Way of Life

Introduction

The Community of Aidan and Hilda is a body of Christians who wish to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, and to express this in a distinctive way that draws inspiration from the lives of Saint Aidan and Saint Hilda amongst other Celtic saints. Members of the Community share the belief that God is once again calling us to the quality of life and commitment that was revealed in the lives of these Christians whose witness was so effective in the new Anglo-Saxon world of the time.

The Community of Aidan and Hilda offers a Way of Life that many of today's Christians could find helpful. It draws inspiration from many sources, including desert and fathers and mothers and their equivalents in the Celtic world of the time. Although their spirituality was lived in particular places and times, collectively they belong to all places and times. The Way of Life also calls us to be present to Christ in our own land, times and culture. For this reason followers of the Way of Life also look for sources of inspiration from within their own country. Groups of members in a country may add a national saint to the title of their branch of the Community.

You can download a PDF file on drafting a way of life here, and the topic is also discussed below.


General

In common with many communities within Christianity we make three promises. These are SIMPLICITY, PURITY and OBEDIENCE, which we understand as life giving principles, not rules, to help us love God and all creation wholeheartedly. You can find out more about our stance on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

  • Simplicity means we are willing to be rich or poor for God according to God's direction. We resist the temptation to be greedy or possessive, and we will not manipulate people or creation for our own ends. We aim to be bold in using all we have for God without fear of possible poverty, which, if God demanded it of us, would actually become a blessing.
  • Purity means faithfulness in relationships. It means accepting and giving God our whole being, including our sexuality. We love all people as Christ commands, but the specific emotions and intimacy of sexual relations are expressed only in married life. Some will be given a gift of marriage, some a gift of celibacy, and some will be given grace to continue a journey of not yet knowing. Each is to be equally respected and rejoiced in. We respect every person as belonging to God, and we aim to be available to them with compassion and openness.
  • Obedience is the joyful abandonment of ourselves to God through attentive listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer, and a following of His leading, possibly with the guidance of our Soul Friend. Unlike many religious orders we do not have an abbot or mother superior to whom we are accountable. We encourage a process of discernment which enables us to recognise our role and calling, and to accept that some people are charismatically, practically or even institutionally gifted and called to very different roles. We work with them to build up the common good, respecting each person and their role, and relating to them as a vital part of the human body relates to every other organ (1 Corinthians 12).

Soul Friends

The Celtic church affirmed and used the ministry of the Anamchara or Soul Friend, who should be a mature Christian who is in sympathy with the aims of the Community. He or she does not need to belong to the Community of Aidan and Hilda but clearly helps if they do. Each member of this Community should have a Soul Friend to work with them in developing a Way of Life that is personally suited to them, and which includes ten areas of life, and should be reviewed at agreed intervals.


The Ten Elements of our 'Way'

The descriptions under each title are summaries only, and members will find further expressions of each way in their own circumstances. Several books have been published which discuss and develop our understanding of the ten elements, such as "A Pilgrim Way" and "Waymarks for the Journey" by Ray Simpson, and "Creating Community" by Simon Reed. You can find these on on the Shop page. There are further resources near the foot of this page which also offer guidance.

The shaded area under each of the elements provides some further amplification and clarification.


The Pilgrim Way - Lindisfarne

The Pilgrim Way

1. Life-Long Learning

Daily Bible reading is at the heart of this way of life. In addition, we study the history of the Celtic Church, becoming familiar with such saints as Aidan, Brigid, Caedmon, Columba, Cuthbert, David, Hilda, Illtyd, Ninian, Oswald and Patrick. We remember their feast days and consider them as companions on our journey of faith. We also bear in mind their strong link with the Desert Fathers and the Eastern Church, and wish to draw them into our field of studies. It is essential that study is not understood merely as an academic exercise. All that we learn is not for the sake of study itself, but in order that what we learn should be lived. We encourage the Celtic practice of memorising Scriptures, and learning through the use of creative arts.

