Contributions of the Old English Church to the Church today
If we were to adapt the methods of the Old English Church to the Church of today, we could make no better start than to begin with assumptions for growth. The original mission plan for the team entering what became England called for an expanding organization of bishops and parishes.
Briefly put, we fail to grow because we do not start new churches. We do not start new churches because they are expensive. We potter about the edges, fussing over each new start. If we were serious about penetrating our society, we would decide how many congregations we needed to do the job, where we needed to put them, and would start on the job of finding the people who could deliver us to that result. We would set out to train new clergy (retiring the old and untrainable to sinecures where they won't get in the way) and deploy them where they would do the most good.
As regards the cultural norms we face in the post-Christian West, we should adapt to forms that people can relate to. We should speak in the ordinary language of our hearers. At the same time, we should vehemently demand orthodoxy in teaching. To do otherwise is to sell out to the culture we seek to redeem or to garble our message.
We should take a long, hard look at how we train church leaders. Seminary education today is as "artificial" as the Latin teaching of the monasteries, but seminaries are disconnected from the life of the Church, and frequently hotbeds of heterodoxy. We need a Wilfrid to come by and shake them out, reform them, and demand accountability.
Finally, in all ways we should encourage the missionary impulse -- not merely to folks far away, but also to our cultural near neighbors. After all, when the missionaries began in 596, "England" did not exist. Seven major and a few minor kingdoms of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (not to mention a few strays) occupied what we now know as England and lowland Scotland. The missionary bishops paid little attention to "national" boundaries -- they were out to convert the whole of Angelcynn, regardless of local allegiance or dialect. When the Danes came storming in, first to pillage, then to settle, in the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Centuries, the Anglo-Saxons became "England" under the pressure of their assault. Then the newly-united English set out to convert their neighbors in the Danelaw. To the Old English Church, converting the heathen (especially the heathen next door) was the first priority.
Wuldor sy the and wurthmynt, wereda drihtn,
faeder on foldan, faegere gemaene,
mid sylfan sunu and sothum gaste.*
*Glory be to thee and honor, Lord of hosts,
Earth's father, Fair-joined,
With thyself the son and spirit of truth.