Archive for September, 2015

Scotland 2015 #5 – Staffa, Concert & all sorts of interesting stuff

 It’s just after 2.30 on a now-sunny Iona afternoon as Dale and I share tea and coffee at the St Columba Hotel just down the road from the Mac. It also doubles as our wifi spot. That’s the view from our bay window. Mull in the distance.

The sessions with the Wild Goose team continue to go well. They’re really stretching us when it comes to creativity and openness in exploring scripture and in possibilities in worship.

Days ago we paid our $100 for the 3 hour return boat trip to the famous island of Staffa, 10 km off Mull and site of puffins in season and particularly Fingal’s Cave – the inspiration for Mendelsohn’s Hebrides Overture.  Yesterday morning we woke to terribly windy and wet weather. By large, the sun was out and the wind down. I really enjoyed the trip, though the boat did do its share of lurching from side to side on the choppy seas. 

Staffa (along with some adjacent islands) is famous for its amazing vertical basalt columns, and of course, the cave. Here are just some of the many pictures we took on the way to this island almost 60 million years old …


We got back soon after 5 pm, wind and seaspray swept but time well spent, though sadly not puffin season.

Evening worship was not worship in the traditional sense; not worship all that closely. Rather, almost every available space, book or cranny in the Abbey was set up for a 60 minute “installation” coordinated by Graham Maule – connecting us with that rarelty read and barely understood book, Song of Songs (of Solomon). I found this a rich experience at exploring and reflecting on passionate love – though 19 hours on, I still felt a struggle to make sufficient “God connections”. But that’s me. 8 different opportunities at various stations. Some of the visuals were quite “out there”eg a bed placed in the centre of the abbey – red sheets and pillows. 

Last night we had the weekly guests concert. It was a hoot. Dale and I performed, not for the first time, our Pete Seeger medley. Very well received. Time prevented us from sharing my recent song, Bring your peace, Lord – prompted by recent journey with “Mike” and his family up to his recent passing.

I’m enjoying this free afternoon – chance to go at my own pace. A few random other pics from recent days.

Tomorrow, sadly we head off. An early breakfast is followed by a Leaving Service in the Abbey – then down the well trodden road to the ferry. Then off in our hire car to the other side of Mull, car ferry to Oban, then off to our lodgings on the banks of Loch Ness.



Scotland 2015 #4 – Iona Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is such an essential aspect of Iona. Anyone who comes here, even if only from Mull (which means very few) has had to make some sort of pilgrimage. Back in the 6th century Columba journeyed from Ireland to Iona on a boat called a ‘coracle’. Pilgrimage … journeying is essential as I see it to being Christian.

So … not for the first time I took the weekly Tuesday 4 hour pilgrimage around much of Iona. On road, that is. Many from our group took the 7 hour off road version- through bogs, rocky cliffs etc. I managed it 10 years back – not now 😀

Under the delightful leadership of Dora from Uganda we headed off from St Martin’s cross, just outside the Abbey. This is the oldest original Celtic cross on Iona – first erected in the 13th century.

Every 10 minutes or so on our pilgrimage we would stop, while Dora explained a spot’s historical or religious significance. She would then lead us in some verses from scripture, offer a prayer and invite reflection. For example, at the Nunnery ruins we reflected on significant women in our lives.

At Martyr’s Bay and following some words from Oscar Romero we reflected on those Christians who have suffered much for their faith. Would we? Have we?

When we came to a crossroads, we were caused to reflect on directions our life had taken … those still needing to be taken. 

When we came to the Macchair (a long raised, grassy beach on the Atlantic west) we enjoyed warning hot Tea and flapjacks 

Then movingly we walked to the water’s edge – the shore astrewn with rounded small rocks. We were invited to take two rocks; to throw one symbolically into the water – signifying what we have chosen to let go of in our life; the second to keep – a reminder of what in hope we need to hang on to.

    Then, the sun shining beautifully on the island mid afternoon, we headed back towards the Abbey to St Oran’s Chapel – oldest surviving religious building (12th century) on Iona. 48 early Scottish monarchs  are buried there. Just so much history at this place, and that’s before you even start on the Christian spirituality!

