Time for Rest and Contemplation in Iona

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Someday I want to visit Iona. It is a tiny island (3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide) in the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. I want to visit for a few reasons. In 2001 when I was deciding where to pursue my PhD, I joined a church history tour in eastern Scotland. I wanted to see the country and also visit the universities at Edinburgh and Aberdeen. It was a great trip. After landing in Glasgow we visited the William Wallace monument in Stirling. We then continued to Edinburgh. That was probably my favorite part of the trip. I especially enjoyed walking along the Royal Mile and exploring Edinburgh Castle. We also visited Dunkeld, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews. This trip focused on eastern Scotland, and so it left many places untouched. I can think of several more locations I would like to see, such as Shetland, Loch Lommond, Inverness and Loch Ness, and Iona.

An Irish monk named Columba arrived on Iona with twelve followers in AD 563 and setup a Celtic church and a monastery. This community served as a center of learning and a base from which to spread Christianity through Scotland and northern England. It therefore likely played a role in bringing Christianity to my ancestors who were largely from England and Scotland. Iona came to be regarded as a sacred island, and kings of Scotland, Ireland, and Norway were buried there, including the Macbeth of Shakespeare’s famous play. There is great history there.

The Book of Kells was probably written there as well. It is a Latin illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels. The text is primarily based on the Vulgate, but it also draws from earlier Latin texts. It is famous for its ornamentation and illustrations and is considered by some to be the greatest example of Celtic art. It is now held at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

People still visit church and abbey for a time of relaxation and reflection. My plans to work in Christian ministry never panned out, and now I am deciding (again) what to do with my life. This has been quite difficult. Breaking away from the demands of my everyday life to focus for at least a week on rest, reflection, reading, and writing on a quiet island with great history would be helpful.

I could say that it would be a time of inner healing, but I know that I do not need to go to a special place for such healing. God is not limited by geography. I can and should find healing from him where I am now. Nonetheless, aside from being a wonderful and fascinating vacation, this trip would be a time of rest away from normal routine where I could quietly ponder what I have experienced over the past several years and what it means for my life’s direction.

The island has few cars. I would need to walk or ride a bicycle everywhere, but I would not need a car. Besides, spending the time walking on the beaches and viewing the farmlands, landscapes, and ruins would do me some good. I can easily see myself finding enough content to write and post about each day of the trip, detailing the landscape and buildings (with many photos) and also my personal journey.

Ideally I would take two weeks so that I could spend about a week on Iona and also have time to visit some of the other islands in the Hebrides. It would be an expensive trip, and I currently do not have the funds. I would need to take time off of work, and I would need to pay for lodging, food, and airfare. None of that would be cheap. Still, I hold onto hope that someday I can make the trip.

About henrywm

I am a graduate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. I am interested in Christian theology and church history. I also enjoy science fiction and stories which wrestle with deep questions.
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15 Responses to Time for Rest and Contemplation in Iona

  1. I do hope you get to Iona one day. I lived in the UK for 4 years and got to Lindesfarne, also on a retreat in Essex, experienced morning and evening worship in a chapel built around 600AD by one of the Celtic saints.

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