Today is the feats day of St Aidan. Aidan has a special place in my heart because I have such fond memories of my time as a curate at St Aidan’s Church – part of Sheffield Manor Parish. The long term memory is the last to go – and I remember my first Sunday there. It wasn’t in church, but on a sponsored walk with members of the local probation hostel. I remember all the people I met on Norfolk Park, Claywood flats, Skye Edge and City Road.
Aidan was an Irish monk at a monatery in Iona. King Oswald was committed to restoring Christianity to the region. Iona first sent a bishop named Corman for this task. He failed to make any headway, saying that Northumbrians were too stubborn to be converted. Aidan was then sent. Apparently he criticised the methods used by Corman. I wonder what Corman did wrong. We get a clue from the way the Aidan is reported to have gone about his task. Aidan did it slowly. He walked. He spoke politely to the people he met. One legend reports that the king gave Aidan a horse so that he wouldn’t have to walk. This undermined Aidan’s methods and he gave the horse to a beggar. Without the horse, Aidan could talk to people on their own level, and walk at their own pace. So, he slowly brought Christianity to the Northumbrian communities.
Lessons for us?
- Some methods of evangelism don’t work – and they never have.
- Level with people
- Slow down – be patient – take time
The Collect for St Aidan’s Day emphasises Aidan’s personal qualities:
you sent the gentle bishop Aidan
to proclaim the gospel in this land:
grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility and love for the poor;
through Jesus Christ.
And why do I have such fond memories of St Aidan’s Sheffield? That’s because of the patience, humility and love of the person – John Jacob whose responsibility it was to train me as a curate. From that moment I have realised the importance of time. Learning, training and change all take time. They have to be timed well with gentleness, simplicity, humility and love.