Frequently Asked Questions

What should I understand by the term 'Celtic'?

These days the term 'Celtic' is used to legitimise and sell almost anything from T-shirts to shamanism and new age philosophy! For this reason it is important that we should be historically accurate and to emphasise that, when they gave their allegiance to Christ, the Celts were noted for their firm commitment to the spirit and teaching of the Bible.

The Celtic churches were sacramental, biblical and open to the prompting and power of the Holy Spirit. By drawing our inspiration from them we embrace their wholehearted commitment to the Christian faith. But it is also important to remember that our Celtic forebears were quite happy to draw inspiration from Eastern (Desert), Gallican and Roman sources. As their successors we also use insights from a wide variety of sources both ancient and contemporary. They were flexible in their approaches to others but kept the fire of the Trinity always at the centre of their lives.

Why is the Community named after Aidan and Hilda?

Many in the Community find themselves moved by the example and experience of a particular saint. For some it may be the boldness and magnetism of Columba, for others the wisdom and humility of David. Aidan and Hilda were chosen as our principle patrons because they were soul friends and together they emphasise the respect between men and women that the Celts found natural in their experience of Christian life and leadership. Aidan is often called the Apostle to the English speaking people, and English is now the most used language in the world. He was an Irish monk from Iona who founded the mission base on Lindisfarne, a man who could correct kings but whose gentleness unlocked the hearts of those he encountered. He introduced Christianity through love not force, set slaves free and started the first recorded school in Post-Roman Britain.

Hilda was a British noble woman who, at Aidan's request, founded the community of both men and women at Whitby. Her wisdom and care for people were so great that people far beyond her own kingdom called her 'Mother', and she motivated both learned and uneducated people to do great things for God.

What makes this Community distinct from other communities inspired by Celtic spirituality?

There is some overlap, but each Community has a distinctive origin, calling, and style, so it is important to carefully study and reflect upon their respective Rules of life, until you feel clear and peaceful about the one which most deeply reflects what you are called to. We in particular seek to reflect the qualities of Aidan and Hilda as we live out our Way of life. Some distinctive features of the Community of Aidan and Hilda are:

  • The attempt to be true to the sacramental, the biblical and charismatic balance found in the early Celtic church. This means that people from every sort of Church background can be enriched and find an end to fragmentation.
  • The balance between times of activity and times of stillness seen in the lives of the Saints means that both contemplatives and people of great activity feel at home in the Community. We welcome both types of people (and all those in between) and call them to a listen carefully to the Holy Spirit, grow in self-knowledge, and discover the way of life to which God is calling them.
  • Religious life in Celtic Christian Communities was shaped by two things. The first was the Rule of the Community or founding saint. The second was the day to day prompting of the Spirit, recognised and discussed with the help of the soul friend. In the same way our Community has its Way of life but it leaves each member to discuss with his/her soul friend how this should be defined and expressed in daily life. We are well aware that each person will have their own personal calling, which has to be lived out in the circumstances into which God has placed them.
  • Just as the Church in celtic lands was not a separate denomination, so our Community is not a substitute for belonging to a church. We see our Community as an expression of our love for God, a vehicle for spiritual growth, healing, renewal in the church, and the healing of a wounded world.

In what ways are the three vows principles rather than rules?

In many traditional religious communities the three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience stand at the heart of the heroic willingness to abandon self interest and live for God within that community.

Many who live in families, or who, even if single, are in secular employment, feel called to share in the spirit of this self giving but, because of their circumstances are unable to take the vows as they apply to traditional communities.

If these vows are understood as principles, not regulations, they can become the key to true freedom. Many have the impression that the traditional vows are denying the world. We see these principles as freeing us to be fully human and to affirm all that is good in the world. These principles are a distilled version of the 'Beautiful Attitudes' that Jesus called all people to adopt, see Matthew Chapters 5 to 7, and they are life giving.

Poverty:

In traditional communities Poverty usually means having no property, capital or other possessions. In our Community, in order to be single minded for God, we renounce any property, capital or possessions that are surplus to our calling. We follow simplicity so that, by becoming free of what is second rate, we can focus on what is most worthwhile. Each person's calling will be different. Whether we are called to manage wealth or to live without a regular salary, we are willing to talk through this openly with a Soul Friend.

Chastity:

In traditional communities Chastity usually means being celibate and abstaining from sexual intercourse. In our Community, in order that our deepest parts may be always available to God and to the world, we commit ourselves to abstinence from sex outside marriage, and to purity within marriage. We follow purity in order that every relationship may be the very best quality.

Obedience:

Obedience to God is fundamental; without that everything else is just froth. It is easy to deceive ourselves, however, that following our bright ideas is the same thing as obedience to God. In Celtic Christian communities there was such a mutual trust and sharing that accountability to the Rule and to the Soul Friend was a joy. So we interpret obedience as accountability to our Way ; the building up of a relationship of trust which recognises the role of the Soul Friend and respects the role of each person as we respect each organ in a body; stewarding all we have, in partnership with others to make a better world.

Is membership open to Christians of all denominations?

Yes! Our members come from various streams within Christianity, and we seek advice from leaders of all the main Christian denominations.

In what sense are we a Community?

In the early Celtic church there were those who lived within the monastic boundary as part of the physical community but there were also ascetics and missionaries who lived outside the Community but who were still regarded as part of it. Our modern situation is similar but in reverse. Only a few of us are able to live in physical community, for example on Lindisfarne. The rest of us live as pilgrims, pastors or missionaries in the places to which God has called us but we still belong together because we are rooted in the Community and share the Way of life.

Communal bonds include the Annual Gathering, the quarterly magazine and prayer diary, the regional groups, the Guardian, the Caim Council, the Houses of Prayer, members who can welcome overnight guests, and in particular Lindisfarne, our Community House, the "Open Gate", and private or group retreats there.

Is the Community for one country or any?

There are members in four continents with regional groups developing in Africa and Australia.In the USA there is our sister community, The Order of St. Aidan. Several other countries have their own branches of the community, but these sometimes operate under different names that have particular meaning in those countries, e.g. the "Anamcara Community" in Norway.

Are children welcome?

We have a specific Young Explorers branch of the Community for the under 12's with their own Young Explorer Guide to help them and a child friendly version of the Way of Life with sticker charts and a children’s quarterly magazine called Footsteps. There are also specific children's activities at the Community Annual Gathering, which is also a great time for the Young Explorers to meet up.

It is advised that children who wish to apply to become a Young Explorer know someone who is connected to the Community, whether that be a parent or grandparent, as an adult will need to have an understanding of the Way of Life to enable the children to best fulfil it. The adult does not, however, need to be an Explorer or Voyager themselves, just have an understanding and/or knowledge of the Community. The parent thus acts as a Soul Friend, though a Young Explorer may well wish to have a prayer partner, or Soul Friend, of their own age as well. Each child who wishes to be enrolled as a Young Explorer should send a request to the Community office, and will receive a Young Explorer’s pack. Children can be encouraged to renew their commitment as Explorers once a year, as all Community members are encouraged to do.

Why look back to the past?

Christianity began as a complete way of life and the first Christians were nicknamed 'followers of the way'. It is only in recent centuries that Christianity has been reduced to just a private faith or a religious observance. So we are trying restoring something essential.

In Christianity repentance is understood to be vital for every person's health. In order to repent (as a faith), Christians need to look back and become aware of what we have fallen away from, the roots in God from which we have become disconnected. The point of looking back is that we can then move forward, having learned the lessons of the past.