Notes from the Clergy
St. Aidan, whom the Church remembers on 31 August, was one of the great missionary bishops of 7th century Britain: his story is told in the Venerable Bede’s History of the English Church and People, written in the 8th century at the monastery at Jarrow, near Newcastle upon Tyne, where I was privileged to be the parish priest in the early 1990s.
Sent from the Abbey of Iona, an island in the far west of Scotland, at the request of King Oswald, he arrived at the King’s court with the express purpose of converting the Northumbrians and establishing the Church. He founded a community on nearby Lindisfarne, since that time often known as Holy Island. Aidan had an itinerant ministry, preaching, teaching and baptising; he became a valued counsellor of the King. According to Bede he was renowned for his spiritual self-discipline and his wisdom, his gentleness and his care for the poor. Nor was he afraid to admonish the King when he thought it necessary. As the one who brought the light of Christ to that part of the world, his symbol is a flaming torch: there is a fine statue of him on Holy Island, holding this flame aloft.
Reflecting on Aidan’s ministry and his passion for sharing the Gospel — by deed and example, as well as by preaching and teaching — prompts me to ask a question of myself and of us all here at St. James’. Our founders held an evident conviction for spreading the Gospel, and for almost the last century and a half the people of St. James’ have witnessed to the Good News of Jesus Christ by faithfulness in worship and an active care and concern for the poor and marginalised. Are we ready to commit ourselves anew, like Aidan and like our founders, not only to faithfulness in worship and care for the needy, but also consciously to exploring ways of sharing the Good News in our day, with our families, friends and neighbours?
St. Aidan, Torch-Bearer of Lindisfarne, pray for us.