It was, without a doubt and at the risk of sounding ever so much over the top, one of the most rewarding weeks of ministry I have undertook. Ever.
I’m a few days back from the very remote Island of Bardsey which is just off the Llyn Peninsula North Wales where I served as island chaplain for a week. It’s a growing pilgrimage hotspot, a destination for many as they seek to find a thin place, where the gap between heaven and earth is thin. They are drawn by the tales of Celtic Saints or 13th Century Augustine monks or more recently Franciscan hermits who lived on the island.
So what made my week on the island rewarding?
First off. It is simply a beautifully stunning place. I was surrounded by an array of birds, swallows in the loft and Manx Warblers with their mid night spooky chorus, the island felt jam packed with birds and indeed it attracts bird watchers from all over the world. Seals are all around the island too.
There are no cars or roads on the island and this makes the place peaceful. In fact no electricity. Or flushing loos. Eew, I know, but it’s so good!
You see a simple place where the mod cons of the world haven’t spoilt is priceless. This caused me to slow right down and take deep breaths. I couldn’t plug in anything! And this caused me to lift up my eyes and see a breathtakingly beautiful island. Here are some snaps showing something of the beauty:
Not being able to plug in and use many of the distractions that sap time (ironically I am writing on my iPhone as I sit on the train) meant that I had more time to spend in prayer, meditation on the scriptures and also painting and land art. Always good soul enriching activities for me.
I also had time to bake bread. Well, not having taken any with me it was a bit of a necessity I guess… But the slower pace also meant I had time for people, and each day I had at least one Devine appointment where I met spiritual seekers, some local but others as far flung as Mexico! It was a delight to bring something from God’s heart to those I just ‘so happened’ to meet. Each day I ventured to the simple cafe that is served by the farm house and the amazing family who live on the island. (It was one of the highlights of the week to have met them and to pray for them amongst the hard work of farming the island.) I would simply wait on one of their wooden picnic benches and see who came along as I enjoyed a pot of red bush tea. Others ventured down to see me at the prayer room and ask for prayer or some simply wanted to talk. One of the things I offered was to speak a blessing over people’s lives, not a liturgical thing, just a heartfelt blessing. I was greatly encouraged when one older lady described her experience of being listened to as being ‘cherished’ by God.
I offered three simple acts of worship for the island. A simple Taize style service (singing simple songs unaccompanied) with story telling and communion. This was a powerful time… With 5 people in my congregation on Sunday. I also led a poetry and prayer time which only one person came to but didn’t want to do poetry! So we spent time talking and praying.
I found my week very rewarding for me personally and as I took time to pray for The Light Project, our staff and Trustee and our future vision. It felt so good to spend much time, most of it merging out of Lectio Devina (meditating and reflecting on scripture.)
Most of the time I was alone and while ‘being chaplain’ for the island this felt right, to dwell with Jesus and follow in the slipstream those who had gone before me on the island. To abide brings fruitfulness, so Jesus teaches and I am looking forward to see how this looks for the Light Project family as well as the Duffett one.
If you would like to apply to serve as chaplain, like I did, you can contact the Bardsey Island Trust directly or send me a message below and I can ping over the email address of the spirituality committee for Bardsey who take applications for chaplains. I must give a word of wanting though; I am already dreaming of going again and praying and being on the island.
Bardsey has got somewhat under and on my skin. It’s a place of meeting with God… without showers.