Just last week on October 26th, the Basildon sign was lit in red and gold to celebrate St Cedds day, to quote Basildon Council ‘Otherwise known as Essex Day’
The Essex flag was raised above the Basildon Centre and Basildon Council proudly stated this is the third year in a row that Basildon Council have celebrated St Cedd, the Patron Saint of Essex.
I have tried searching to see if Basildon or Essex Council had given any history of St Cedd, to explain why they felt it right to mark this day. The closest explanation I could find was this ‘Essex Day falls annually on the feast of St Cedd and recognises the values, history, culture and traditions of the county’ Strangely , I could not find any mention of Essex Day on The County Councils social media or websites, it seems that only Basildon chose to mark this day!
So, who was St Cedd, and why is he so important to Essex?
Cedd came from Northumbria and went to a school along with his 3 brothers, where Anglo-Saxon boys could be trained as priests and missionaries. All four brothers became priests, Cedd and his brother Chad later became Bishops.
Cedd’s first mission was to go to the midlands, then called Mercia, at the request of it’s ruler King Paeda, who wanted his people to become Christians. Cedd was so successful that when King Sigbert of the Est Saxons (Essex) asked for a similar mission, it was Cedd who was sent.
So, in 653 AD Cedd sailed along the East Coast of England, from Lindisfarne and landed at Bradwell. Here he found the ruins of an old Roman fort. Historians believe that Cedd probably built a small wooden church first, but as there was so much stone from the fort, he decided to build something more permanent. Cedd modelled the church in the style of those in Egypt and Syria. The church he built, is the one that we still see standing there today, St Peter-on-the-wall, Bradwell on Sea.
Earlier this year, the PCC held a quiet day in Bradwell and as part of that we were able to visit the chapel of St Peter-on-the-wall. Wow, what a place it is, the day was cold and blustery, but as we stepped closer to this simple building, the presence of God could truly be felt. As the Holy spirit danced in the wind, whipping around, stirring us up and bringing life into our souls. I wanted to stay there forever, to stand in the presence of God, to shout, sing, cry and be silent all at the same time! If you ever get the opportunity to visit this sacred place, I encourage you to do so.
Cedd’s mission to the East Saxons was so successful that the same year he was recalled to Lindisfarne and made Bishop of the East Saxons. His simple monastery at Bradwell would, like those built in Iona and Lindisfarne, have been used not only as a church, it would have been a school, library, medical centre, farm and many other things, it would have been a real hub for the community and today, we still see this model of community usage being used in the design of modern churches. Cedd used the chapel as a base for mission, where from the Christian message spread to other parts of Essex. Other bases where built in Mersea, Prittlewell and Upminster.
Cedd was a pioneer and a missionary, he was the first person to bring Christianity to Essex and we have a lot to thank him for. The imprint of St Cedd and his early missions are still felt and used as a model in the The Diocese of Chelmsford. There is the centre of Pioneer mission that is named after St Cedd, many people are part of this community, following God’s call and walking in the footsteps of Cedd, spreading the Christian messages in places and ways that some of us may not expect! The Bishop of Chelmsford has also awarded the Order of St Cedd to lay people, who like St Cedd, have made an outstanding contribution to the life and mission of the Diocese
On the 26th October in 664 AD Cedd died of the plague at his monastery at Lastingham, Northumbria. His brother Chad being his successor.
S, Essex really does have a lot to thank St Cedd for. I wonder what he would have thought about a flag being raised and a neon sign being lit red and Gold in his honour? I am not sure that was on his heart at the time of his mission, but what an opportunity for us in the future as Basildon marks this day, we can use our voices and share the history, the story and more importantly the reason for St Cedd’s mission.
Lord help us all be like St Cedd, give us courage to step out in faith, help us to spread the message and love of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.