Saturday – September 21, 2013
A pilgrimage, defined in many different ways throughout the centuries, has been defined by some as a “long and difficult journey to a site of religious significance for the purposes of spiritual growth.” If there would be a picture in the dictionary next to that definition, you would see a photo of this group next to it as an illustration.
Saturday began with breakfast, then packing up the van, hugs and tear-filled goodbyes to our Iona hosts, and then preparing for the walk to Columba’s Bay. Challenge #1: Unfortunately, the grass, extremely wet from all the week’s rain, wouldn’t allow for the van’s tires to get enough traction to make it up the wee hill to turn around. After some anxious moments, John and Chris came to the rescue and helped Marty to maneuver the van back and forth until it lodged itself loose enough to make it up to the road. John and Rachel were gracious to give a ride to some of the group who were feeling a bit challenged from the week’s physical demands. After the 1 mile walk (okay, Pat’s pedometer says it’s 1.4 miles) we arrived at the ferry landing with time to spare, and Mark was there with Anya and Freya preparing the boat for another excursion, so we were able to greet them one more time. Challenge #2: The ferry arrived, and Fr. Marty was all set to drive the van onto the ferry when the ferry employee motioned for him to turn around on the dock and back the luggage van onto the ferry. They don’t teach you this in seminary. With lots of prayer and Dee having her eyes closed, we maneuvered the van onto the ferry, and the foot passengers followed for the short trip across the sound of Iona to Fionnphort on Mull. The dolphins did a little synchronized swimming in the sound as our send off.
Challenge #3: The roller coast ride across Mull then ensued, with Fr. Marty in the van with Dee (eyes opened this time) and the rest on the Bowman’s Bus for the 36-mile drive to the east coast of Mull at Craignure. All arrived without incident to board the big ferry for the ride across to Oban on the west coast of Scotland. On the Craignure-Oban ferry, the group settled in a corner of the dining room. Some enjoyed the sandwiches packed for the trip, while others chose to indulge in the ship restaurant’s local delicacies. Upon arrival at Oban, there was Ian with the coach ready to go. Both van and coach passengers met up at St. Conan’s, about a 30 minute drive east of Oban, for a short tour of the church (built by a son for his mother so she didn’t have to go so far to church). We conducted a short service in the apse, beginning with “Seek Ye First.” The group was amazed at how good they sounded singing in this acoustically perfect place. Then, after a short reading from a poem about a monk traveling from Iona to Lindisfarne, we picked a rock out of a bag. Each rock is labeled with a pilgrim’s name, and we will now carry that pilgrim’s burden for them, becoming an anonymous prayer partner for them for the rest of our pilgrimage.
Continuing on, after a rest stop at the Green Welly, we continued on through the beautiful countryside. Since the tides at Lindisfarne would not allow us to cross over until 9:00pm, we planned a stop at Stirling Castle. The pilgrims were free to roam this enormous site, important for its historical connections to Scottish history. Then, we moved on to our dinner stop at Ocean Terminal, which was right on our route. Karen MacCormick had been kind enough to make the arrangements for our group to eat at the Handmade Hamburger Company. Ian and Marty remembered last summer’s pilgrimage group, who stopped at this same place last year on our way to Lindisfarne. Angela, one of the workers, had agreed to wait on our group at table, rather than everyone going up to the counter. This was a gift, and all enjoyed the multitudinous versions of burgers and salads offered.
Challenge #4: Now it was time for the final 90-minute journey to Lindisfarne. We’ve done this before – it’s an easy drive – straight down the A-1. Easy, that is, unless there are unannounced road closures. We were detoured off the highway onto a small country road that winded around for miles. Ian found an alternate turn off road (a one-way road like Mull). The GPS now said we would arrive at 11:00pm. Then, there was another detour from the detour. Then, another blocked road with a detour from the detour from the detour. Thanks be to God for Ian, who figured out somehow how to get us as far south as Lindisfarne on the side roads so that when we came back to A-1, we would just cross over onto the Lindisfarne causeway road. We arrived at Lindisfarne, and after figuring out where Coble Cottage was located, everyone pitched in and carried and sorted all the food into the upstairs kitchen.
It was about 12:30am by the time we collapsed onto the couches to thank God for finally arriving and safely arriving. We said goodnight to those staying at Coble Cottage (Barbara, Gail, Chris, Karen, Luann and Gay), and Fr. Marty drove the rest of the luggage up to the Island House, where the remainder of the group is staying (Marty, Dee, Pat, Joan and Rochelle). We opened the windows at Island House to hear the sounds of the seals singing in the nearby water.
Challenge #5: we’ll see if they can wake up in time for Eucharist at St. Mary’s on Sunday morning.
While nowhere close to the early days when pilgrims braved the elements and walked for days in the wind, rain, and cold, our 2013 pilgrims received at least a sample of what such an intentional journey is like.
LLL 10 dames and a driver
FYI: If you are reading this blog prior to the 9:30am service on Sunday morning, it means we have Wi-Fi connection at Coble Cottage and WILL be attempting to Skype to the congregation during the 9:30am service at St. Joseph’s.