I was ordained as a priest in 1974 and was given a communion set used by my uncle when he was a chaplain in the Second World War.
My uncle had trained at St Aidan’s College, Birkenhead which closed in 1969. This is significant because it left the North West of England without a full-time ordination route.
More than 40 years later the North West bishops decided to revive the embers of St Aidan’s by entering into a partnership with St Mellitus College in London, forming “St Mellitus North West : the St Aidan’s Centre”, based at Liverpool Cathedral. Three years on this college is thriving with 70 students drawn from across the northwest and beyond.
They do “on the job” training in parishes as well as studying the bible and theology.
This kind of mixed mode training makes the course more accessible to people from all walks of life.
Last month in London, I attended the graduation of the first North West students. I was asked to present a communion set to Jason Powell, a curate from the Manchester Diocese.
The set had been sent by a former St Aidan’s student who was now retired and living in Australia.
Like my uncle’s set it had been used in the Second World War as well as on sheep and cattle stations, in construction camps and Iron Ore towns.
It had been used in shearing sheds and community halls, in homes and small churches.
Jason, who received the set, had been a sound engineer. Without the reviving of a full-time ordination route in the North West it simply would not have been possible for Jason to train for ordination.
At the moving ceremony, I reflected on how holy communion connects us to men and women of faith across the ages.
I was glad of the reminder that St Aidan was a Northern saint from the seventh century, famous for his gentle ways of bringing the light of the Christian faith to the north.
And I must consider carefully to whom to pass my set when the time comes.