Yet another stimulating experience – physical, spiritual, communal and historical all in one. My tired legs will rest well tonight. Tonight is the weekly Service of Prayer for Healing, the liturgy of which I adapted for use back at my home church just a few weeks ago.


Scotland 2015 #3 Blog catch-up

Making wifi hay while the sun shines. Really sunny right now. We’ve had our share of rain the past two days here on Iona. It’s Tuesday morning – morning teatime as I blog this.

Dale took some lovely pics last Saturday morning as we drove from Edinburgh to Oban. Here’s a couple …

We’re here for the Viable Alternatves in worship workshop with the Wild Goose group. Already through fresh ways of exploring texts, some superb worship songs (great lyrics, deep theology) and creative worship, we’ve begun exploring our theme.

Last night in the Abbey, traditionally a service for peace and justice, the theme, provocatively was dubbed God and Her Girls. Wasn’t sure what to expect. It was so moving, as one after another, often-unheralded, brave women from the scriptures were honoured, and God acknowledged through it all. Dale offered to be part of the leadership team. This meant her being part of a small group who one at a time, walked the length of the Abbey nave, bringing a large candle to the communion table. We prayed for those women who know only abuse and violence in their lives. While a beautiful Alleluia  was sung, we were all invited to come forward to light a tealight candle to acknowledge significant women in our journey.. I found this service so meaningful.

The night is not over. We head – with seemingly most of the community & guests to the village hill for the weekLy ceilidh – a mixture of dancing, song and poetry reading. All good fun.

11 pm, we each head for bed. I manage 8 hours again. Three consecutive nights of good sleep. In all sorts of ways, this place is so good for me.


Scotland 2015 #2 – to Iona, settling into life in community

Being on Iona, this isolated Inner Hebridean island is like being removed from so much of the demand of life. That’s been my experience in the blessing of two previous visits. It’s shaping up the same way this time too; just heightened by living in community (spoken by an introvert here) and the inspirational leadership of John Bell, Graham Maule and Jo Love from the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community. An amazing team of volunteers, drawn from across the globe works alongside. 

It’s so lovely, taking a slow walk along the quiet road that stretches from the north to near the south of the Island, looking out across brilliant green fields where geese are grazing (yes, you read this correctly) to the Ross of Mull and it’s calm northern Atlantic waters. It’s lovely just sitting, let alone worshiping together amid the beauty of the historic abbey. I could stay here a long, long time.
Anyhow, back a few days …

On Saturday morning we departed around 6 pm from our Airbnb and after confusion with directions from the trusty Garmin, we headed somewhat northwest to Oban on the west coast,Oban being a key departure point for travelers to the Hebridean isles. We passed through some truly lovely country, past many a beautiful loch, through many a glen, making it to Oban in good time to get our car in line for the huge vehicular ferry that would take us to Craignure at Mull.

Driving across Mull (about an hour) was an interesting experience – single lane road for an hour, frequently pulling over to let vehicles by, sheep also having right of way.

Getting to Fionnphort, we park the car and catch the ferry across, receiving a warm welcome from Iona Community folk on the Iona jetty. The rest of the day is spent settling in, enjoying the beauty of the place, doing some community- building before finishing the day at 9 pm in the Abbey, with a Service of Welcome. Dale and I, awake thanks to delayed jet lag since 3 pm decide to get some sleep, Dale in her quarters downstairs in the Macleod Centre ( the “Mac”) and me upstairs. That’s how it’s done here. We both manage 8 1/2 hours sleep. So, so good! 

 Sunday morning after breakfast, we begin our daily “tasks”- the cleaning duties we are all part of – work and worship as one. I offer to do the daily upstairs vacuuming. I’m part of the “Seals” group – responsible also for evening meal setup, serving, cleanup and wash up.

