Today’s Kalendar commemorates St. Aidan, the 7th C. missionary to the Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, in northeast England and southeast Scotland. Aidan was an Irish monk at Iona on the west coast of Scotland. At the invitation of the King of Northumbria he traveled there to convert that kingdom’s pagan subjects. The monastery Aidan established on the coast at Lindisfarne became a renowned center of learning and evangelism until it was overrun a few centuries later by Viking invaders.
With the king’s sponsorship Aidan’s efforts to convert the nobility were successful. But he also made converts among poor people and slaves. He walked from village to village, listening and talking with anyone he met along the way, and people responded warmly to his interest and concern for them. When he received gifts from the wealthy he gave them away; as alms for free men and women who were impoverished and as payments to emancipate those persons who were slaves.
In his approach to evangelism, paying sincere attention to rich and poor together, he anticipated by 1500 years the Baptismal promise we make today, “to respect the dignity of every human being.” He treated all alike—“all sorts and conditions.” Thus Aidan provides us with a model for mission in our own day.
O God the creator and preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known to them, thy saving health unto all nations. (From the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It appears in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer for occasional use in both Morning and Evening Prayer.)
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington