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Exploring Celtic Spirituality and More – A Pilgrimage to Scotland and Northern England, 2020

Led by:
Sheryl L. Shenk, Spiritual Director
Ted Swartz, Playwright/Actor

May 20 - June 4, 2020

An overview of this pilgrimage:

Join us in traveling to the small island of Iona (for five nights) where early Celtic monks under St Columba’s leadership established a monastic community in the 6th century and where the current Iona Community draw persons on pilgrimage from all over the world. The Iona Community’s integrated vision is rooted in an every-day spirituality with a strong commitment to peacemaking and social action, promotion of ecumenism and development of new and relevant ways to worship. Travel on to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, and the cradle of Christianity for England. Here we will stay for 4 nights and interact with leaders of a new monasticism movement who will share about the early Celtic monks as well as their current ministry. Our last several nights will be in Durham where we will explore Durham Cathedral and more. Our community of up to 24 pilgrims will be guided in morning and evening Celtic prayers by Sheryl and others and enriched by the mirth-full woven stories of our common travels by actor Ted.


[Download this itinerary as a PDF]

DAY 1: Wednesday, May 20, 2020 -- Arrive in Glasgow, Scotland and check in at our hotel where we will be staying for two nights. Gather in the afternoon as Sheryl and Ted will lead a group orientation/ get acquainted session and introduce us to Celtic Christianity and provide an overview of the pilgrimage and its rhythms. Overnight at Jury Hotel in Glasgow. (Lunch + Dinner provided)

DAY 2: Thursday, May 21, 2020 -- We will walk nearby to the Iona Community whose headquarters are based in Glasgow. We will hear from Iona Community staff and Graham Maule, artist, author, and composer who will speak about Iona Community’s ministry that originated here before their establishment on Iona. Graham, in collaboration with John Bell, has produced many contemporary hymns available through G.I.A. Publications and which are sung around the world. Overnight in Glasgow. (Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner provided)

DAY 3: Friday, May 22, 2020 -- We arise early for a long day’s journey traveling by bus and ferries to Iona. We travel for hours through beautiful Scottish countryside to the western seaport town Oban where we board the ferry (about a 45-minute ride) to the Isle of Mull. Our bus will take us on an hour’s ride from Craignure across the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands, Mull, through the moorlands to Fionnphort where we will
board another ferry for a short ride (10 minutes) to Iona, our home for the next six nights. We will check in at St. Columba’s Hotel where we will have dinner and, time permitting, meet at the Iona Abbey for 9 pm evening prayers. Overnight Iona. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 4: Saturday, May 23, 2020 -- Today we begin our exploration of the enchanting Island of Iona. Iona is the preeminent historical site for Celtic Christianity. A monastery was established by St. Columba in the 6th century and he died here in 597. The island is a true “thin space” where pilgrims have prayed and worshipped and sensed the nearness of the Holy throughout the ages. Each morning and evening at 9 am and 9 pm, we are invited to join in community worship at the Iona Abbey.
We will consider various options for our 4 day stay, some of which may be guided by our pilgrimage leaders or the Iona Community. We will meet sometime for group prayers and singing at St. Oran’s Chapel, built in the 11th century. Surrounding the chapel is the Reilig Odhrain, the sacred burial ground which is said to contain the graves of 48 Scottish kings. We will learn about some of the tall stone Celtic crosses, including St. Martin’s Cross dating to the 8th century. St. Martin’s Cross is the finest of Iona’s Celtic crosses and is decorated on one side with the serpent-and-boss and on the other with Holy figures. Other considerations include hiking Dun I, Iona’s highest point with an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BCE to 200 CE, exploring a shore covered with lovely Iona rocks, stopping at quaint shops on the island or savoring time and this beautiful landscape over a cup of tea. Dinner and overnight Iona. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 5: Sunday, May 24, 2020 -- After breakfast at St. Columba's Hotel, we will attend morning worship at Iona Abbey at 10:30 AM followed by lunch together at St Columba’s Hotel. Today is a Sabbath day for contemplative space to explore or rest, taking in the beauty of this island. Dinner and overnight Iona. (Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner provided)

