Iona Abbey

30 June 2012

After our return from North Cornwall, I had to do a quick turn around to get to Iona. It’s pretty far, by UK standards. At 4 am I took a taxi to Bristol Airport, EasyJet to Edinburgh, Airlink bus to the Edinburgh Waverly Rail Station, Train to Glasgow, Change train to Oban, Ferry to Mull, bus across the Ross of Mull (some may remember that I biked it last year), ferry to Iona, walk to Iona Abbey in abysmal weather, arriving at 6:30pm. The welcome was wonderfully warm. I stayed at the Abbey itself (last year I camped and then stayed at the hostel), I had 3 terrific roommates.

At the Abbey, one lives in community, that means that we do chores and worship together. I was an “otter,” on the breakfast crew. So the rhythm for me was: 7:45 am gather to set up for breakfast, 8:15 serve and eat, 8:45ish wash up as fast as possible, 9 Worship, 9:30ish back to the Refectory to finish washing up and chop vegetables for supper, finishing about 10 am, when our programme would start. Lunch, varied afternoon offerings, Supper, and 9 pm Worship rounded out the day. The programme was a “Circle of Trust” programme, run wonderfully by Jean Richardson of the Kirkridge Retreat Center. It is based on Parker Palmer’s work, for which he’s written books like A Hidden Wholeness. Very well done by Jean. Being that it involved trust, I won’t say much, except that part of it involves deep listening. I found it sacramental and feel blessed by the presence of my fellow travelers. Tuesday is pilgrimage day. A 6-7 hour tromp around the island with 60 people, going to various sites, including the marble quarry, St. Columba’s Beach, the Machair, the Hermit’s Cell and other points. Here are a few pics.

I participated a lot in the worship. On the first day, Sunday, I was a chalice minister. Something I do at St. Andrew’s and find it sacred. On Monday, I ended up playing violin on some hymns. On Tuesday night I was asked to read. Tuesday night is always the Healing Service. I took this really seriously, because last year at the Healing Service, I had a life changing moment. I read Psalm 30. I participated in a lot of other activities. I went to the Ceilidh on one night. It involves folk dancing and I seriously kicked up my heals! Much of it with Jean. There were a couple nights at the Martyr’s Bay Pub, where gin and tonics (with Botanist gin, a local brew) flowed generously, as did the tales… Some idiot kept yelling “oopa!!!” Oops, I think that was me, the only Greek… On Wednesday, I played in the talent show, the Adagio from the G Minor Unaccompanied Sonata of JS Bach and the Ashokan Farewell. I believe it was Thursday when Jean got the crazy idea that she really wanted to swim, so of course I went with. The waters surrounding Iona are beautiful, so much like the Aegean. However, the temperatures are quite different!!!!

Despite having a cold, I think I absorbed much. Living in community, listening deeply, and worshipping. On Thursday night, they do a beautiful Farewell Communion. They put a very long table running the length of the Quire. Everyone is welcome to the table, absolutely everyone. And that meant so much to me. I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures this year, since I have so many from last year. But here are a few.

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One thought on “Iona Abbey

  1. Janet

    Good to hear that the retreat was so worthwhile. How nice to build on last year’s experiences.

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