following Columba?

As the clergy of Argyll gathered this week, we were asked to think about the distinctiveness of the spiritual tradition in this part of the world. Our guide asked us to ponder the future role of our church by looking to the past: to the spirituality of St Columba and the nature of a church based on monastic communities rather than ‘parish’ systems. He also shared with us some of his own hopes for a Christian Heritage centre in Argyll, and a well mapped well advertised pilgrimage route following Columba through Ireland, across the sea to Kintyre and then to Iona — a route meant to rival the Camino de Santiago.

That may indeed be a good an worthwhile project, but all week I had a nagging question: what will have have to offer those who come?

It seems to me that pilgrims come, if they come at all, hoping to experience something of God: beauty, mystery, presence, peace. Some of that rests in the land — in the sheer glory of waves and rock and hills. But beyond that, there must be people who pray. People who connect what is given in the land with what is given in Christ.

It seems to me that that would be a better project for the church than creating heritage sites. Though if the tourist board wants to help open a route for potential pilgrims, so much the better.

14 thoughts on “following Columba?”

  1. Oh, to be called to Iona at this time of year. I understand your question about something to offer; and I wonder if it is the journey that is the offering rather than something “tangible.” I wonder if it is a hearkening back to the idea of Medieval pilgrimage as a way of re-awakening spirituality?

    Some of this comes from a highly frustrating week, much of it spent in Microsoft Exchange Server hell. With 17 days of Lenten Preaching Series behind us I am most ready for Lent to be over, and the idea of a pilgrimage sounds wonderful, especially if it is through your land on the other side of the big pond.

  2. I think we could have both – and I agree about the idea of offering the act of pilgrimage. And maybe it’s right that a Bishop can dream big in the hope that the rest of us will fill in the cracks …..

  3. If indeed, as Sumner suggests it may, the concept centres round the journey, the Medieval concept of a pilgrimage to reawaken spirituality, then I am all for it. However, in order to give a reasoned, appropriate opinion, I would need to know more about the idea. To my mind it is important to have places marked out for special prayer en route, but not ‘Heritage Centres.’ It is naturally invaluable to have information about Columba’s route, but such a pilgrimage should not be basically just something for tourists to do.

  4. Just to be clear — the pilgrimage route and the heritage centre were not the bishop’s idea, but rather that of the person speaking to us (an academic, an historian, a presbyterian…)

  5. Kimberly,
    I didn’t for one moment think it was the Bishop! As a historian myself the clues about who it was have set my mind boggling!

  6. Margaret, another clue to keep you guessing:

    Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes!
    Bow, bow, ye tradesmen, bow, ye masses,
    Blow the trumpets, bang the brasses,
    Tantantara, Tzing boom!
    Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes!
    Bow, bow, ye tradesmen, bow, ye masses,
    Blow the trumpets, bang the brasses,
    Tantantara! Tzing, boom, tzing, boom!

  7. I dare say you have, Kelvin. Though I have the distinction of having partnered him for his first attempts at Schiehallion Reels.

    It’s a tiny little goldfish bowl, isn’t it?

  8. Kimberly,
    This is the first time I have been into my computer since you posted that last clue. Currently my mind is a big blank – can’t think offhand of any dancing theologians – or church historians, academics I am more likely to know or know of, though when my mind clears I might get a sudden brainwave!

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