That's right, I'm going to attempt to blog about Scotland. But this first one may be jumbled and/or come out in list format....
1. Apparently, flying to Newark is a bad bad idea. I learned this as my plane (on which I had been rebooked because my original flight was likely to be late, causing me to miss the connection) sat on the tarmac, with "we're going!" "no, we're not..." announcements coming over the intercom every 25 minutes or so for about 3 very hot hours.
2. You can get a pedicure in the in-terminal spa at Newark, however, so flying there might be worth it if you have 30 extra minutes to spare.
3. I love Scotland.
wait, that wasn't enough?
Going back to Iona was a really interesting experience for me. I lived and worked there for two summers when I was in college, in 2000 and 2001. I came home the last time right before 9/11. Though I've done tons of other traveling since then, I've not been back to Iona. It's probably my favorite place in all the world. It's where I learned what living in community looks like. It's where I learned about my passion for creative worship. It's where I learned that I can sing and teach others to sing too. It's where I heard my call to ministry. It's a lot of things for me, besides being just my favorite place--there are memories around every curve, on every beach, in every ruin.
We stayed at the Abbey where I used to work, but this time I wasn't the one who knows everything, who handles questions and complaints. I was just a guest. Tricky, because I know things (like where the back stairs are and how much more convenient they would be) that I can't put to use, and because some things have changed (those stairs don't go as far as they used to!). Tricky because the experience is not the same, being staff and being a guest, and even coming back doing the same thing is different because the community is different. Things have changed--the staff have changed, some of the people with whom I worked have died, Historic Scotland has different responsibilities, there's scaffolding still on the Abbey Church bell tower.
But in all of that, it's still my favorite place. There's something about that island that lives inside me, I think, and it calls to me. The intentional community, the life centered on worship, the fact that there's nothing to "do" because there's no shopping, just one pub, and 22 beautiful beaches just begging to be enjoyed. The rhythm of community life, organized by bells rather than clocks. It's great.
The program we participated in (and which I had not intended to participate in quite so fully but found myself sucked into nonetheless) was about hospitality toward the Other, with the intention of helping us foster interfaith relationships. I don't think it necessarily started off well, but it definitely picked up! It was centered on three Bible studies, which were done in a great format that I plan to steal shamelessly. We were divided into groups and each given a character. After the story was read, every character group went off to its own place to think about some character-specific questions (so in the story of Naaman, my group was the king of Israel). Then each group was visited by another character or two, who had questions for us. It was a really intriguing way to get into a story. I loved it!
Also, I went to this place fully intending not to get sucked into any leadership of any kind--I didn't want to be leading worship, singing in the choir, MCing the variety show (called the "guest concert" which is generous), leading my bible study group, etc. Of course, as a pastor, I did sort of end up taking a bit of a lead in the Bible Study because sometimes there were things that would really inform our character that others didn't know to look for (ie: flip back two or three chapters and find out what king we are, are we good or bad, etc). But I did pretty well with the rest of it-I didn't lead worship or end up in the choir. However, Sam, our program leader for the week, asked me on the first day if I was musical. Since I'm a bad liar, I had to say yes. He then proceeded to ask me if I would start each of our six sessions by teaching everyone a song. Well, he looked so needy at that moment (his co-leader was ill and couldn't come) that I said yes. Which is how I found myself leading a group of 20 people in songs from around the world 6 times during the week. In case you're desperately wondering, here are the songs I chose, but not the order in which we did them (because I can't remember that!):
Bless the Lord (from Kenya)I admit, it was fun. I miss doing that.
Mayenziwe (S. Africa)
Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord (Cameroon)
Take, O Take Me As I Am (a John Bell song, so...from Scotland)
Nung Ye Da (Ghana)
Ya Rabba Ssalami (Palestine)
What else did we do? We ate together. We did chores (Elsa and I had the chore of setting up for breakfast, which we did late at night after coming back from the pub, thus releasing us from before-breakfast chores! hallelujah!!). We worshiped. We went on a pilgrimage around the island--7 miles. We made new friends. We snarked a little about our roommates (we had to be split up because of the bunk bed situation and people who weren't able to be on top bunks, while we young things are perfectly capable of climbing up there). We ate cream tea at the Argyll Hotel basically every day. We went to the pub at night. We danced at a ceilidh. I was forced to sing the fruit and jello song at the ceilidh as well (for which Ginna bought me a drink) (and which was horrendously embarrassing). We had a guest concert in which amy played a princess in a tragedy (tragic because everyone died, but actually utterly hilarious) and in which Ginna and I rushed the stage with flowers, pretending to be star struck. We sang silly songs and serious ones. We went swimming. We walked on the beach at night. We watched sunsets. We enjoyed both misty days and sunny days. We watched children play. We grieved the nuns buried at the now-ruined Nunnery (when there were only three left, the Protestant Reformation came to Scotland and the nuns were slaughtered). We laughed. I got offered a job, which I had to turn down (for now). Amy chased sheep. I b-a-a-a-d. And I learned how to do an impression of a Scottish frog (ribbit!). I'm sure there's more, and if I've left anything out I suspect my traveling companions will note that in the comments.
So that's the end of installment one of Scotland 2008 (which, in my facebook photo albums is labeled "summer in heaven"). I have to go to a breakfast meeting with my now-former senior pastor (yesterday was Richard's last day) and the other staff. More on the "pastor-who-stayed" phenomenon later. Also more on Scotland, of course, and on my observations of reading Lamb (by Christopher Moore) for the second time. There are definitely things I didn't pick up on before and now I feel dumb. Did you ever notice that this guy was writing theology as well as a hilarious novel?