Returning from Sabbatical
August 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I am back this week from a refreshing time of Sabbatical. I was blessed with time for reading, reflecting, travel, and meeting with colleagues. In May my spouse and I spent three weeks in the U.K. We were on the Island of Iona for several days, on Lindisfarne or Holy Island overnight, and I visited colleagues in Scotland and England who are all engaged in supporting the Ministry of All the Baptized.
Iona is the island off the west coast of Scotland where St. Columba set up a monastery in 563 which became a center for missionary activity. St. Columba’s Bay is on the south end of the island and is said to be the place where he landed his boat (or others say his boat was washed ashore there).
The abbey church that stands today was originally built in the 1200s, much later than Columba. Because of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Reformation, the abbey church fell into disuse and disrepair, although there was a failed attempt in the 1630s to restore it to use. In the 20th century (between 1902 and 1965), with the initiatives of several people, the church was restored. Today the well known ecumenical Iona Community leads morning and evening worship, as well as a shorter early afternoon prayer service.
On our first evening on the island, I went to the evening service at 9 pm. The community is warmly welcoming and I felt deeply blessed to pray with them and other visitors like myself. They make their resources for liturgy available through Wild Goose Resources based in Glasgow, Scotland. I was delighted to be able to attend several services, including a communion service on Ascension Day.
From Iona, we visited St. Peter’s Church in Galashiels and St. John’s in Selkirk (both in Scotland), and my colleagues who work with them. Both faith communities are engaging in collaborative ministry as they are able. Moving on from Scotland to England, we stayed overnight on Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast of England. It too has a long and venerable history, and today has an active parish church where I enjoyed evening prayer, again with some local people and many visitors like myself.
Other colleagues hosted us in Newcastle and then in Hereford (both in England). Both of them have been very involved over the years in Local Collaborative Ministry as it is known there. Both currently support the Ministry of all the Baptized. I picked up some good ideas from them and had great conversations about the theology and practice of ministry.
At the end of our trip, we relaxed for a few days near St. David’s, Wales. St. David’s is the name of the town. The cathedral there was begun in about 1180, built on the site of an earlier monastery founded by St. David, patron saint of Wales. The cathedral today serves the local community as well as the many visitors who come.
Visiting churches in the U.K. gives me a different perspective of the Church, in part because many of them are so old, going back to the medieval period or before. In spite of attacks by Vikings, in spite of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Reformation, in spite in spite of all the vicissitudes throughout the centuries, the places named above are places of worship and service today. While the buildings themselves are impressive, I was impressed more by the people who continue to serve God and engage God’s mission today. I felt the power of God at work in and through the people. I experienced holy places, and what the Celtic people called “thin spots.” I am very grateful for these experiences, and continue to savor them.