Bardsey Island is one of the most beautiful places I know, its remoteness draws people who seek a week or two off grid.
It’s a place for spiritual seekers as well as those who want to simplify, with no wifi or electricity or flushing loos.
This is the second year I’ve served as chaplain for a week. Wish it could be longer. For me this time is an opportunity to grow in my role as an evangelist and serve in a completely different context as well as take time to pray and have some solitude and silence too. This is the time of year I find I get to pray for The Light Project (a charity I founded 15 years ago) like no other time.
Spending most Friday’s and one Sunday a month in the centre of Peterborough in busy busy places means chaplaincy is often a case of not having enough time. On Bardsey the opposite applies. I had ample time and needed to work out the best way to connect with and serve people.
Firstly I did this simply by sharing with those I met that I was the island chaplain for the week. The journey getting there and traveling even provided lots of opportunities to meet people and share my faith with them. I adventually got to Aberdarren (11 hours later) to pitch my tent for the night after a journey that entailed: being dropped off at the station by Ruth, followed by 3 different trains and a bus. At the campsite I met some amazing people. The question people always asked was ‘where are you going?’ This gave me a prefect opportunity to talk about the chaplaincy experience and what I do. In the evening over a pint in the local pub a couple asked if I would pray for them.
The following day I walked to the cove where I would meet the boatman Colin Evans to take me to the island. I chatted with a man who captured me on my slow walk. He sent me this picture on my return to the mainland: I must admit the journey was fairly hard going, but I was encouraged to keep going knowing the promise of the beauty of Batdsey awaited me!
The crossing was choppy… But once again like every step of the way I shared with my fellow passengers about my role as island chaplain. When I got off the boat I was invited to prayer by a man who every morning went through some beautiful Orthodox prayers. The six mornings I prayed with him were deeply powerful and helped him too grow in his faith as well as mine.
The island is simply breathtaking and these pictures will just about give a glimpse of the remoteness and beauty of the island.
As well as enjoying the time to meet with God and spend longer times in prayer and silence I also met people each day to serve them as chaplain. While this took the format of running a service (10 people came along, nearly a quarter of the people on the island!) and other organised times for people to gather I also spent time simply ‘hanging out’ and painting for people and offering the ‘bardsey blessing’ I had produced in postcard form for those who visited the island on day trips.
Here are some of the pictures I did for people on the island:
On the final evening of my week on the island I helped organise a music and poetry evening. We also had some jokes shared by the children who joined us! I shared a poem about Bardsey (another post, another time) and read one of my poems from my book of poems ‘Questioned Christian.’ Over half the islands residents came along to the music event and it was a brilliant way to get to know people in a relaxed format.
Now, to end these brief thoughts with the Bardsey blessing:
Ynys Enlli has been a place of pilgrimage since the 5th century for those seeking the presence of God. Today people venture to the island for its natural beauty, solitude or out of curiosity. Whatever your reason for being here may this Bardsey blessing enrich your life:
Today, as you walk on this island may you meet the One who knows you and loves you.
May you hear deep within your worth and value.
May God the Father enfold you and embrace you.
May God the Son walk beside you.
May God the Spirit refresh you and lead you forward on your journey.