Daily Bible reading can take many forms such as Bible Study, or Lectio Divina, and it could take place within a number of contexts, e.g. directly from the bible or, perhaps for Catholics, through the readings in the Daily Office. Members are also very much encouraged to explore other areas of Christian spirituality beyond the Celtic theme, such as ignatian spirituality, the works of the Christian mystics, and works of contemporary Christian writers.


2. Spiritual Journey

A Soul Friend is a someone with whom we openly share our spiritual journey. We meet with our Soul Friend at least twice a year. He or she is someone who is familiar with the Community of Aidan and Hilda and seeks to discern with us where we are on that journey, what the Spirit is doing in our lives, and how God is leading us.

The Soul Friend respects the tradition that we come from. Thus, for example, some will seek a Soul Friend who is familiar with formal confession and penance. The Soul Friend also gives guidance on two disciplines which the Community considers to be important:

  1. Regular retreats:The outworking of this depends on the individual's own lifestyle, but we encourage regular days of quiet and reflection, and also an annual retreat.
  2. Pilgrimage: The purpose of pilgrimage is to tread in the shoes of Christ or his saints in order to make contact with the many rich experiences which are to do with being a pilgrim. Such pilgrimages draw us into deeper devotion to our Lord Jesus and will inspire us to mission. Members might seek out communities of prayer.The Community recommends pilgrimage to sites of the Celtic Christian tradition, such as Iona and Lindisfarne as well as to new "places of resurrection". Soul Friends give guidance about different ways of making pilgrimage.

Each person's spiritual journey is unique and we fully recognise that the path for one person may be very different to that for another. Soul Friends are sensitive to nature of the people they guide, and will make no attempt to impose their personal path on others. More explanation of the nature and role of a Soul Friend can be found on the Join Us page


3. Rhythm of Prayer, Work and Recreation

As a Community we believe that we need to have a good balance of prayer, work and recreation, and see God in each of these aspects of our lives. Where balance is missing we begin to suffer in various ways.

  • Prayer: We commit ourselves to a regular discipline of prayer. If required, our Soul friend can give us guidance about this. The Community recommends the use of daily patterns of worship. The Saint Aidan Trust provides patterns of worship which are suited to the Way.

    Ways of praying will vary according to temperament. The Community encourage a renewal of 'all kinds of praying' (Ephesians 6.18), and we are therefore committed to discovering new ways of praying, from contemplative prayer to celebratory praise.
  • Work: We welcome work as a gift from God. Every member should engage in work, whether it be the routine activities of life or paid employment. Work motivated by values which conflict with the Way should be avoided as much as possible. In humility we accept what God gives us. If we have no employment and are not clear what our work is, then we might seek the advice of our Soul Friend. We seek not to overwork, standing firm against all pressure to do so, because it robs ourselves, others or God of the time we should give to them.
  • Rest: The hours of rest and recreation are just as important as the hours of prayer and work. The Lord Jesus reminds us that 'the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath' (Mark 2:27). In the Scriptures even the land was given a Sabbath in the seventh year (Leviticus 25: 3-5). The need for rest was built into creation (Genesis 2: 1-3). A provision for this kind of rest, which is both holy and creative, should be part of each member's personal Way of Life.

While the Community has its own daily patterns of prayer and worship and provides some which are suited to the Way of Life, it fully accepts that members may already have their own patterns, possibly related to the churches they come from. We do not expect members to replace their existing prayer patterns unless they feel called to move on in this respect, but we do emphasise the need for a daily rhythm of prayer, whether it be in a traditional or modern form. We also recognise that ways of praying will vary according to our circumstances.


4. Spiritual Initiatives through Intercession - Praying For God's Will In God's World

The Community affirms a world view that recognises the reality of the supernatural and of spiritual warfare. As Cuthbert and others 'stormed the gates of heaven', so we also need to engage in and to become familiar with intercessory prayer. We do not project on to the supernatural what belongs to the sphere of human responsibility. We affirm national initiatives in intercessory prayer.

Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of God. He taught his disciples to pray for its coming on earth as it is in heaven. We commit ourselves to pray for the coming of God's just and merciful rule in the situations and concerns which we encounter, following the example of Cuthbert. We understand that as we do so we will sometimes encounter opposition and we recognise the existence of spiritual forces of evil (John 12:31, Ephesians 6:10 18). Prayer is central in overcoming them. We do not project onto this unseen dimension things for which human beings need to take responsibility but we do seek to discern the spiritual influences at work. Such prayer is always related to positive action because our ultimate goal is to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

We recognise, however, that the ways in which individual members engage in intercession will vary according to their experience of Christian life, the churches they attend, their personality, etc. This is perfectly OK!


5. Simplicity of Life-Style

We wish to 'live simply that others may simply live', but recognise that God will make different demands of each of us, and the need to avoid judging one another. Our common responsibility is to regularly hold before God (and as appropriate to share with our Soul Friend) our income, our savings, our possessions, conscious that we are stewards, not possessors of these things, and making them available to him as He requires.

A simple life-style means setting everything in the simple beauty of creation. Our belongings, activities and relationships should be ordered in a way that liberates the spirit. We aim to cut out those things that overload or clutter the spirit.

We are not seeking a life of denial for we thoroughly rejoice in the good things God gives us. Our clothes and furniture should reflect God-given features of our personalities. There are times to feast and celebrate as well as to fast. Our commitment is to openness. We stand against the influence of the god of mammon in our society by our life-style, by our hospitality, by our intercession, and by regular and generous giving.

We also feel that having a good balance in prayer, work and recreation usually also helps to keep things simple. The more complex things become, the more stress we feel!


6. Care for Creation

We affirm God's creation as essentially good, but spoilt by the effects of human sin and satanic evil. We therefore respect nature and are committed to seeing it cared for and restored. We aim to be ecologically aware, to pray for God's creation and all his creatures, and to stand against all that would seek to violate or destroy them. We look upon creation as a sacrament, reflecting the glory of God, and seek to meet God through his creation, to bless it, and to celebrate it.

Members will express their care for creation in many different ways. Some may be involved in nature conservation organisations. Some may ensure that they use a renewable energy supply. Others may simply recycle their litter! There are many ways of addressing this element of the way of life.


7. Healing Fragmented People and Communities

We renounce the spirit of self-sufficient autonomy, and are committed to a much more holistic approach which was the strength of the Celtic church. We encourage the ministry of Christian healing. We not only lay hands on the sick and pray for their healing, we also 'lay hands' on every part of God's world to bless it and recognise its right to wholeness in Christ. We seek to become more fully human as we grow in Christ, and we believe that 'the glory of God is seen through a life fully lived' (Irenaeus).

In practice, this means that, beyond praying for those who are physically sick, we might also pray for inner healing (mental disorder, emotional distress, guilt, etc.) and the healing of relationships between people, churches, ethnic groups and even nations. Those with the right training and gifts may find themselves called to work in these areas. In becoming fully human we aim to become one with Christ, transformed into the people that he has called us to be.


8. Openness to God's Spirit

We aim to allow God to take us where the Spirit wills, whether by gentle breeze or wild wind. Celtic Christians, such as Saint Brendan, had such faith in the leading of the Spirit that they gladly put to sea in coracles, and went where the wind took them. We desire this kind of openness to the leading of the Spirit.

Essential to this is a proper affirmation of the gift of prophecy. St. Paul urges us all to prophesy (l Corinthians 14.1). We honour this gift and encourage its proper and appropriate use.

Learning to listen is a skill that has almost been lost, and which takes many years to acquire. We seek to cultivate an interior silence that recognises and sets aside discordant voices, to respond to unexpected or even possibly disturbing promptings of God, to widen our horizons, to develop 'the eye of the eagle' and see and hear God through his creation.

