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              Monday, September 10 2001

Scottish travels 5

Having realized after reviewing my dispatches from the United Kingdom and Ireland last month that I had omitted one of the highlights of our trip—Scotland—I have been rectifying that with this series.

I first heard of Iona while, in my 30s, I was teaching an adult class at a Presbyterian Church near Stanford University where I was ministering. The man who introduced it to me found a connection between the worldview I was teaching in the class and what he'd encountered in his visit to Iona. We became friends and he joined my ministry as a board member, but it was years later before I came to comprehend the true significance of Iona, the island from which what's now Scotland was first evangelized and won for Christianity by the monks being sent out from there by Columba, the Irish missionary who came there partly to do a pennance about a century after the evangelizing of his own nation by St. Patrick (in the 500s, A.D.).

Ironically, not only Orthodox Christians as I have since become, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans "claim" St. Columba as one of themselves and Iona as one of their pilgrimage sites, so do many Presbyterians. Though Presbyterians don't have much truck with "saints," sacred relics, and mystical places like Iona, it is from here that Scotland was Christianized and where the nation was launched after the conversion of the barbarian Picts. Scotland is the home of Presbyterianism now; it was converted wholesale by the preaching of Reformer John Knox in the 16th century, and Presbyterianism has been its official state religion ever since. Having been a Presbyerian myself most of all my adult life and ordained to the ministry in a Presbyterian church, I then came to Iona and St. Columba from at least two points of interest.

Now on Sunday, August 19, I took a ferry across the narrow sound between the big island Mull to the small one of Iona. The first surprising impression of it is that it's not inhabited only by "religious," and cattle and sheep, but has a whole secular village greeting visitors, with a couple small hotels and a hostel besides the Iona center that hosts overnight visitors. Today's photo captures a portion of the town and the St. Columba Abbey (at the right).

More tomorrow.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Husbands, wives

Any husband who says, "My wife and I are completely equal partners," is talking about either a law firm or a hand of bridge.

—Bill Cosby

Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for the day

There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.

Sent by Anonymous

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