Between March 8-12 a party of 27 pilgrims from the diocese set off from various places to arrive at the island of Iona of the west coast of Scotland.
Iona is a holy island steeped in history and spirituality and a centre of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.
It was a blessed time with glorious light and sunshine despite the cold wind and the one afternoon of rain.
There was excellent hospitality in the Bishop’s House and Catholic House of Prayer retreat centres and a group that really got to know each other very well at meals, the time of worship and the long invigorating walks to white sandy beaches and windswept hills.
Here are some comments from a few of those who came:
“Being free of all responsibilities and run-of-the-mill tasks…to relax. Making space alone to listen to God. Asking questions and seeking direction from Him. Spending time in a loving Christian environment. Being surrounded by people with a common belief. Exploring the island. Recognising God through creation. Absorbing the atmosphere of the saints, the community and the pilgrims who’ve come to this place over time ‘to BE’. Spending time with strangers…who become friends. Laughing. Returning; uplifted, grateful and encouraged.”
“Peacefulness of the whole Island. My room so cosy. The leader’s ability to be very inclusive for all of us in what was said, and given and done in the times of worship and reflection. Iona is a ‘very thin place’ indeed There is something about being together as a Christian family that Iona gave to each and every one of us.”
“It gave us all plenty of time for personal reflection, which was helpful to me, coming to terms with the recent loss of a very close friend, comforted by the fact that he and his widow possess a strong Christian faith.”
“I thought the days would be long but quite the reverse. That special island atmosphere was ever present, soaked in the experience of so many Christians who had trodden the Iona paths before us. The morning Eucharists, the inspiring reflections and the very special Sunday service all in such a sincere and meaningful way which I will always remember. When I am questioning , I will go back to Iona and the sure faith that was present there.
“On top of all this there were the interesting and varied members of the group, the warm welcome of the staff, the good food and fellowship at mealtimes and those amazing views across to Mull bathed in sunshine. These were five days of my life when my faith increased immeasurably and that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
“It was so worthwhile. I am just finding it hard to adjust to being back in the real world.”
“It was a thought-provoking few days on the unforgettable island of Iona. I absolutely loved every minute, (even getting lost in the bog and heather); the camaraderie, delicious food and hospitality from the chef and staff, the village, weather, beaches accommodation, chapel and most of all meeting all the lovely new acquaintances. What a joy it has all been.”
When will we return was a question I have been asked and no doubt we will in 2020, God willing!
Rev Canon Peter Brooks, Retreat Leader