My scunneration with the disruption to Cal Mac’s Oban to Barra ferry was tempered by thoughts of St Columba & teams of Celtic saints rowing their tiny leather-lined coracles through tempest to reach the Outer Hebrides. Conditions were calm on the late combined ferry to Loch Boisdale & Castlebay, but the rising & dipping swell was enough to suggest your earlier meals might yet be ejected overboard. Grateful, we reached our Barra B&B at 10pm and next day I was on my Hebridean Way Pilgrimage, cycling from Vattersay up to the Butt of Lewis in 5 days, ably assisted by St Dorothy of Waterside in the car.

 

The Church of Scotland provide 2 weeks annual study leave for ministers after we’ve worked 5 years in The Ministry. This investment in her ministers is a major reason I have been enabled to minister in Irvine for nearly 35 years, taking time out to look, listen, learn, and return re-gigged, refreshed, and renewed for ‘the next stretch’.

I return to old clothes & porridge, warmed by Hebridean hospitality and stirred by the sheer bloody mindedness and determination of the Celtic saints to reach out and strategically share their deep love for Father, Son, & Spirit; such that within a century, by God’s Grace they transformed Pict and Barbarian cultures and clans into the Way of Jesus.

Back on the mainland, near Ft William at the Abernethy Kilmalieu Outdoor Retreat Centre, under Steve Aisthorpe’s direction I visited ministers in Mallaig, Ardgour, Kilmallie, & Kinlochleven to learn what God’s doing. I was encouraged by their dedication and devotion to sharing the Love & Good News of Jesus, and by how rural communities recognise local churches as integral to their identity. I was also saddened by the apathy among Christians, for going deeper with God and a lack of evangelical zeal to introduce neighbours and families to the ‘second to none’ Community of Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, which introduces us to an unconditional Love, able to forgive and unite the least likely of neighbours.

A question I asked is, “How would the Celtic saints, and first apostles, use the internet to their advantage?” I have no doubt that their commitment to the local and grounded personal relationships would be primary, with social media used as one of numerous aids to build up believers and intrigue and help people take steps closer to faith, trust & flourishing in Jesus. Alas, despite internet aid (e.g. Zoom Groups) to uniting people in worship & learning, where miles separate them, beyond lockdowns there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for cell groups to continue or grow. In an ‘unholy contentment’, people seem happy with their lot, swallowing a consumerist Christianity and seeing no need to take responsibility for growing, and sharing, their faith. Likewise, people don’t see any need to explore the amazing new, and eternal, life Jesus offers. The same commitment & determination demonstrated by a technophobic mum, papa, & relative, to connect and commune with a loved one on the other side of the world via Facetime (or equivalent) is required to grow Christian community & outreach locally face-to-face, and across many miles via the internet.

The opportunity to join the Kilmalieu Centre’s working community at morning prayers was a privilege, a living example of the cells which led to the transformation of our land. I am humbled by the time it took for the Celtic saints of old to change cultures across the UK. I am a tiny spec in the present process of transforming cultures but am determined to play my prayerful part in seeing the Gospel and Community of The Trinity bury and raise up a new Church, able to daily prove the presence of Jesus Christ.

In ‘Rewilding The Church’ Steve Aisthorpe identifies three major dangerous species which require rooting out of church to release & rewild us: 1. ‘Noxious impact of the frenetic’ – So I commit afresh to daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual times of listening to God and discerning of God’s Will, (‘God ideas’ rather than a clutter of ‘Good ideas’ which distract, divert and derail from The Best God wants for us. I’ll try to practise JOMO, the ‘Joy of Missing Out’ 2. ‘Poisonous pest of busyness’ – “Do we sometimes run around, busily creating a draught and trying to convince ourselves that it’s the wind of The Spirit?” 3. ‘Tackling the reign of fear’ – Steve & Liz Aisthorpe have stepped away from a cul-de-sac of caution & comfort into the new adventure of creating a retreat centre for adventure, reflection, and re-centring on Christ. So, I commit to throwing caution to the wind and allowing the Wild Christ to lead me and the people, and churches, I’m involved with. I aim to overcome ‘ecclesia anxiety’ to allow God’s Love to drive out fear that snares and kills movements of God’s Spirit, to follow Jesus in his ways of ‘risk & faithfulness’. Selah.