After 2 late nights with mostly Celtic song one evening and Celtic dance on the other (the first I really enjoyed as a listener and occasional joining in song; the second certainly an active and participatory learning style but not so much to my liking), it was refreshing to have a slower morning.
After joining in morning prayers at St Cuthbert’s Centre at 9.30am, we walked Lindisfarne Island. Not the whole length and breadth, mind you (at nine miles in circumference, a bit too far for most), but across the middle then along the border, fences, and beaches. Absolutely delightful and full of conversation with others of this diverse group (three couples, the rest singles; five of us taking the course non-credit; four for credit and tasked with writing papers and more reading than the rest of us).
The walk was led by Andy Raine and concluded at the ‘prayer caves’ overlooking St Cuthbert’s Island. Little more than slight depressions into the cliffside, and requiring a bit of nimble navigation on a pathway to occupy, these are places of prayer with centuries of history. Aiden founded the monastery on Lindisfarne in 635AD. Cuthbert made a temporary hermitage on the little island only a few yards away c.675 (I’m guessing the year from the little bit of information I have to hand as I write this), before moving to an island a couple miles further out and away from Lindisfarne (still visible from the prayer caves).
After lunch John and Olive led us in some discussion of key learnings, in their view, of the Celtic expression of following God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit (as these early Christians would have no doubt emphasized the Three in One.
There is much too much to share here, but I felt affirmed in two or three aspects of following Jesus and being missional (sharing and being the Good News of the Kingdom of God to people in a proactive and embracing way). First, the the style and approach of putting belonging before behaving and believing. What I mean by that is there is something about being a Jesus community together first that shapes and influences and testifies and transforms others in their behaviour as they take part in the community before their beliefs (heart before head, or feeling before intellect). John quoted a producer of television programmes with whom he was acquainted that said ‘I want to help people feel so much they cannot help but think.’
There’s also the practice of ‘soul friendship’ or being a Soul Friend. Andy mentioned this while were on our walk as a kind of person ‘who prepares another for death; and then prepares that person for life.’ It involves listening to another’s story (listening!!), helping that person discern what God is doing and how to respond to God, what practices or manner of life help work out that response, and praying for that person.
I can’t help but think of my friend Larry with whom I’ve been meeting for 15 years to pray and talk and listen and consider our ways of life. Or Tammy, my love of 31 years, who has helped me in a myriad of ways unpack the life I lived before meeting her and in our years together since then. Or other mentors and guides too numerous to mention. Now, maybe these don’t strictly meet the Celtic understanding of a soul friend (for many, apparently, it was only necessary to meet one’s soul friend 1x a year), but these are indispensable to me. And for which I am deeply grateful.