The Community of Aidan and Hilda is an internationally dispersed community of Christians following a Way of Life and a Rule of Prayer.
Sixty members, described as Voyagers, and over 100 Explorers, who are testing out their membership, keep in touch with Community Guardians in places such as Lindisfarne and London from their homes in the UK and around the world. A sister community in the US has over 100 Voyagers.
Founded in 1994, the Community is the fruit of regular meetings and prayer between seven church workers who discovered a shared vision for
a new way of being church,
says the Community's International Guardian, Ray Simpson.
Meeting overnight once every three months at a Christian centre in central England, they developed a Way of Life. After three years, this was presented at a symposium where they attracted their first 27 members.
Annual gatherings in central England continue. Voyagers also take an annual retreat together at Whitby. Regional groups are developing, with a particularly thriving group in Zimbabwe. Community houses in Birmingham and Lindisfarne provide 'spiritual homes'.
They're very important as places anybody feels they can come to,
says Ray. There can also be linked ministries, cells and churches.
Aside from face-to-face meetings such as these, the community stays in touch through the internet, a magazine, prayer, and hospitality in members' homes
A quarterly magazine and prayer diary lists every Voyager and Explorer, while detailed prayer requests are received at the Lindisfarne home of the community, the Open Gate, where they are offered at the midday and night prayer services each day.
Ray describes these daily prayer patterns as
Members know that there is prayer at midday and 9pm at the Open Gate,
The daily rhythm of prayer is not prescribed; it is encouraged. The liturgical use the daily pattern; the non-liturgical use it as a resource.
Voyagers have access to PALM on the community's website, a prayer and listening ministry where Voyagers can post prophetic words, insights and prayers.
As a mark of identification, every new Voyager receives a wooden Celtic cross inscribed with A and H, and a handbook. Each Voyager is accompanied by a 'soul friend' to help them on their faith journey. Ray keeps in touch with members individually by telephone and email. Each member works with a soul friend, and the community seeks to resource soul friends.
This close communication from the heart of the community means that people all over the world are finding a way to be part of church. Ray tells of a heavy metal band leader in Australia whose band is now a link ministry with the community, and of a cell church in Oxfordshire made up of members of different churches, which finds a coherence through membership of Aidan and Hilda.
And it is not just church members who find a spiritual home in the community.
Aidan and Hilda is a bridge for a lot of people who are very New Age or neo-pagan and have a vision of Jesus or are inspired by contact with the community,
One such woman was baptised in the sea after discussing the nature of church with Ray. Unable to commit to the church as she viewed it, she felt she could commit to the 'family and friends of Jesus' and even worship with them in places she might find difficult.
Until fresh expressions we would have said we were not a church, but I think now we realise that the universal Body of Christ is bigger than any one part,