Letter from Iona
Editor's note - This post captures the feeling of being on the Scottish Island of Iona as autumn arrives. For those who have visited, and those who long to visit, it is both invocation and invitation.
Greetings from Iona. We are here on this beautiful and atmospheric island in late September. This is the same time of year as the SDI Journey will be in 2019.
Iona is known for its winds and we are glad of hats, gloves and warm waterproof coats when we walk the lanes and tracks of the island. It’s beginning to get dark early so we need flashlights to go around in the late evening. The sea is beautiful and powerful as it crashes on the rocks on the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. It’s good to have time to respond to these experiences in writing and paint and to have space to reflect.
Iona is a small island – only three and a half miles long. It is built from some of the oldest rocks in the continent of Europe, and has evidence in its rich surface of a vastly long history of fire and ice. From ancient human times it has been recognized as a holy place, a ‘thin’ place where heaven and earth seem very close.
St Columba landed here, almost by chance, on the southern pebble beach, and started a train of events that led to the island becoming a cradle of Celtic Christianity and a place of pilgrimage.
For such a small island it is incredibly rich and diverse in habitats and wildlife. It is really easy to get lost, in the center, among rocks and bog-land, but on every coast there are beautiful strands of sand and shingle, and isolated rocky coves.
It is a place where many people have experienced glimpses of the spiritual and transcendent. The ancient abbey is the center of the Iona Community - a radical ‘new monastic’ Christian network. The Findhorn Community also has a base here, and people from all faiths - and none - find that they are taken to the edge of their experience. It is as if the island speaks wisdom to them.
A journey to Iona is always a kind of pilgrimage. Something happens in the physicality of setting out on a journey. To be a pilgrim is to move the spiritual journey from the head to the feet: I am not going to think my way into something new, I am going to travel there.
If you choose to join us on this journey, you will see unique rocks, flowers and birds. You will see ancient churches and remote beaches, sunsets – and have the possibility of visiting the island of Staffa and its majestic Fingal’s Cave. You will learn about the geology, the spiritual history and life of the island. Iona is rightly a place of many stories, and each pilgrim discovers a different narrative.
To visit Iona as a multi-faith group is to enjoy the rich diversity and uniqueness of one another, as together, we discover the sources of our faiths, and make a connection with place and tradition that opens us up.
Andrew & Wendy Rudd (together with Sally Taylor) will be the guides for SDI's Iona Journey in September 2019. Andrew Rudd, PhD, is a poet, university lecturer, lay leader in the Church of England, spiritual director, and leader of writing workshops, retreats and quiet days. Wendy Rudd, MEd, textile artist, mentor, and teacher, leads quiet days and retreats. She has created large scale contemplative installations throughout the UK. Wendy recently retired from working with young children with complex needs. The Rudds call Cheshire, England, UK home. (Watch video of the SDI Journey here.)