Before we left for our Celtic pilgrimage, Rev. Mike Miller warned us that we might feel “hefted” to Iona. Hefting is a common practice among shepherds, where sheep are allowed to graze without fences. The ewes teach their lambs where to graze, and therefore feel a sense of belonging to a certain area. As predicted, I am now “hefted” to Iona. I did feel at home there, almost immediately.
Iona is a small island, about 1 mile wide and 4 miles long, in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. On our pilgrimage walk to St. Columba’s Bay on the southern part of the island, it seemed like a much bigger place (in other words, a challenging hike for me). St. Columba’s Bay is covered in rocks instead of sand. It is where St. Columba landed on Iona when he fled Ireland and began a Christian mission there in 563. We were encouraged to pick up two stones: one representing what we wanted to leave behind to be thrown into the ocean, and the other to bring back to remind us of what we wanted to pick up or commit to in our faith journey. It was easy to know what I wanted to leave there, and a bit more prayer time to listen to what God wanted me to do before I made a commitment. Worship on Iona was of course meaningful and beautiful, and I long to be back in the old abbey with the modern words of the liturgy.
I want to share with you a prayer from the Iona Abbey Worship Book about commitment:
God, our Creator, you have wonderfully made us. You have planted in us different gifts, no two of us are the same. On our own we may or may not shine, but together, in your company, you turn us into a kaleidoscope of grace. Sometimes we lament the busyness of our lives, sometimes we bemoan the emptiness. These are the signs of our longing for a fulfillment we cannot create, but which we can receive from the One who made, knows and loves us. Lover of all and of each, enable us here to be fully open to you to all you have to offer, to all that you ask of us. Amen.