In the words of T.S. Eliot,
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
May the completion of these 18 days of pilgrimage be just the start of discovering anew your spiritual home in Jesus Christ.
We went to Old Saint Paul’s for a very high Mass,
In a church where Samuel Seabury is commemorated in stained glass,
For who would have known when he worshipped here when he was young,
Later in life as our first Bishop, into the Episcopacy he’d be flung.
Then our last day for free time to explore Edinburgh’s Royal Mile,
the street performers and hawkers caused us to smile.
We unfortunately met at Starbucks to try and Skype back to St. Joe’s,
But their wifi was bad (to match their coffee, I suppose…)
We came back to the Fountain Court apartments to prepare
For our farewell celebration, with some local friends there:
There was Ian Morrison, our past driver, and Steve our current one too;
With guide Karen MacCormack and Alastair our friendship we’d renew;
Then musicians from Stramash: many of you would remember Scott and Ian,
When they were joined by fiddler Alan, a great concert they’d be singin’,
Some great Scottish music to complete all we’ve done,
The night wasn’t complete until Auld Lang Syne we had sung.
With hugs all around we prepared to clean up
In the early morning it will be hard to wake these teens up.
They were groggy this morning to finish up packing
And clean up the floors from the dirt we’ve been tracking,
But we boarded the van on time right at 9:15
To say goodbye to Lindisfarne, so peaceful and serene,
As with the tide turning early the tourists later would arrive
So we departed OUR island, and to Durham would drive.
We stopped at the causeway for a pilgrimage rite,
As the burden rocks with our prayer partners we’d reunite,
Like monks of old who traveled from Iona to Holy Island,
We’d traveled the same journey, carrying someone else’s burden,
We each threw our rock back into the sand and the sea
And singing “When I lay my burden down,” from them we were set free.
We arrived at Durham Cathedral, where we spent most of the day,
First with the Communion Service, in the Gregory Chapel we’d pray,
Then off for a lunch in a beautiful Undercroft Café,
Then back to the nave where Lilian our guide showed the way.
She’s an incredible saint – coming back from hip surgery to be our guide
With a cane and new hip at 93, our youth couldn’t keep up with her stride.
We visited the Galilee Chapel and Bede’s tomb,
A beautiful setting in a beautiful room.
We ended the visit with the highlight of pilgrims for years,
At the tomb of St. Cuthbert, we prayed and shed a few tears.
Then with hugs goodbye to Lilian, we went to a new display,
Called the Open Treasures of Durham, to end our incredible day.
Then back on the coach, with a stop at the Angel of the North,
A buffet dinner at Aneesa’s, where the youth got their money’s worth.
Then a first for our pilgrims, across the Millennium Bridge we walked,
Then watched the whole thing be raised up high as we gawked.
A final two hours, and back in Edinburgh where we began,
the van was unpacked and to bed they all ran.
From England to Scotland, all in one day,
From Lindisfarne to Durham then up Newcastle Way,
Then all the way to Edinburgh, Steve drove many miles on our coach,
A wonderful pilgrimage day as our end we approach.
What we know of our past is a gift when we read
The history recorded in books by Venerable Bede.
Who taught so much worldly wisdom though he did rarely go,
Beyond the two abbeys of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow.
We departed to go visit before the tide rose.
With Steve driving the coach, we saw a seal from the window.
Arriving at Jarrow, we toured the church unaccompanied,
Then prayed the pilgrims’ service (that Jimmy Guy used to lead.)
(Jimmy? He’s the legendary warden beyond compare
Who for years led the pilgrimage visits, but he’s ill – so needs prayer.)
Forsaking the bicycles this year, which worked for us never,
We actually made it to St. Peter’s for the first pilgrimage ever!
The place is very special, and the parishioners so kind
They even run a café, where for lunch we first dined.
Then David gave us a tour both inside and out,
And revealed that Jarrow’s historical claims he did doubt,
(Between the two abbeys there’s rivalry a bit,
That both abbeys express with their dry British wit.)
We drove back to our Holy Island home one last night,
First free time, then dinner, then clean up the site.
We honored our driver Steve who for dinner was our guest,
(since the Fleesons had a sickness, we gave them the rest.)
We worked until 10 packing and cleaning,
We’ll finish up in the morning when this Holy Island we’re leaving.
The Lindisfarne Priory at the edge of the town
Is a place in the past where the authorities did frown
When we celebrated a Eucharist out by St. Cuthbert
No matter how hard we tried public disruption to avert.
But this year our spirits were completely gladdened,
Thanks to a saintly man named David, supervisor from Historic England,
Who not only okayed us to gather for prayer,
But personally unlocked the place when there was nobody there.
So on this beautiful morning, with sunshine and peace,
And the only sounds heard were the birds and the seas,
We gathered for Communion like all past St. Joseph’s pilgrims
And to borrow Derek’s favorite word, the experience was “awesome.”
We prayed for the 100-plus St. Joseph’s members
Who came here before us, and we also remembered
Our families and friends who remain back in the States
And whose generosity has made this pilgrimage so great.
The afternoon resulted in new skills we were reaching,
In the art of Celtic Knotwork, by Mary Fleeson’s patient teaching.
There was artistic talent seen in their acting last night,
And now putting pen to the paper, this group does all right.
