Saint Aidan Day, August 31st

Today, August 31st is St. Aidan’s Day. What a joy to celebrate St. Aidan’s Day on Holy Island of Lindisfarne today, where St. Aidan founded his mission center and monastery in 635 at the invitation of King Oswald. I’ve been thinking a lot about St. Aidan these past two weeks while in Great Britain. The reason we came to the United Kingdom is to follow in the footsteps of St. Aidan, as well as St. Cuthbert, St. Oswald, and St. Hilda of Whitby. We walked 50 miles along the pilgrim path called the Way of St. Oswald. It could just have easily been called the Way of St. Aidan, because Aidan walked all over the northern Kingdom of Northumbria during the 17 years he served as Bishop of Northumbria and evangelist to the people. After spending a week on Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where Aidan planted his Christian Community, started the first school in Northumbria, and began an intentional Christian mission base to reach out to the people of Northumbria back in 635, I feel now a much deeper soul affinity with Aidan; for his unique approach to mission and ministry. Aidan was gentle. Aidan was personal. Aidan was humble. Aidan was compassionate. Aidan listened well. Aidan prayed constantly. Aidan cared for people’s lives, body, mind and spirit. Aidan set people free from slavery. He revealed a deep, quiet, almost easily overlooked way of evangelism and missionary life. There is not much fanfare or miraculous flashy stuff in Aidan’s way of life and faith. But where Aidan’s predecessor, Corman failed to reach into the hard hearts of the Anglo-Saxon people of Northumbria due to his harshness and austerity, the people loved Aidan and were deeply transformed by his brief 17 years among them, mainly because they were met face to face, heart to heart by a prayerful, gentle, holy man who brought the light of Christ through his actions and way of living. The name Aidan means “fire, aflame”. Aidan was aflame with Christ’s love. The statue in the churchyard on Holy Island of Lindisfarne (sculpted by Kathleen Parbury, 1958), Aidan carries a burning torch of the Gospel of Christ in one hand, cradling the Shepherd’s staff of a Pastor/Bishop in his other. He faces south, towards Bamburgh Castle and the people of Northumbria. Aidan was a foreigner, not a native of Northumbria like St. Cuthbert who came after him. Aidan was born in Ireland, and grew up in his early career as a monk of Iona, in what is now western Scotland. Showing his great heart for the people of Northumbria, as soon as was possible, he handed over leadership and authority to Northumbrians, sending them into the harvest fields to gather in God’s sacred harvest of new found faith in Christ. Aidan’s key approaches to mission: first, pray the Psalms daily by heart. Aidan knew the Book of Psalms for memory and taught younger monks to learn the Psalms and pray the Psalms from the heart. Second, study and live the Gospels. It is no surprise that the most beautiful illuminated Gospels are the Lindisfarne Gospels, created just 60 years after Aidan died. Aidan loved the stories of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. Third, go together as ‘soul friends’. Aidan paired monks up with wiser mentor monks known as soul friends who would help younger monks grow in faith by example. Fourth, walk humbly on your own two feet to be face to face, heart to heart with the people. One of the most beautiful stories of Aidan, told by the first English historian, the venerable Bede, is when the King gave Aidan a beautiful white stallion to assist him to travel further and more easily throughout the Kingdom of Northumbria. It would be like someone giving an itinerant evangelist today a white Mercedes Benz. Aidan gave the horse away to the first beggar he met, telling the outraged king later that he needed to care more for the sons of God than for the son of a mare. Aidan could be with wealthy and powerful people as easily as with poor and needy people. When he was given great amounts of money, he went to the slavemarket and purchased freedom for child slaves, then inviting them to come to his school, and learn to read and write and pray. Some of these freed slaves, both children and adults, formed the growing monastic, mission community on Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Through Aidan’s ministry, the Gospel of Christ spread from the north of England, into southern Scotland among the Pictish people, as well as south through the Kingdom of Northumbria, and even down into the midlands as far south as London. Upon Aidan’s death in 651, just 17 years after he began his mission work, many new churches and monasteries had been planted across the landscape of Great Britain, transforming the lives of tens of thousands of people. Aidan is considered one of the great apostles to England, and some Celtic scholars have even sought before the Members of Parliament to name Aidan as Patron Saint of all of the United Kingdom. As a pastor of a growing community of faith in Christ in the little coastal village of Cannon Beach, Oregon, I have learned from Aidan this week leading up to celebrating his Feast Day today two great lessons: first, get out of my car and walk more through town, among people, in homes, in business, to be where people are with the gentleness, winsomeness, and compassion of Christ face to face among everyday people. Second, I hope to begin pairing people of Cannon Beach Community Church, one on one, as soul friends, to encourage spiritual growth through soul friendships, people who meet at least weekly for mutual support, prayer, laughter, praying the Psalms, and asking those personal, down-to-earth questions, such as “how goes your walk with Christ?” Third, I will continue to learn the Psalms by heart, to better pray and live according to the prayer-book of the Bible. Thank you St. Aidan for teaching yet another pastor how to shepherd souls, and lead people closer to Christ’s holy fire.

2 thoughts on “Saint Aidan Day, August 31st”

  1. OUTREACH- inspired-the walking part is lovely- just this week I’ve been inclined to begin a neighborhood progressive dinner!
    I’m “all in” -there are so many ways to “give away our white horses” and “spend our resources to free people”
    Sunday School is going great Trina!

  2. David: You ALREADY ARE St. Aidan to us here in the VILLAGE!
    I cannot THANK YOU ENOUGH for your LOVE for my FAMILY!
    You are ALWAYS THERE!
    Get a lot of REST: there is SO MUCH to tend to…
    upon your return (hope that’s not prophetic!)
    LOVE to Trina-belle!

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