Today, Wednesday, the Church of England remembered Aidan. Aidan was the Bishop of Lindisfarne and a missionary. Aidan was also involved with the training of priests. He died in the year 651 (at least according to Exciting Holiness).
Maybe in the conversations around Renewal and Reform there is something really important to learn from Aidan’s story? Maybe his concerns are our concerns? Maybe his story, should inform our story?
Aidan was a passionate evangelist. He was, according to the collect, ‘sent to proclaim the gospel in this land,’ and, it seems as though he was successful. Who knows if he was a great orator capable of preaching to the heart? Who knows whether his mode of presiding at the Eucharist made it clear that the ‘Lord, is here?’
But what we do know is this: that his passion was making disciples and baptizing new believers ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ We also know that those who encouraged Aidan, King Oswald of Northumbria for instance, were inspired by the same purpose driving the conversations around R&R: ‘making sure that we have the right people and resources to help us (re) evangelise England and grow in the life of the Kingdom of God.’ Hence the establishment of the island monastery at Lindisfarne as a plant of Melrose Abbey.
What else do we know about Aidan? Not much to be honest! However, the introductory blurb in ‘Exciting Holiness,’ makes it clear that any missionary initiatives he undertook were rooted in prayer, ‘from the island of Lindisfarne he was able to combine a monastic lifestyle with missionary journeys to the mainland, where through his concern for the poor, and enthusiasm for preaching, he won popular support.’ Every missionary journey, or endeavor, that we, the Church of England, undertake must also be a natural extension of prayer; or do I mean a supernatural extension? We must be rooted in prayer, and routed from prayer.
It strikes me that Aidan could be the Patron Saint of R&R for he managed to combine a real and enduring concern for the poor, with a desire to see the Church grow.
And guess what R&R is concerned for the poor: half of its funds are pledged for investment in areas of poverty and, the other half in growth, opportunities.
One final thought: Aidan and his contemporaries worked from the outside in, from the periphery into middle England. The Church of England must, likewise, as part of its mission strategy, continually look to its periphery for signs of new life. The re-evangelisation of England and growth in the life of the Kingdom of God might just depend on it.