With hugs goodbye to Mary, we ended the day,
With some time before dinner for free time and play.
An additional treat was brought by our coach driver Steve,
Whose son Owen James was too cute to believe.
(Steve’s wife Cheryl had driven from their home in Dundee,
As a surprise for their son his traveling daddy to see.)
After our busy Sunday they were slow to awake,
So on Monday we gave them a pilgrimage break.
To explore Holy Island and then after lunch
A hike to the north shore which all enjoyed a bunch.
Finding God in nature in the weather outside
Seems to be as impactful to the pilgrims as anything we’ve tried.
They had been missing Iona a few had confessed,
But discovering Lindisfarne’s vast coastline, they liked this part the best.
Some liked it so much that their wonderment turned to wander,
Getting lost from the group gave them something to ponder.
But this island is small and it’s safe to go roam
(they eventually found the path and they all were soon home).
Everyone helped to cook dinner and clean,
Then Fr. Marty showed a map so we’d see where we’ve been,
We gathered for prayer led with Lorraine and Luke drumming
For the rest of the night “Funga Alafia” we’d be humming.
We shared where we’d seen God in various ways,
Then discussed how’d spend our remainder of days.
We arrived late at night, so the pilgrims couldn’t see
How beautiful Lindisfarne turned out to be.
The young men woke up on their own and in their Sunday clothes looking smart,
And when driver Steve had arrived, they were ready to depart,
But not on the bus, for it was just a short walk
To meet up with our female pilgrims who lived down the block.
We proceeded to St. Mary’s with time to spare,
And noticed that Reverend Kate was already there.
We gave old friend Mark Fleeson a hug (he’s the warden of their parish)
Memories of him and his wife Mary past pilgrims do cherish.
We all sat up front and this traditional service would feature,
A sermon on the Lord’s Prayer by a guest preacher.
She spoke of the approach to God to which we should aspire:
“If God is in your car, he’s the engine, not the spare tire.”
After the service we looked around a bit,
But since most had skipped breakfast, some lunch was a fit.
So we came back to Castlekirk and a sandwich buffet was our game,
And some Cullen Skink Soup (once they got past its name).
Cullen is the name of a northeast Scotland town.
And Skink just means chowder with smoked haddock cooked down.
As lunch time was finished, a great big surprise,
There was Andy Raine standing right before our eyes.
Because of a commitment, he would be gone most of our week
So he thought on our first day, some time he would seek.
So he taught us some movements to several songs
Even though Fr. Marty kept doing it wrong.
So he held the camera while the youth and the rest
“Skype-performanced” St. Joseph’s and they all did their best
Each joining in positions till the dance floor was filled,
Depicting their pain to Leonard Cohen’s “If it Be Your Will.”
We greeted our families and then said goodbye.
Off-camera a few other dances we’d try.
Then Andy sat down with the group and discussed
“Motivations”: personality traits for each one of us.
Then Andy departed and we all hugged goodbye,
And as he was leaving, his wife Anna said hi.
We had some free time as the prep team prepared our food
After such a great day, lively conversation ensued.
Debra led a post-dinner walk down to the beach,
And to find a special Hermit’s ledge for the group to reach.
A fitting conclusion back at the girls’ place
To share today’s experience of so much of God’s grace.
Today is the longest of days to endure
With an early wake up and clean up, our ferry departure to ensure.
With the luggage van loaded, they started the walk
Down past the abbey to the ferry dock.
Reversing the journey when to Iona we came
We departed via the same route, but we weren’t the same.
The thin place of Iona has transformed all eleven,
These five days have been a true foretaste of heaven.
Then off on the ferry, then the hour bus ride across Mull
They met up with Fr. Marty & Sherry with the luggage van full.
Then the ferry back to Oban, where Steve the bus driver we’d await.
The holiday Saturday traffic made us a bit late.
But since St. Conan’s was unavailable for our usual stop,
Straight off to a lunch stop at Green Welly we’d hop,
Then back on the bus for a 90 minute ride
To meet up at Stirling Castle with Karen our guide.
The experience was “sterling” as there was a wedding party there
They tried to stay focused on Karen and at the bride not to stare.
We met a court jester who explained what that meant:
Entertaining and joking – Hey! A few of our youth have that bent.
Then to the King’s Chamber to see the recently completed
Tapestries that tell the story of a unicorn mistreated.
The costumed guide told us how the symbolism represents
In the killing of the unicorn though beautiful and innocent,
The story of Jesus hunted down and then slain
But in his resurrection the Kingdom does reign.
Then off to a dinner at a place called The Steading.
The youth were all curious what kind of food they’d be getting.
Some opted for burgers, others opted for fish
All seemed to enjoy their own choice of dish.
With the tide not yet ready for us to Lindisfarne to proceed
We sidetracked to Musselburgh,to which all had agreed.
Because there’s a famous ice cream spot, San Luca’s it’s name,
For years Fr. Marty’s heard of its Scottish acclaim.
Most opted to try it, then back on the coach,
Down the A-1 to Lindisfarne, soon we’d approach.
We arrived at Holy Island after the tide had just ebbed
We unloaded the luggage, and by 11 in bed.
A very long day from the west to the east
But in this modern pilgrimage we had a vehicle at least
To think that in times of our Celtic saints past,
They walked the whole journey across distances vast.