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Showing posts from October, 2005

More Reflections while sitting in LAX

One of the comments that was made at one of the sessions at Iona was from a Church of Scotland minister. She had worked as a University chaplain for a while. In the session she talked about how she had brought students up to Iona and the profound affect that experience had on them. Her comment was that they now lived out that experience in their lives as Doctors and Lawyers and business leaders etc… It reinforced some of my previous reflections on the importance of what we do among young people, and also made me realise that we have nothing like Iona. I am hoping to bring some young adults to Israel and Taize in 2007, and I would hope that that would have a similar affect. The trouble is that it is so expensive and such a long distance. But it does confirm this growing conviction that has stirred in me over this last two month.

On the day before Bonnie arrived, I spent the day with Peter Ball, my equivalent for the Church of England. Our conversation ranged over many things. Two intere…

Pilgrimage in Iona

Pilgrimage in Iona
(20 October 2005 after walking the wild peat bog on Iona)

I passed some tourists on my way here
hunched down against the weather
scurrying along to return to warmth and comfort
following the clearly marked road
hoods held low against
blocking the wind and rain
blocking the bog and rock
hands laden with bags of goodies
tokens of their time here.

I passed the shops and centres
leaving behind the known and comfortable
found my gate immersed in mud and dung
and began my pilgrimage.
I face the wind with empty hands
and eyes open
heading to a known site
with vague notions of a route
ready to be lost, buffeted,
baptised in the windswept bog.

Some would say this is an empty hard land
wet and difficult
to be travelled with care occasionally
only when the need was large enough.
As I wander determinedly into the wild
I know this place as thin space,
God’s eternity
leaking through as the brown wet leaks into my boots
sticking to me as the peat bog crawls up my trousers
ch…

Thin Spaces – Pilgrimmage on Iona

Today, Tuesday, we pilgrimmaged over the island of Iona. We visited “thin spaces”, spaces where the space between the here and now and the eternal is very thin. We visited the site where Columba landed with his twelve monks. We walked across the heather laden hills, with thick wet peat bog beneath our boots. Some was in silence. Some was busy chatting with the neighbour, the scenery lost amidst the talk. And with each step came the realisation the 1500 years ago the Irishman Colum Cille walked this land, prayed in these spaces, began his redemption in this place.
The thinnest place was the hermit’s cell, out on it’s own amongst the crags and bog. A place where people have come to pray, to be, to be slowly sanded by the wind and the divine.
I have realised as I have thought about thin spaces that the Highlands were also thin spaces for me. And my sadness is that I did not get to stay or to walk in them, but just drove through and around them. Experienced from a car is not the same as fee…

Reflections on my first full day at Iona

Tonight Richard the Warden of Iona, and Malcolm, one of the community members spoke to us about the Iona Community. I found the session really interesting, partly because like the Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, they are a dispersed religious community, and partly because they commented briefly about Corrymeela, which I have been to about 3 weeks ago.
Iona is a community of people that live by a common rule of life that has four basic headings: I will have to blog those later. One of the works of Iona is the Abbey, on Iona Island, which is run by staff and volunteers for the Iona Community. Currently only one community member is present at the Abbey.
Some comments that resonated;
The work of Iona Community is whatever our members are doing. Some are doctors, some ministers, some song writers and liturgy writers, some youth workers etc… While none would say they do these things because they are members of Iona, their work becomes the work of Iona. So too for us Franciscans. I think…

Travelling in the Highlands and Glasgow.

After leaving Brechin, we journeyed to Creif. We went there to do the Famous Grouse whiskey tour. We missed this by about 15 minutes, so decided to stay in Crief and do domestic things like watching. Thursday morning we went back to the famous Grouse, where we learnt about whiskey production and Bonnie had her first (and probably last) glass of whiskey. It was a great tour. Then we journeyed on to Killen, in an area called Breadlabaine. My interest in this is that my mother’s father’s family sailed out to New Zealand from Novia Scotia (with a wee free Pressy group) on a ship called the Breadalbaine. We went to a museum, where we learnt about the clans, and the Campbells and McGregors in particular.
This area had been actively involved with the two pretenders. I learnt that when Bonnie Prince Charlie announced he was returning and called on the clans to support him, the clan leaders tired to dissuade him. But his charisma carried the day. At he end he returned to France to his comfortab…

Brechin – home?

