bishop of the prairie
Aidan's life has been marked by several awakenings, each opening his mind and heart to the transcendent love of God. The first was in 2000 when he attended an Orthodox Church for the first time. Having grown up Southern Baptist, the icons, chanting, incense, and candles were all very foreign. Yet the ancient worship of Orthodoxy called out to his soul in a unique way. This began a lifelong study of church history, historical theology, and the mysticism of Eastern Christianity. In 2004, while traveling with a ministry group, Aidan read the Gospels straight through for the first time. The Jesus he saw was one of compassion, love, and mercy, who cared most deeply about the poor and the oppressed; a revolutionary who spoke out against conservative religious leaders and their laws and traditions that put up walls between people and God. That year he began the process of formally converting to Orthodox Christianity. However, after two confirmation classes and much individual study, Aidan was unable to endorse the theology of Orthodoxy as the “one true Church” and that of closed communion. Despite a strong call to ministry, he attended law school rather than seminary. While in law school, and as a practicing attorney, he became involved in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman. The Episcopal Church maintained a broad theological umbrella which could include Orthodox theology and mysticism without the exclusionary theology of the “canonical” Orthodox Churches. In 2009, he committed himself as a life member of the Oakerhater Community, a religious community of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, named for St. David Pendelton Oakerhater. In 2012, while on pilgrimage in Egypt and Turkey, Aidan visited the desert monasteries of St. Anthony and Wadi El Natrun, Hagia Sophia, and the Patriarchal Church of St. George. Upon return to the United States he was deeply grieved in spirit and sought spiritual counsel. His Abbot, Fr. Dwight Helt, recommended a retreat at St. Francis of the Woods, a spiritual renewal center with deep roots in American Orthodoxy, and the center where the Oakerhater Community was formed. After a weekend retreat it was another two years before Aidan would visit again. In 2014, while looking up directions to a court hearing in Pawnee, he heard a voice telling him to stop by and ask if he could help out at St. Francis of the Woods. When he arrived he was met with the news that they were in search of a new director. He was hired three months later. After training with Bishop Dismas Markel, he was ordained as a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in America in 2015. He took the name Columba at his ordination in honor of St. Columba of Iona. In 2019, at the request of Bishop Dismas and the Board of Directors, Fr. Aidan was consecrated as Bishop Aidan, in honor of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. Fr. Aidan has practiced hesychasm, the mystical contemplative prayer of Eastern Christianity for over fifteen years. His theology is deeply Orthodox, and non-dualistic in the tradition of St. Gregory Palamas. In recent years, he has been influenced heavily by Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, the Sufi poetry of Hafiz and Rumi, and by the Upanishads of the Hindu tradition.