Saturday, November 28, 2015

Invitation to a Christian Intentional Community and a Rule of Life - The Aidan Way - Ancient Celtic Christian



The Celtic church affirmed and used the ministry of the Anamchara or soul friend. A Soul Friend is 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. The Christian and his/her anamchara will work together to develop a Rule of Life personally suited to the Christian. The Rule of Life relates to the following three life-giving principles and ten areas of life, and will be reviewed at agreed intervals.

Three Life-Giving Principles

#1 Simplicity

Resisting greed

Resisting possessiveness

Resisting the desire to selfishly manipulate people or creation

Being bold to give all we have to God

#2 Purity

Giving to God our whole being

Making ourselves available to all with generosity and openness

Respecting every person and being

#3 Obedience

Joyfully abandoning ourselves to God

Listening attentively to God

Honoring those God has placed in authority over us

Ten Elements of the Aidan 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 Christians, 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 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 memorizing Scriptures, and learning through the use of creative arts.

#2 Spiritual Journey

A Soul Friend is a friend with whom we openly share our spiritual journey. We meet with our Soul Friend at least twice a year. (S)he 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 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.

#3 Rhythm of Prayer, Work and Re-creation

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 St.Aidan Trust provides patterns of worship which are suited to the Way.

Ways of praying will vary according to temperament. The Community encourages 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 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 as valuable 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.

#4 Spiritual Initiatives through Intercession

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.

#5 Simplicity of Life-style

We wish to 'live simply that others may simply live', to avoid any sense of judging one another; and God will make different demands of each of us. 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 are ordered in a way that liberates the spirit; we 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 is a time 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.

#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.

#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).

#8 Openness to God's Spirit

We allow God to take us where the Spirit wills, whether by gentle breeze or wild wind. The Celtic Christians had such faith in the leading of the Spirit that they gladly put to sea in small 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 disturbing promptings of God, to widen our horizons, to develop 'the eye of the eagle' and see and hear God through his creation.

#9 Unity

As we study the history of the Celtic church we discover the 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.

#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 led by God, and become healed lands of the glorious Trinity.

According to David Cole, it is all about balance.

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.


  1. "We allow God to take us where the Spirit wills, whether by gentle breeze or wild wind". What a trust is required to allow this! But what an adventure when we an abandon ourselves to this sacrifice of our own personal dreams and plans and allow God to direct us at His discretion. I pray to have the wisdom to stand out of the way of spiritual progress. Thank you for directing me to this thought provoking and beautifully written post.

  2. The Celts use the Wild Goose to symbolize the Holy Spirit. See Father David Pivonka's series on the Holy Spirit called "The Wild Goose".