At this time last May I was a resident in the Abbey on Iona. It is difficult to describe the longing, yearning I have for that place. This past Saturday, I was so intensely aware of the feeling on that Saturday a year ago when I first saw Iona and then walked from the ferry landing to the Abbey. The day was cold (as days in May tend to be on Iona) and though cold, I wanted to be outside as the Ferry approached the island. The spray of the water chilled us to the bone. On the walk up through the village, past the Nunnery, and down the road toward the Abbey, I remember fearing that I would surely freeze during the week there and yet somehow it did not matter. I was on holy ground.
When we reached the Abbey grounds and walked past St. Martin’s and St. John’s crosses, we were led through the Cloister and up the stairs to the dining room. There we were greeted with hot tea and bisquits. It seems like such a small gesture, but I knew in that moment that the Iona Community knew something about Christ’s Hospitality. They knew was it was like to arrive in the cold and the wind, to be in a new and strange place, to be getting our bearings. That cup of tea was truly a gift. When we had warmed up a bit, we were told that we would be shown to our rooms, and then we had the rest of the afternoon to settle in. We were told to ‘come back to this room at 6:00 o’clock and we will feed you.’
“Come back to this room … we will feed you.” I have not forgotten those words. I felt safe, welcomed, assured. I did not need to know everything at that moment. In fact, we could hardly absorb more. The Iona Community knew how to welcome without overwhelming; how to provide a safe place and the time and space to let our souls catch up with our bodies (as an old African story describes a journey).
My sense is that I will write more in the days to come as I long for Iona and continue the journey in my heart.
My prayer is with my friend and colleague Nancy who is currently spending 6 weeks working in the Abbey kitchen and making home and worship in that place.