My Heroes This Week

This is a week for heroes. My first heroes are Bergen's Hagskolen Theological Students. They left home at 5.0 am, arrived tired on Holy Island, yet, despite the fact that the sea had not fully receded and day was fading, walked barefeet across the pilgrim posts. After a quick late bite where they are staying, they came to our Night Prayer (admittedly a bit late!) and then had an hour's lecture starting at 9.30 pm. Their leader, Bard, told me that these students gather together daily for morning and evening prayer and keep some corporate spiritual disciplines. It reminds me of Bonhoeffer. I kidded myself that I might be a teeny bit of a hero, since I had an eye operation on Monday in Newcastle, was dumped, because of bureaucracy, for four hours in a caf before the tide opened, and need extra sleep. Alas, the truth is that while the students walked the Pilgrim Posts I slept on my bed, and was revived enough not to yawn once during my lecture.

My second hero is John Halsey, whom I visited on Saturday. He is the last survivor of the Community of the Transfiguration at Rosslyn, Edinburgh which closed a year or two back. Daniel Hug, a former Open Gate volunteer, kept on his overcoat when he slept in one of their huts and declared it to be the most ascetic experiment in Europe! John is an ordained aristocrat who worked in a garage while he was at Rosslyn as a co-leader with Roland Walls. Now the trustees have provided this spritely, twinkling eighty-seven year old with a terraced room, and have transferred the Rosslyn shed chapel into his back yard. He regaled me with stories of God's guidance. Up to twenty people come out of the woodwork and join him when he celebrates a Eucharist in the chapel once a month. I joined him for Midday Prayer, and wrote a review of the book about Rosslyn for the May issue of The Aidan Way.

My third hero is John Muir the naturalist. I drove south from Edinburgh to Dunbar, where as a child John climbed the fortress rocks where Saint Cuthbert was most likely stationed when he was a young warrior at the time he saw a vision of Aidan's ascent to heaven. I went along the John Muir Nature Trail to the brilliant John Muir Visitors Centre. There I learned how, after emigrating to USA, he left the University of Wisconsin and entered the University of the Wilderness for the rest of his life. I bought a book of quotations and meditations and reviewed this, too, for The Aidan Way. I envisioned that we hold an annual summer school/retreat there for pilgrims who walk the John Muir Trail which is now part of a Saint Aidan Way. Contact me if you are interested. Then, using his words, I tweeted this prayer: 'Help us to breathe life deeply - risking, longing, belonging'.

Posted at 08:48am on 7th April 2016
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