One of the only places I was certain I wanted to visit was Brechin, a small town in Pict country, near Aberdeen and Perth. (I guess it is Perthshire) The first official recorded entry for a Hebenton was here in 1680’s. My great grandfather was born here, and moved from here to go to Ceylon to work as a coffee planter in the late 1850’s. He sent his 5 eldest children (of 12) back here to live with his sister and go to school etc….
I had a great two hours hunting through the 1861 and then 1851 census for my family’s entry. I found my great great grand father and his daughter for 1861 really quickly. This was after my great grand father had left, and my great great grand mother had died. He and Susan (his daughter) had moved into his brother’s house at 109 High Street. We of course went to see this and photograph it. I found nearly every other Hebenton in 1851, but not my family.
Bonnie and I then wandered about, discovering that Brechin has an old tradition that everything closes at 1pm o…

Days of Battles:

Monday we left Edinburgh, through the new city, and on to Falkirk. One of the things happening in Britain is that the canals are being reborn, and are increasingly being used by holiday makers and others. The Falkirk Wheel is a recent addition to the Scottish canals to quickly move boats up and down 20 – 30 meters, instead of having to slowly go through a series of locks which would take at least on hour, probably more. Quite a site and well worth a visit. I discovered later that Falkirk was the site of William Wallace’s great defeat, and the beginning of his end.
You can go for narrow boat rides up the wheel and along the canal before returning, but we chose to go to Bannockburn, the site of Robert Bruce’s great victory over the English.
I found this a fascinating place. Partly I love history, much more so than Bonnie. But I enjoyed learning some of the story around Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace of Braveheart fame. We kind of did it back to front really, finishing …

Edinburgh

As luck or God would have it, we ended up in a B&B about 15 mins walk into the Royal Mile. The royal mile is the street that runs from Edinburgh Castle up on top of its crag, down to Holyrood palace on the flats. It is the oldest part of Edinburgh. On the Saturday night we walked in to town, finding a nice café that did dinner, desert and coffee £7. Then a quiet beer in the oldest pub in Edinburgh, or so the sign said.
Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling lived when she wrote Harry Potter. As you walk around and learn something of the history you quickly see how Harry Potter came to be. Scotland burnt over 3,000 woman as witches in the witch burning years, and most places have some kind of witches tour happening. Edinburgh burnt more than their fair share. J.K. sat in the Elephant House café while she wrote Harry Potter 1, a really nice café that overlooks the Greyfriars cemetery (of Greyfriars Bobby fame – the dog that wouldn’t leave his master, and stayed at his masters grave until he…

The Drive North, Hexham and Hadrian’s Wall.

Friday morning we got into our wee car and headed north, hoping to get to Edinburgh. Such are dreams. We eventually got to Hexham, just below Hadrian’s wall. What a nice spot. We found a nice B and B, explored the town and found a nice pub for dinner. The next day we went to the Abbey and discovered it was Wilfred’s see. St. Wilfred introduced the Benedictine rule to his monastery in Hexham, and he championed the Roman cause at the Synod of Whitby which sought to unify the British Church under one ecclesiastical system. Wilfred won the day, and the British Celtic Church slowly faded into history. He is not my favourite saint. Some history tells how he got caught up in his own importance at the end, probably why he was so keen on the more hierarchical and pontificating (no pun intended) Roman system. It was an interesting yet disturbing experience.
The we drove up to Hadrian’s wall at Once Brewed (just down the road from Twice Brewed.) Legend has it that Once Brewed was a youth hostel r…

England with Bonnie:

