By Julie Wall
I have always been one of those people who would love to keep a journal but never really got around to it. I have always wanted a place to work through thoughts and ideas so that I could see them later. I’m not always the best at coming up with beautiful things to say right off the top of my head, but if I have the time and effort, I often enjoy working through problems or thoughts on paper, rather than out loud or just in my head. So, with this in mind, picture me at Barnes and Noble, just a few days before we left for Iona. I was looking for the perfect journal, worthy of the inspiration, challenges and revelations from this incredible experience. Would flowers, a geometric design or maybe a cat print be the best place to figure it all out?
As you may have noticed, my expectations weren’t quite realistic, but honestly I didn’t really know what to expect from our time on Iona.
As you also may have noticed at this point, I tend to lean toward the intellectual side of the spirituality types. I prefer logic, order, organization and lack of chaos. Serious discussion and reflection are ways that I enjoy exploring my faith. For me, prayer is often focused around words, and I love to turn to the hymnal and liturgy when I can’t seem to find the right words. I often feel most near to God during worship.
With all this in mind, on this trip I was hoping to find an island community with inspiring and meditative worship services and abundant opportunities to engage in structured, meaty discussions of different faith backgrounds and issues. While I found some aspects of this, what I really found was a group of passionate people who quickly formed a community and family through shared meals and open activities rather than intense discussions. I was so inspired by each and every person I met, their journey to Iona and why they were there. From a Methodist pastor who was on sabbatical, a family from Canada who had visited many times before, two Dutch families who were re-exploring their faith practices after they had been hurt by a church they loved and a group of young Swedish confirmation leaders who were so committed to the church while living in a country, and families, where faith is often looked down upon.
I found the worship experience at Iona to be refreshing and encouraging. The services had the same structure and mood as many of our services, but I enjoyed some of the different language and wording used by the Iona community. There is an authenticity and honest texture that I am excited to share in some of our LCM community worship through the coming year.
I was also challenged to experience God in ways that I did not expect and were somewhat foreign to me. I was challenged to see God through experiences that seemed mundane. I was challenged to see God by being flexible. I was encouraged to see God in our beautiful surroundings. I learned from those whose spirituality is formed around emotion. While, I cannot say that I am now a perfectly well rounded person, I can say that I have learned more about how people are different and how those differences are surrounded by different strengths. In the coming year I hope that we, as a community, can continue to recognize and reflect on how we are formed by different spirituality types and make conscious choices to care for each other to the best of our abilities.