Following in the footsteps of St Aidan

The first thing Aidan did when he arrived in this country from his native Ireland was to walk the streets, 'learn the language' and live out the gospel amongst the people where they were.

It is this model, that Andi Hofbauer hopes to emulate when she takes up her first parish at St Aidans, in Harehills, Leeds after six and a half years at Wakefield Cathedral as Canon Precentor.

For Andi too is an incomer. Born in Frankfurt Main, she left her native west Germany on Lady Day in 1998 to follow her passion for the sea with the Mersey Mission for Seafarers and has never looked back. 

She had studied theology back home but never felt called to the Lutheran Church. Her degree took her to Edinburgh New College for a year and it soon became clear to her that she had a calling to be a priest in the Church of England. Andi served her curacy in Teignmouth, Devon and then spent four years as part time chaplain at Exeter University, ran reader training programmes for that diocese and was involved with the South West ministry training course.

But it was the liturgy that spoke to her and brought her to Wakefield Cathedral for the post of Canon Precentor where she began to explore the gospel in the liturgy in more and more meaningful ways.

Said Andi: “For me, every act of worship has to have the three core values of reverence, joy and awe - in what combination and proportion entirely depending on the situation, context and congregation of each service.

“But Christianity to me is not a comfort blanket. It is a social gospel and we have to put the gospel into action – to work with the least of our brothers and sisters.

“Wakefield is a gritty area. We have to push outwards with the gospel. So besides worship being due service to our God, besides it being nurture and strengthening of the people of God for their daily lives and their discipleship, worship also is to be missional, with a openness to outreach and an invitation to the conversion of hearts and lives touched by the living God,” she said.

And the highlight for Andi was the liturgy for Bishop Nick’s enthronement in summer 2014.

“It couldn’t have been more missional – to have two thirds of the service outside with 600 members of the congregation there and a further 200 to 300 people drifting through, stopping for a while or joining in, dropping in to the cathedral to have a glass of wine in celebration or lighting a candle before being on their way. 

“At Wakefield, I feel we have developed a style that is true to our tradition but also fun, and open and welcoming to others from different traditions. That comes particularly through in diocesan or special services, but also when our Director of Music and I used to stick our heads together for say an Advent Carol Service or quite recently for a celebratory service for the SSAFFA.

“Liturgy, words and music coming together to create a greater whole than the individual components would suggest,” she added.

Another highlight for Andi was the working partnership at Wakefield.

“The clergy team was so different in many ways and yet we worked so well together- we've always been bigger and better together and I want that as a model for the way I lead the community here,” she said.

It is this working together that she is looking forward to in Harehills. Already St Aidan’s has strong working links with its local community, with asylum seekers; runs classes to teach English as a Second Language and every Sunday the church gives out around 80 food parcels– made up of contributions from local shops, businesses and church members working together.

“St Aidan’s is the type of parish I thought I would never get. It is catholic in its spirituality with an almost daily Mass and is deeply committed to serving those in the greatest need.

“And I can’t wait to be part of it,” she added. Andi was installed by Bishop Paul Slater on Dec 17th.

 

 

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