I went to Scotland on pilgrimage with my church, so understand that we're Episcopalians in a Presbyterian land. ;-)
We flew into Glasgow and spent some time at Paisley Abbey and the Kelvington Museum, trying to stave off jet lag. The Kelvington is enormous and is home to Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross, which is a gorgeous piece of religious art and Matthew's favorite. Matthew is one of our canons and lead the pilgrimage.
After Glasgow, Ken, our bus driver, drove our little bus to Largs, site of the decisive sea battle between the Norse and the Scots in 1263 (and source of the story that explains why the thistle is the national symbol of Scotland), where we took the ferry (Caledonian MacBrayne) to Cumbrae. Cumbrae is a small island with a tiny little fishing town, Millport, and not much else, except the College of the Holy Spirit and the Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Scotland. We stayed in the seminarian's dormitory at the College and followed a modified monastic schedule with morning and evening prayers and occasionally compline in the Cathedral. During the day, we went on various pilgrimage excursions.
One day, we took the ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and went to visit St. Blane's, a ruin of a monastery on a hill way out in the countryside with a spectacular view of the Firth of Clyde. I cannot possibly tell you how lovely it was. The dark pink foxgloves were growing everywhere, and it was one of the few sunny days we had in Scotland. We celebrated the Eucharist in the midst of the ruin (with Victorian silver, I might add). And while we were doing so, the workmen who had been chiseling out the mortar as part of maintaining the ruin stopped working and sat quietly, until we finished.
Then, Helen, who is warden of the Cathedral of the Isles and was our worship leader on Cumbrae, arranged for us to go a little dock on the other side of Bute, where we all had a ride in vintage wooden launches, kind of like the ones in the old Bond films. I chose the fastest one, and boy, was it fast. We went racing across the Firth like megalomaniacal villains were in hot pursuit. :-)
The next day, we took a walk on the Cumbrae beach with Helen, and she talked about the Celtic concept of God being manifest in the sound and smells and textures of the island. We collected stones, built a cairn on the beach, and had prayers over the cairn.
The day after that, some of us took the ferry back to Largs and visited Skelmolie Aisle, which is all that's left of the Largs kirk, while the boys, Jack, 9, and Owen, 11, and their dad went fishing with Ken. The Aisle was the Montgomery family chapel and is decorated in an elaborate Renaissance style. And then we had ice cream. :-)
The last day we were on Cumbrae was Sunday, and we helped Helen with the service. Helen taught us this absolutely wonderful Peruvian Gloria to sing during the service. She did the actual preaching in the service, but some of my group, including me, made up the choir, Pete swung the censor, Kate carried a 14th century cross in the procession, and Matthew, our canon, celebrated the Eucharist. It was a most appropriate way to end our time on the island.
Cumbrae was a wonderful, spiritual place, and I was very sorry to leave it.
Next Up: Inverary, and those dastardly Campbells!
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