist before they had a meal downstairs.

Before landing at London Heathrow the pilot announced that volcanic ash meant that my flight to Newcastle was cancelled. Eventually, by coach and car I reached home at 2.0 am with rather more jet-lag than usual. Pilgrims can't have it all their own way.

Reflection and Prophetic Prayer

Ottawa River – Meeting Place

The nation’s capital is situated where the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers meet. Long ago these rivers formed part of the principal route for trade and exploration in to the vast interior of Canada. The Indian word Ottawa means ‘place of meeting’ (the word Ottawa actually refers to the occupation of the first nations people who were known as traders, i.e. they were heavily involved in the fur trade often acting as the go between / translators between the Europeans / French and other first nations groups, the site of the city of Ottawa was a meeting place for trade. The word that Canada is derived from Kanata means Village in Huron). Here the Algonquin nation first guided European explorers up the Ottawa River and introduced them to the gateway of the continent.

In no other part of the world have water and the canoe had such an influence on both the original indigenous culture and the development of its history after European contact. … only in Upper North America have indigenous craft been used later by European migrants to create a nation.

John Jennings

Jesus’s baptism in the muddy river Jordan was about the Uncreated God entering into the stream of human life, thus making all creation holy.  Some Canadian native people start the day by standing in a river and allowing this to be a mutual touching - a receiving and giving.
Should not we, who are called to follow Christ’s example, enter into the stream of a particular place’s life and pray that Christ’s life may enter it afresh?  In any event  I took off my shoes and shirt, and stood in Ottawa river.  I prayed for Canada – thanking God for the flow of life through its past and present. Then I made the sign of the cross with water on my forehead, chest and hands, prayed that Christ would transform this great nation and lead it to its destiny. I wrote this:

  • O Canada
  • Be true to yourself.
  • You have gradually moved forward
  • from the framework your settlers left behind.
  • You are not meant to be a clone of your more prosperous neighbour.
  • You have a reputation as a peacemaker in the international family.
  • You can be more.
  • To find out what this is
  • Listen to the land
  • Listen to God in the land
  • Some nation must give a lead.
  • Some nation must find a leadership free from ambition,
  • Flexible to God’s Spirit,
  • Becoming hospitable to each nation on earth.

Ray Simpson

Canada’s Calling

What is Canada’s calling in the twenty first century?  A visitor can sometimes see what over-familiarity obscures. Canada has rightly moved away from the framework of its early British, Irish and Breton pioneers, (the folks from central Europe who pioneered much of the prairies but latter in time may feel that they have been over looked) but not in anger. It would be tragic if it became a clone of its geographically smaller but economically more powerful neighbour. The USA model is competition. The Canadian model is co-operation. 

As an oak is hid in an acorn, so a nation’s destiny can be hid in its birthright. Canada’s English and French speaking Celtic Christian roots, married creatively to the best of its First Nation traditions  and to its unique place in the world, could offer a clue to its destiny.

Canada’s first Europeans were settlers, not invaders.  They embraced the indigenous population and the land in a way that countries such as USA and Australia did not. Because many more Scots than English came, Canada never got trapped in a class mentality. The Scots shaped Nova Scotia and spread to other Maritime Provinces sensitive to the land. The USA historian Bernard de Voto said of Orkney settlers ‘they pulled the wilderness round them like a cloak, and wore its beauty like a crest ’.

My distant Scottish relative George Simpson became President of the merged Hudson Bay and North West Companies, and thereby governed ten times more territory than had the Roman emperors.  Simpson built alliances of friendship with the Natives and new incomers alike.  Unlike in other places there were no reprisals, no battles. He established a way of dealing that was based on trust.  His stewardship of the Hudson Bay lands formed the core of what became modern Canada.  So Canada has something to contribute to the world in terms of creating a foreign and trade policy based on listening, valuing cultural difference and respect for peoples’ lands.

During a recent visit I asked various people ‘what is the soul of Canada?’ One person replied: Saskatchewan. This melting pot has French-speaking, English-speaking and First Nation Canadians who by and large feel they belong together and help one another (much of Saskatchewan is today populated by people from Central Europe who arrived latter to farm, however the first where first nations, and predominantly French Canadian and Scots fur traders. The hall mark social policy that sprung from Saskatchewan had heavy influence from the central European immigrants experience). There are no ghettos. The fact that many Breton men married First Nation women helped. (they first did this in Quebec, then as fur traders in the Prairies).

This connects with the ‘Kaleidoscope’ approach  to ethnic groups which Canada embraces in contrast to the assimilation approach in other western nations.  In the light of fears of a clash of civilisations, this approach needs to be refined and exported.

The earth needs healing.  Canada, with its gentle embrace of its glorious land, can help. 

In legend Saint Patrick of Ireland used a shamrock to imprint the Christian experience of The Trinity on the Irish imagination.  Canada’s three pronged maple leaf may be used in a similar way. In its doctrine of the Trinity Christianity implies that the nature of Ultimate Reality (God) is Three’Persons’, each giving to and receiving from the other and in so doing being truly themselves.  Living to bring the best out of others, and providing hospitable space for groups and nations in the world family, may be the way Canada can both rise to its greatness and remain truly itself.

Ray Simpson.

Question: HILDA?

Who was she? Why her? What does she stand for?

  • www.sthilda.can gives a brief history of Hilda as well as of that church.
  • She pioneered education and Christian spirituality among English-speaking people as early as the seventh century.
  • She also had roots in the ‘First Nation’ indigenous Celtic church of the British Isles.
  • Today she is emerging as an icon of Wisdom and of the Divine Feminine.
  • She and Aidan are universal archetypes of male and female, incomer and native, working together as soul friends for the good of the wider world.
  • French-speakers may be interested to know that Hilda had close links with Chelles Monastery, in modern France, which was founded by the Irish monk Columbanus. She is thought to have drawn from its Rule.
  • Schools, churches and colleges have been named after her in Canada, for example: St. Hilda’s College and St. Hilda’s Towers Foundation Toronto.