Sounds of Iona June 2024

With so much busy-ness and stretch in our Community life at this time of year (meetings and decisions, gatherings and hallowings, preparations and programmes) it felt like a struggle to take the time to pause. I had been invited to join the Young Adults Group (YAG) on pilgrimage. Well, in fact I’d been invited to be their back up: to drive the car, to ferry the weary, and to generally support the vision. What a delight and a privilege. I even managed some walking along the way. 

Walking St Cuthbert’s Way

On day one, we gathered outside the gates of Melrose Abbey for early morning worship. The bin lorries provided the percussion to our spoken worship, as we were sent off by Rosie Frew, local kirk minister. This was the start of the YAG pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert, travelling from Melrose in the Scottish Borders, to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne in NE England. They’re still in the hills of the borderland as I write, having weathered sun and rain, blisters and aching muscles. 

Generous hospitality

The welcome by local church folks has been generous beyond measure. From Rosie in Melrose, to Sheila in St. Boswells and Colin in Kirk Yetholm. We’ve been met with cups of tea, great delight and prayerful curiosity. An overnight in Wooler Youth Hostel meant we bumped into other pilgrims, just returned from Portugal and other climes and now battling the rain and winds of the borderlands. Further stops with Member Louise in Bamburgh, and then with Sarah Hills, Vicar of Lindisfarne, will complete the generous flow of hospitality.  

Our Members and Associate Members, for whom we pray through the month, accompanied us as we prayed on cacophonous streets, in church halls and in busy youth hostel lounges. These, and other words from Martin Wroe took on new meaning as we reflected each morning on one of his poems.

May the road rise up to meet you
And the potholes never bring you down to meet the road.
May the wind be at your back
Only when you’ve remembered to put on your thermals.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
Neither burning your nose, nor the tips of your ears.
And the rain fall soft on your fields
On the day when you are wearing sensible footwear.
May God hold you in the palm of her hand
Never breaking into applause nor mistaking you for a stress ball…..

Martin Wroe, Julian of Norwich’s Teabag

Stillness in the flux

As we walked, we talked and we held silence. Some of our conversation inevitably turned to upcoming decisions for the Community and to the hope we can see in a renewed commitment to youth and eco work. I was reminded of a story told to me earlier this month by Maxwell MacLeod about how his father, George, insisted that his happiness would be complete if he saw the Iona Community change. (He affirmed towards the end of his life that he was happy, apparently.) As we journey together with intent, in this Community – as we pilgrimage – there will be more changes ahead. Some may hit us with grief or frustration. Some may bring on bouts of joy and hope. Perhaps part of our calling is to find a steadfastness, a stillness in the flux.  

In all of this, with so much busy-ness and such stretch, so much change and flux, perhaps the overwhelming feeling I have at the moment, after days of pilgrimage and gentle, intentional reflection, is gratitude.

For what we are about to receive
The water we drink
The air we breathe
The fire of sun
The food of earth
The company, these people
This now, this here,
May we be thankful
May we be aware
How every day is a gift
And every breath a prayer

Martin Wroe


Photo credits: Iona Community/J Woodruff

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