Narrating Grace

Glasgow and Iona

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After a smooth couple of flights to Glasgow (stopping over in Rekjavik), I arrived in Glasgow last Thursday afternoon. It’s a bustling city with stunning architecture and a down-to-earth feel.

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I spent Friday resting and touring the city. The picture above is of George Square, a beautiful spot in the city center where people gather. The weather was gorgeous–sunny and in the 70s–and the square was full of people enjoying the day. I also I loved walking through Glasgow Cathedral, which was built in the late 12th century and stands next to the Glasgow Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery the sits on a hill overlooking the city.

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Saturday morning I woke early to catch the 8:21 train to Oban, which was the first leg of my trip to the island of Iona. After a 3-hour train ride through the beautiful Scottish countryside, an hour-long ferry, an hour-long bus ride, and a 5-minute ferry, I finally arrived at Iona.

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The picture above is of the cloisters at The Abbey in Iona, where I’m staying. The Abbey hosts visitors from around the world. There are 25 or so of us who arrived on Saturday and will stay until Friday, and it’s a global group including seminary students from The Atlantic Theological Seminary in Halifax, Nova Scotia as well as people from Germany, The Netherlands, England, and Switzerland. I’m the only person from the US! I’m struck by how our conversations about church reveal many similarities despite our global differences.

Staying at The Abbey on Iona is an experience of community and in many ways reminds me of summer camp. There are university students from around the world who volunteer here all summer as kitchen and housekeeping staff and the accommodations are comfortable but simple–shared rooms with baths down the hall (my roommate is a theological student from Germany). We eat all our meals together and we also have daily chores to foster a sense of connectedness. I’m feeling simultaneously overwhelmed, delighted, challenged and in awe of the history and beauty of this place. Each day there are multiple opportunities for worship in the Abbey chapel and when I attend services I’m keenly aware of the many people who have also worshipped in the space throughout the years.

The Abbey also doesn’t offer Internet to its guests, which means I’m down the hill at a hotel, using their spotty wireless to download a few pictures. I’ll add more when I get another chance. Tomorrow and Wednesday I look forward to a pilgrimage (or walk) around the island and a boat trip to Staffa, which includes views of puffin penguins (which I’m told are out in force this week).

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