Dear Friends in Christ,
I have just returned from a blessed week at Annual Conference Session. The theme this year was Testify to Love: Your Story Matters and it reminded me again of the importance of sharing our faith stories with one another. Our own hope and healing is interconnected and found in the stories of others. You’ll be hearing more about some of the stories from Annual Conference over the summer, but especially on July 23, when Lynda Jamieson will be sharing her experiences from the conference.
One of the things I really miss from living in England are the centuries old parish churches and cathedrals. I have always found them to be “thin places” where I can feel both God’s presence and the presence of the Saints through the ages. Last summer, Adrian and I vacationed in Scotland and we spent a day on the Island of Iona visiting Iona Abbey. This was one of my “bucket list” of places to visit. The photographs we are using for our Living the Blessed Way sermon series are from our visit. It was amazing to realize that people have been making pilgrimages to Iona and worshipping at the location of the current abbey since St Columba arrived in the year 563 and founded a monastery.
A Benedictine abbey and an Augustine nunnery were founded on Iona around 1200, but they fell into ruin during the Reformation in the mid-1500s. The abbey was restored in the early 20th century and the Iona Community was founded in 1938. Today the restored abbey and surrounding buildings are in daily use by the Iona Community and they lead morning and evening worship and an afternoon summer prayer service. We attended the prayer service and prayed for peace around the world. The Iona Community also has a mainland base in Glasgow and is known for its work for peace and justice and its renewal of worship.
In the Celtic tradition, the Holy Spirit is represented as a wild goose rather than a peaceful and serene dove landing on Jesus at his baptism. Imagine the Spirit descending like a wild, noisy goose! Wild geese aren’t controllable. You can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud. A goose’s honk is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving – and just a bit scary. In much the same way the Spirit of God can be, demanding and unsettling. The Iona Community’s publishing arm based in Glasgow is called “Wild Goose Publications” and for many years now I have enjoyed their publications with their innovative liturgy, prayers and songs, which was one of the reasons that I was eager to visit Iona. We’ll use some of these prayers and songs during our Living the Blessing Way worship series this month.
Maybe one day, I will return and participate in the Iona Community. As the quote on the abbey museum wall said in Gaelic: “Am fear a thèid a dh’l, thèid e trì uairean ann.” Which is a saying that means those who come to Iona will come not once, but three times!
May you be blessed by your travels and experiences this summer.
— Pastor Joan