The Bishop of Jarrow has praised the role of volunteers in the work of the Church of England in the North East of England. The Right Revd Mark Bryant was speaking when he visited St Paul’s Church in Jarrow, South Tyneside, to acknowledge the achievements of Meg and Jimmy Guy as they passed 14 years as volunteers at the church. During that time, they have welcomed large numbers of people who have come to the area to learn about its link with the great northern saint Bede, which is particularly strong at St Paul‘s. Parts of St Paul‘s, which is the parish church of Jarrow, date from the 7th Century with windows containing stained glass dating back 1,300 years. Behind the church are remains of the Middle Ages Benedictine monastery, which was re-founded on the site of Bede’s monastery. Remains of buildings from Bede’s day were found in excavations and their positions have been marked out on the ground to give visitors a greater understanding of what stood there 1300 years ago. Bede himself was born in AD673 on the lands of the monastery and at the age of seven was entrusted to the care of Benedict Biscop, the founder of the monastery. He spent the rest of his life there, being ordained deacon at the age of 19 and priest at 30. He died there in 735. As Verger, Church Warden and Guide, Jimmy Guy has been responsible for looking after many of the visitors who come to St Paul‘s on pilgrimage. The Bishop of Jarrow said: “Jimmy has, over the years, inspired so many visitors from around the world to help them appreciate what a very special place St Paul‘s is. “He has helped people feel excited about St Paul’s. He has encouraged them to feel that they are standing where Bede stood all those centuries ago. “Both Jimmy and Meg have done a wonderful job and given us a firm base from which to work. “We have an extraordinary group of volunteers at St Paul’s who are one of the unknown secret gems of the North East. “We should acknowledge the enormous amount of volunteer hours that people in faith communities across the North East are putting in. “I think people volunteer if they see it as something exciting to do, something that is worthwhile. “We are seeing people volunteering in all kinds of roles in the wider community, from welcoming people to the region to running food banks, because they get a sense that if they volunteer they can make a difference.” Jimmy Guy said: “To be recognised like this is truly amazing. We have done this work because we love this place and we do not expect this kind of recognition. “Volunteering has given us the chance to tell people from all over the world about what a great man Bede was and how important this place is to the whole of the world. “Our volunteering has also allowed us to tell local people about him. Sometimes they forget.” Meg, Assistant Church Warden, who was also volunteer co-ordinator for many years, said: “We have done this work because we see it as our duty. We are gobsmacked that the Bishop came to say thank you. “We are passionate about the church. We have helped make a lot of visitors from all over the world happy.” Hilary Elder, a project worker helping support the volunteers at St Paul’s, in conjunction with the nearby Bede‘s World tourist attraction, said: “The work of the volunteers is to open up Bede and its history to as many people as possible. We are always on the look out for more volunteers to continue the work.”
Bede worked as scholar and teacher and wrote extensively about the Bible to clarify its meaning for his own study and that of other monks. His commentaries on the books of the Bible were widely circulated. Bede is best known as the author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (AD731). This work is our primary source for understanding the beginnings of the English people and the coming of Christianity and was the first work in which the AD dating system is used. Bede’s scholarship covered many areas beyond Christianity. He wrote of nature and how the earth was a sphere and how the moon influences the cycle of the tides – a remarkable observation in this era. He wrote on calculating time and by using Bede’s exposition of the Great Cycle of 532 years – the interval between two ‘identical’ years – the Church was able to calculate the date of Easter.