The voyage of Brendan was almost certainly undertaken in a curragh, a vessel that is somewhat larger than a coracle. The essential message here is that we need to surrender our control to God, who knows us better than ourselves, and has a plan for us that will lead us to the place where he wants us.


9. Unity

As we study the history of the Celtic church we discover the greater unity we once had as one Christian people within the one universal church. We are constantly ashamed of our divisions, and we repent of the schisms that have occurred from the Reformation onwards. We look upon all fellow Christians not as strangers but pilgrims together, and we honour those in oversight in all churches, not talking about our own denomination or others. We resist in our own lives things that damage the unity of Christ's body, and will not do separately what is best done together. The Celtic church was thoroughly indigenous to the people in a way that the church has never been since. Aidan lived alongside the people and refused to accept the practices and customs that would distance him from the people and make him seem superior.

The Celtic church honoured, trusted and went with the grain of the human communities it worked amongst. We seek to cultivate a solidarity with all people in everything except sin, to value all that is truly human in them, and to shed attitudes and practices that put up barriers between the church and the people.

We desire the healing of peoples divided by class, colour or creed and repent of our own part in these divisions.

Like Saint Paul we aim to become all things for all men ...(1 Corinthians 9:19–23). We seek to find common ground with others and avoid misunderstanding, so that we fulfil Christ's wishes that we may all be one (John 17:20-23).


10. Mission

Our aim is that 'the whole created order may be reconciled to God through Christ' (Colossians 1.20). We seek to live as one Christian community so that 'the world may believe' (John 17.21). The goal of the way of life is to develop a disciplined spirituality that will make us effective in our witness to Christ in the world.

The Celtic church evangelised from grassroots communities such as Lindisfarne, Iona and St. David's. Our evangelism springs naturally from the community of our local church, and out of this Community. Bishops like Chad and Cedd were irrepressible evangelists as they travelled around. As we live out this life, the Holy Spirit leads us into new initiatives to bring God to the people. These will usually be through our churches at local or wider Community to pray, study and accomplish a particular God-given task.

We seek to share our faith wherever opportunity is given. We evangelise not simply out of a sense of duty, but because the Spirit of God is giving us a heart for the lost. We ask God to work through us in signs and wonders for his glory, not ours.

Our mission also includes speaking out for the poor, the powerless and those unjustly treated in our society, and to minister to and with them as God directs.

As our gifting and opportunity permit we counter false teachings that put what is created, whether in the material or spirit worlds, in the place of God, through love, sound argument, prayer and demonstrations of the power of God, in the spirit of St. Patrick's Breastplate.

Celtic evangelists worked hand in hand with those in authority to bring regions and kingdoms under the rule of God, and to open doors to the gospel. We seek to dialogue and work with people of good will in places of authority and influence so that our lands may be may be led by God, and become healed lands of the glorious Trinity.

We must, of course, find our personal role in this mission. We look to the Holy Spirit to guide us, and listen to the advice of our Soul Friend and those exercising pastoral ministry in our own churches and fellowship groups. God will give us the grace fulfil the role to which he has called us, which might not be the same as our personal ambitions. We need to pray about this! (1 Corinthians 12:27-31 )


You can download a copy of our Way of Life in PDF format here.


Achieving Balance in the Way of Life

Id you go on to write your personal way of life, it is important that it is sustainable and balanced. David Cole, our 'Explorer Guide' provides us with his personal reflections on how this can be achieved. You can download it here.

Saint Benedict was of much the same mind, making stability one of the key rules in his monastic communities. It remains very much in force today, 1500 years later.

Other Languages

You can download copies of the way of life in the following Languages:

Eventually, we hope to include other translations of the 'Way of Life'.


Ray's You Tube Videos

Ray Simpson, our Founding Guardian, has created a series of videos hosted on You Tube that relate to our way of life: