Twelve members of our synod are spending a week on Iona, at the McLeod Centre.
As though we were the late arrivals at the Pilgrims’ Ball, we had to be announced. Yes, we had arrived a little late. The ferry from Oban was twenty minutes behind time; and the cautious tourist drivers of some of the cars ahead of us on the narrow road across Mull added to the impatience of our bus driver and a further ten minutes to the journey. But the Iona ferry waited for us, and after a few minutes of seriously choppy waters and the magnificent sight of gannets fishing ahead of us, we were on Iona with Columba and all the saints.
Our group are staying at “The Mac” – the Macleod Centre, just a couple hundred yards up the hill from the abbey. There was a quick nourishing meal in the company of those who had made it in time, an equally quick rundown of the dreaded health & safety issues, and then we all gathered in the craft room for the welcome session. Most of the other people seem to be from Cumbria, so at least Lis and John should feel themselves at home. We were instructed to introduce one another to the group, having discovered an interesting fact about our neighbour in the circle. First prize should have to go to Chris from Jesmond, who we learned was a trapeze artist! Or should the prize go to the inventiveness of her Cumbrian interrogator? And a more serious prize surely to Stephen, the one member of our group who hadn’t travelled up with us: we learned that he had made the journey across Mull by bike.
And we also discovered that Moira, also from Jesmond, the inspirer and organiser of our pilgrimage, was the significant Iona Community member ready to help and encourage all the guests for the coming week, and to give us a formal introduction to the Community the following day. “Any problems? – Go to Moira!”
From the Welcome Session we made our way down the hill to the abbey, and to the 9.00 pm service, which as usual for a Saturday evening was a service of welcome. There was time afterwards for conversation with one another and with others staying on the island as we made our way up the stairs to the refectory for tea and coffee. But most of our group had left Newcastle at around nine o’clock in the morning: it had been a long day, and no doubt for most of us it was lights out soon after ten, leaving us ready and eager for the coming Lord’s Day on Iona.