It has been a while since I last blogged. Largely I blame my wife.
Bonnie arrived on Wednesday 5th October, and it has been full on ever since, with no time for sitting down at this wee beasty writing blogs. So what have we been up to? This is what I am willing to share. I might reflect on some of this is a separate blog.
Bonnie’s arrival was a nightmare. I was going to be there early, so I went to the bus stop for the bus from Hemel Hempstead to Heathrow. It was well over half an hour late. I had been told I could buy a ticket from the driver. I couldn’t, and as it drove off without me, Bonnie texted me to say she was through customs (they had arrived ¾ hour early) and where was I? So much for my relaxed time at the airport, checking my emails, getting a coffee, being there when she arrived. I was not a happy man. But my aunt came to the rescue and drove me down. Thank God for aunts. I still glare at the national express busses whenever I see one.
That out of the way, and wanting to max…

Travelling the Virgin

Travelling the Virgin
(On the way from Holyhead to Hemel Hempstead on “Virgin Trains”)

Window seat in unknown carriage
opposite the woman in pink
deaf and blind to all around
immersed in her Ipod and book.
I retreat into my laptop
randomly gazing at England
passing by my window.
It’s too bright on the other side
and the blinds are down.
We pass through Ashton.
Through my ear plugs
Ikon praises the dance
that builds community
and makes me whole.
I am drawn into the Celtic spirit
Centred, slowed down
This small God moment.

Long seedy grass blown back
by our relentless journey to Euston:
muddied work site fenced in by barbed wire
berry laden trees hedging over wire barrier
undulating English pasture and neatly ploughed fields
rivers, towns small and large
concrete creations stamped into the earth
narrow boats and caravans parked waiting
the next urban escapee.
Each picture passes by to Ikon’s mellow tunes
surrounded by greens and browns,
and songs of sweet deliverance

Woman and chi…

Jonny Baker in Ireland

Over the last couple of days in Dublin I have had the chance to spend some time with Jonny Baker, world famous emerging church guru, who works for CMS England. He was over to do some work for David Brown, Church of Ireland Youth Officer (Anglican) with ordinands, and then running a training day for youth leaders. WE spent about 2 hours talking over dinner on Thursday night, and then I went to the training day yesterday, followed by a pint or two afterwards (as you do!)
We share a lot of common concerns really. His observation is that much of worship today is situated in two extremes, dead boring dry liturgical tradition, which is inaccessible to so many, and the Hillsong 40 minute worship is singing tradition with the preachy bit which is great to start with but over time for many is just too “thin” and unhelpful. Like me, only he is doing a lot more work on this than I am, he is seeking to find ways to allow the liturgical tradition to reconnect with the emerging post modern culture,…

Reflections on Ministry Among Young People, and Corrymeela

I have had some really interesting conversations and experiences while in Ireland particularly.

One of these was being driven back from Corrymeela to Belfast by Ivan Cross, a youth worker for Corrymeela in Belfast. We spent about two hours driving back down. He works with groups of young people helping them develop some basic life skills that they might begin to move out of a sectarian world view and have more options really.
One of my questions to him was what affect did he think Corrymeela had had over the last 40 years. His response was that that was hard to judge, and that it would be easy to think not much given the entrenched sectarian views on both sides, which seem to be entrenching even further given the results of the last election, where the UDP (Paisleys party) and the Sinn Fein both increased their vote and number of seats in the UK Parliament. However he thought it has played a huge role in making things as hopeful as they are. He noted the number of people who had been as…

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month.

So what has John been up to?

Monday I went down from Portadown to Dublin. I spent a few hours here, doing email, finding food, checking out ferry and train options for sunday, adn workign out how the city works. Then at 6pm, off to Westport. I was met at the train by the Diocesan Youth Worker (very very part time, worked 90 hours in his first year). Steve is a delightful guy, and he and his wife Orla looked after me really really well. Highlights included the rural life museum, and going to Matt Malones for a couple of guiness' and a live Irish jam. What fun.

Wednesday I went on the train to Galway. The weather was aweful. And to make matters worse I failed to note the signs pointing to the Information Centre, and walked the wrong way, only to get caught in some seriously wetting rain. I nearly gave up in disgust, but after finding the Info Centre, and getting a B&B with a lovely Catholic couple in a B&B called "St. Clares" I settled into enjoying the city. In the …