The latest film in our year long campaign to tell our story here in the Diocese of Leeds is a glimpse into the life of St Aidan's in Harehills, Leeds where ‘In Christ there is no foreigner, in Christ we are all kin’ underpins its ministry.
This is a richly diverse and challenging parish on one of the more deprived outskirts of Leeds and its vicar, the Revd Andi Hofbauer, describes the parish and ministry on the day we came with our cameras.
“We remember well the day when the Diocesan team and the cameras came…an ordinary Sunday at St Aidan’s, Leeds…
…an exciting and demanding parish, engaged in and enabling distinctive and distinguished service to and within the local community in a challenging, richly diverse part of Leeds, combining a catholic spirituality with a desire for social justice and service to the local community.
Over a dozen nationalities, settled or strangers, comfortable or poor, new Christians, seekers or long-standing members, excellent English or hardly any, gathering week-in-week-out to worship, to learn, to grow, to share life together.
And it is the Mass, with its rich liturgy and great gestures, its unconditional welcome and its grace-given compassion, which anchors us in the mystery of Christ’s self-giving love, sets us on the path of life and calls our response in love and service. This is not ‘just a proud tradition of the past’, but at the heart of our calling as God’s people in this place.
And combine that with our many distinct ways of Christian service: be that twice-weekly English classes through HELP (Harehills English Language Project), be that the weekly food share and the regular community meal feeding 70-100 people, be that hosting a weekly drop-in by PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and the weekly Eritrean church services, be that working with the various communities within our congregation and our community, with the hungry, the homeless, the refugees, the strangers – these are all ways through which we under Christ play our part in making present a bit of the Kingdom of God.
Pictured left is the Bible study class.
Here is our opportunity not only to serve, but also through our love and example to help those who are recipients of our services to learn to become servants of the Living God themselves. If people can say about us ‘see how they love and serve each other’ they will not be able to help themselves but to be drawn in. Pictured right is the St Aidan's church family
“Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” - this was straight from the Gospel of the day, when the diocesan team came to film that Sunday in October.
‘And’ I preached, ‘we need to mark this well, my friends, the foreigner understands the sting of prejudice and oppression. I am one myself.
‘The foreigner understands the rootlessness that characterises the stranger’s life. And these are all experiences that shaped the story of Israel and its Messiah.
‘And foreigners are not just “over there.” They are our neighbours, we are your neighbours, we are colleagues, we are family, we are friends, we are part of this church congregation and the people with whom we share life.
‘Foreigner’, a word so much tinged with contempt.
But, my friends, people of God, but…
…in Christ there is no foreigner, there is no stranger. In Christ we, all of us, are kin.’