 Then it’s down to the Abbey for Sunday morning communion (most worship is lay-led), for which I had offered to be a communion server. John Bell was the preacher and he preached – so topically as it proved – on the Matthew 2 Massacre of the Innocents (as church history records it) by King Herod. Bell is world-renowned for his immense contribution over almost three decades to church music. He is just as inspiring as a preacher. Challenging too, as he spoke out about the treatment by countries around the world (and I think regrettably of my own when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers). Would we welcome a 16 year old mother with her infant child … Jesus? So Bell provocatively asked.  

Lunch is this wonderful lamb curry, with lovely vegetables on the side. Meals wth the Iona Community are mainly vegetarian, so this was a real treat. Miriam, the young chief cook from NW England joined us at our table for main course. Many wonderful compliments came her way.
 A bit of shut-eye, an email/Facebook check at the St Columba Hotel and it’s time for a truly wonderful Big Sing led by our three Wild Goose leaders. No guitars. No piano. No percussion. We, all 60 of us are it, and what a marvelous ” it” we are. Song after song, acapella in beautiful 4 part harmony – a great many of these songs borne out of struggles toward justice and freedom. Many from the world church. Powerful. Powerful.

excuse this one, it snuck in from Royal Mile, Edinburgh

One of the God’s great gifts through the Iona Community is not only its ecumenical outlook; it’s also its international complexion. There are people here from Uganda, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Canada, USA, New Zealand and a few like us from Australia.   


Scotland 2015 #1 – long flights, Loch Lomond, Godly Play, Edinburgh Castle … and hay fever 

Well, we’re relaxing at our marvelous airbnb just a stone’s throw from one end of the famed Edinburgh Royal Mile. We’re just two minutes walk from Holyrood House and Scotland’s Parliament House.

Anyhow, we flew out from Brisbane on Wednesday morning at the unearthly hour of 2.3o pm – three 7 hour+ legs ahead of us. I wasn’t looking forward to that. However the Emirates service was great, and even without my C-Pap machine I managed about 2 hours sleep on each leg. A first! We accessed Emirates airline lounge in Dubai (massive airport) – the shower was great, then headed onto Glasgow arriving around 8 pm and soon heading to the Glasgow Airport Ramada. A close and comfortable choice.

We managed reasonable sleep and after a delicious buffet breakfast (our week on Iona won’t provide that) we checked out early, picked up our hire car and headed off – impromptu decision to Luss, on the “Bonny, Bonny, banks of Loch Lomond”. Dale sighted a 90 minute cruise so we went for it. Truly lovely and so peaceful.


Tick to Loch Lomond then off to Edinburgh and our airbnb. Ordinary late lunch on the way at a BP Wild Bean Cafe and we , aided by our trusty own Garmin GPS, get to our lodgings. Joanne and Dave are great hosts and our room is fine. Time to check out the Royal Mile. It’s well and truly a mile. We feel it by the time we reach the other end just beneath Edinburgh Castle. Along the way Dale’s search for a bagpipe chanter reed proves fruitless, we manage a so-so dinner at a little cafe off the Mile called Circus, I sidle up to statues of Sir Walter Scott and John Knox, peer our heads 1/5 way (hardly) through the Holyrood House gates and spend time in St Giles Cathedral. Oh, my hay fever has started; “tap” running! All said and done, great day.

Despite the discomfort of my hay fever, we sleep soundly and head off after breakfast to the lovely Clarinda’s Tea House for breakfast part 2!

Dale is a teacher in Godly Play, so, pre-arranged we spend a delightful 2 hours at the HQ of Godly Play Scotland.

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Then, as we like to do, we, hop on one of the many hop on – hop off buses and see some impressive Old Town and New Town sights, before alighting just beneath Edinburgh Castle – surely a “must do” and surely a “glad we did”! So much history there going back 1700 years … and excellent weather today.


Castle done, we head to the National Museum, of Scotland. Dale takes some time out to do some journaling while I check out some Scottish history there. The hay fever has turned into a not-pretty waterfall ny now, so Sudafed in hand and Italian restaurant pizza and soup in tummies, it’s back to our airbnb and a nice hot shower. Oh – to blog this and pack the car. We’ve got a 3.5 hour drive tomorrow at 7 am to Oban on the west coast – ferry to Mull, drive across island then short ferry ride to Iona.

Cheers – David

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