The summer we are going to Iona as a family for a week and staying at Bishop’s House, a short walk from the Abbey. Our last stay on the island was when Helen was pregnant with Mark and John was a toddler. It rained every single day. I remember John running round and round the cloisters in a red anorak and blue wellington boots.
My most formative memories of Iona were half a lifetime ago when I was living on the island for three months as a volunteer with the Iona Community. My role was as abbey guide in a line of guides said to go back to the late great George MacLeod.
My principal duties were to show people around the abbey grounds and to give people an overview of the Christian history of the island since Columba. It involved setting up for services, sweeping and dusting and polishing, and replenishing candles. Over 200,000 people visit the island each year, and most visitors at the Abbey want to light a candle before they leave.
Being the guide was good honest work. I got nourishing food, basic accommodation and £20 a week. Apart from the moments I was caught out in horizontal rain living on the island was delightful and I was quite content. I met plenty of interesting people, not least my fellow volunteers who came from all over the world.
People say that Iona is a ‘thin’ place and I would concur: it feels as though there is a gossamer thin thread between heaven and earth. I enjoyed a simplicity of life-style, a strong sense of connection with those around me, with creation and with God. I was conscious more than at any time hitherto of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.
I write this in Ascensiontide as Pentecost fast approaches. In this season of Pentecost may we each discern the direction the Holy Spirit gives our lives as we seek to live lives that are more and more Jesus shaped.
With best wishes