THE WEATHER LOOKS SET FAIR for our six day parish pilgrimage to Iona. I’m off to Glasgow in the morning, on to Oban on Thursday, and then, having hopefully met up with our party of pilgrim parishioners, the couple of ferry crossings to Columba’s Isle.

I’m hoping for quietness and simplicity at Bishop’s House, coupled with what I hope will be a deepening awareness of those who have preceded us – passing on the tradition and the faith – and who are amongst us even now in the glad communion of the Saints. We are indebted to them, inspired by them. Columba’s own prayer will be balm for our souls:

Let me bless almighty God, whose power extends over sea and land, whose angels watch over all. Let me study sacred books to calm my soul: I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates. Let me do my daily work, gathering seaweed, catching fish, giving food to the poor. Let me say my daily prayers, sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet, always thanking God. Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell, serving the King of kings – St Columba

Our little group of (now 22) pilgrims are all actively engaged, in one way or another, in the life and manifold activities of a large and busy parish church. Almost all of us have over-full diaries. Almost all of us are constantly aware of it – and of a need to defend space for LIFE itself, a need to defend space for contemplation, prayer, reflection and proper direction. How readily I can imagine Jesus having uttered words similar in tone and volume to those prayed by Columba: “I pray for peace, kneeling at heaven’s gates”. I hope that our pilgrimage prayer will draw us closer to “heaven’s gates”:

Gracious Father and Mother of us all, may such a spirit of holy quietness descend upon our days and nights of pilgrimage that we may come to revel in the depths of your peace.

Gracious Father and Mother of us all, grant to each of us Grace that we may not fear silence in this holy isle — nor seek to put it to flight. Grant us grace in our movements and such a measure of stillness, in heart and mind and soul and body, each day and each night, that we may become more and more aware of your Spirit’s having already settled in the depths of each of us, and thus come to know deepening joy.

Gracious Father and Mother of us all, may such a spirit of holy quietness descend upon our days and nights of pilgrimage that we bless our fellow pilgrims (and be blessed by them) with the gift of a greater space for their own thoughts and prayers than obligation to listen to ours – our pilgrimage prayer

Here in Bramhall we’re caught up in the Growth Action Planning programme sponsored and encouraged by the Diocese of Chester. My hope and my sincerest prayer is for the Spirit’s settling upon any and all such planning. If 22 pilgrims return to Bramhall having quietened in Spirit and blossomed in Love then it may be that it comes to be said the more increasingly of St Michael & All Angels, Bramhall, as of God’s kingdom, that

“Soul by soul, and silently, her shining bounds increase. And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.”

May it be so. May it be so.

see also: Iona, and the not knowing