DAY 6: Monday May 25, 2020 -- Another day to explore or join with others on a meditative walk. We may visit the Nunnery, the Church of St. Ronan, the Abbey and St. Martin’s Cross or the Iona Heritage Centre. This day, or if the weather seems preferable another day, we can enjoy an optional boat ride to visit Staffa and see the natural basalt beauty of Fingal’s Cave where Felix Mendelssohn in 1829 conjured up the sounds and sights of Scotland, composing his famous piece “The Hebrides Overture,” also known as “Fingal’s Cave.” We attend evening services at the Abbey. After evening prayers, there may be a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee), a village dance get-together held around 10 PM. Dinner and overnight Iona. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 7: Tuesday, May 26, 2020 -- Sometime during our stay, the Iona Community may host an on-road half-day pilgrimage walk on the island. For those who would like a longer off-road walk, we will provide opportunity to hike to St Columba’s Bay at the south end of the island. Dress for all weather and bring sturdy boots. Or you may choose to have a personal contemplative day exploring on your own. We may attend evening services at the Abbey. Dinner and overnight Iona. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 8: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 -- We say “goodbye” to Iona as we board the ferry back to the mainland and meet our coach driver. We continue on a day’s journey crossing the border into Northern England to reach our destination Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, the cradle of Christianity for England. This island, which has been inhabited since the Iron Age, will be our destination for the next four nights. Christianity was brought to the Holy Island by St. Aidan when he established a monastery here in AD 635. St. Aidan came from Iona where he was a monk in the monastery founded there by St. Columba. Over the next several days, we will have time to visit the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre where a facsimile and interactive turning pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels is housed. The original Lindisfarne Gospels are located in the British Library in London. Other sites include the ruins of the Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle. Our lodging will be at Open Gate Retreat House and Lindisfarne Hotel. Dinner and overnight Lindisfarne. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Note that access to and from the island is via a causeway and therefore governed by low tides.

DAY 9: Thursday, May 28, 2020 -- This morning we plan to meet with a member of the Community of Aidan and Hilda who will provide an introduction to Holy Island and the northern saints, Aidan, Cuthbert, and Hilda including a village walk if weather is favorable. The Community of Aidan and Hilda runs the Open Gate Retreat House where some of our pilgrims will be lodging. There will be free time to explore in the afternoon. Overnight Lindisfarne. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 10: Friday, May 29, 2020 -- Today we will have some free time to explore the beauty of this island on our own. In the afternoon, we plan to meet Andy and Anna Raine, who will share in music and dance at the Cuthbert Centre. They are members of the Northumbria Community, a new monastic movement. (Andy is also editor of the Celtic Daily Prayer book). On one of these days at Lindisfarne or Durham, we will gather with others to see Ted’s show, “The Big Story”. Overnight Lindisfarne. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 11: Saturday, May 30, 2020 -- For those who desire, we will board a bus when the tides are out to cross the causeway and meet with Andy Raine who will lead us on a pilgrimage walk across the sands and mud flats, walking the ancient route via the pilgrim posts. The rest of the day we may choose to stroll the island or visit local shops or heritage sites. Dinner and Overnight Lindisfarne. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 12: Sunday, May 31, 2020 -- Gather for morning worship at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and then board the coach and travel to Durham. If the tides do not allow us to stay on Lindisfarne for morning worship, we will travel to Durham early and worship at Durham Cathedral and attend Evensong at 3:30 in the afternoon. This cathedral is a Norman architectural masterpiece and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of England. Our lodging will be at King’s Lodge Inn. Dinner and overnight Durham (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 13: Monday, June 1, 2020 -- Today, we plan to have a guided tour through the Cathedral, along with a glimpse at their recently opened exhibit called Open Treasures. A pause in the day includes an afternoon tea at the Prior’s Hall. Dinner and overnight in Durham. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

DAY 14: Tuesday, June 2, 2020 -- This day will include conversations with the Anglican community of the Durham diocese exploring the edges of Christian faith within a large cathedral setting. Dinner and overnight in Durham. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 15: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 -- Our pilgrimage concludes with a closing retreat along with opportunity for sharing reflections and experiences from our pilgrimage. We will gather for Evensong at the Cathedral, followed by a farewell dinner at the cathedral. Overnight Durham. (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 16: Thursday, June 4, 2020 -- Departing early in the morning, we board the coach and travel to Manchester Airport for our afternoon return flights back to the USA. (Breakfast provided)

About the Leaders of this Pilgrimage

Sheryl L. Shenk is a spiritual director and co-creator of Eklectic Pilgrimages LLC, a pilgrimage company providing diverse opportunities to travel, exploring Christian spirituality through a contemplative lens and engaging participants in a transformative journey. Having co-led prior Celtic Pilgrimages, she will be guiding the group through ancient sites where Christianity took root. Group experiences will highlight Celtic spirituality and include opportunities for Celtic morning and evening prayers. Both she and her husband Jonathan are Mennonites with a deep appreciation of Celtic reverence for God, earth, community and the stuff of ordinary life. Jon provides technical support and photography as needed on the trip.

Ted Swartz is an actor, playwright and founder of Ted and Company TheatreWorks using humor and professional storytelling to talk about issues of faith and social justice. He is passionate about creating art that provokes both laughter and thought. On the pilgrimage, Ted will be bringing our pilgrim stories as well as scriptural texts and characters to life, in all of our fumbling and faithful humanity. He is intrigued by the delicious intersection of Anabaptist theology, Celtic spirituality, and theater. Ted will be joined by his wife Sue, an occasional acting partner and one of the reverent ones.