I’m three days back from serving as chaplain for a week on Bardsey Island and I’m just about managing to climatise to the usual rush and hubbub of ministry and serving as an evangelist with The Light Project.
You see on the Island I couldn’t even have done this writing. There is no electricity, let alone wi-fi, so blogging was out of the question as was putting my feet up in front of a good film catching up with friends on social media or using the hair dryer!
Bardsey is a rare bolt-hole away from the pressures and immediacy of every day life and attracts people who want to get ‘off grid’ for a while and slow down. It attracts spiritual seekers and pilgrims. Those burnt out and broken by ministry and life join those who flock to the island for its natural beauty.
I served as the chaplain for a week which did have some ‘busy periods’ within that time also held profound moments of silence and prayer. As chaplain I made myself available to pray for people but was also purposeful in sharing my faith, something we’re passionate about at The Light Project.
I did this by advertising where I would be and when on the island and what I would be doing.
I did this by putting up posters around the island, something that the spirituality committee encourage chaplains to do. Instead of a list of activities and events I made it my goal to be available to listen, pray and be at the benches at the farm cafe for a couple of hours every day. Having a ‘third space’ to meet people felt really important. In this neutural space I did some prayer painting, this is something that I do in our Wetherspoon’s pub most weeks as city centre chaplain and it felt right to do this in the remote beauty of Bardsey. Prayer paintings seek to bring something specific to people from God, something that would encourage, strengthen and comfort people.
Here’s some of the paintings I did alongside my daughter who joined me as ‘chaplain’s assistant’ for the week. We used the paintings as a way to connect and engage with people and to pray for them too if they wanted:
My daughters paintings spoke powerfully to people and she practiced listening to God as to who they were for. God also seems to speak even clearer and powerfully on the island through the natural beauty but also through the heritage, spirituality and the island being a ‘thin’ place. Thin referring to the gap between heaven and earth. Bardsey Island trust website states that ‘thin place means it is especially possible to feel the closeness of eternity.’ This is something both my daughter and I experienced.
One of the icons in the prayer room declares:
‘In this place of wonder He makes Himself known to those who love Him.’
I always used to think ‘this place’ meant in the prayer room where a nun had prayed for many years. However this year I studied the picture and felt my eyes opened to look at where the monk was standing. You can see that he is standing amongst rocks and on the beach, stepping out of the frame into the world.
When we came off the island my daughter and I went for a walk around the bustling coast village of Aberdaren and then ventured to the National Trust house a few miles down the coast. As we ate lunch my daughter declared ‘I’m home-sick.’ This was a natural thing to feel I thought as we had been away from siblings and mum for over a week. I explained to her that this was a natural thing to feel and that she would soon be at home. ‘No, I’m home sick for Bardsey’ she declared.
I’ve heard of people who have visited Bethel in California, a place of extraordinary miracles and vibrant worship who have simply not wanted to leave. Some have booked extra weeks holiday just to linger within the atmosphere and some even have moved to be in such a heavenly environment.
The same feeling was something we both experienced on Bardsey. We wanted to stay and be in that place of closeness and simplicity. Within each one of us, I believe, is a yearning for eternity, an aching for our true home. Bardsey gave us a glimpse of that eternal place.
Here are some pictures I took of the natural beauty of the place:
If you would like to apply to serve as chaplain on the island you can follow this link.