Raymond Island

Raymond Island. Brent and I drive five hours through Gippsland. People think it's a poor region. We feel anticipation, some deep connection. Is it a God thing?

Life's many meetings fade from memory, yet I still recall the debate five years ago in Melbourne with Gippsland's much loved bishop John and folk from his Anglican Diocese. Dioceses can't balance their budgets. They can't close too many parishes, so they close other facilities that don't pay. Should they close their in-need-of-repair retreat centre on Raymond Island? Or should they enlarge their vision, risk all (someone said faith is spelt R.I.S.K.) and develop it as a place of eco-care and pilgrimage serviced by a community of prayer? What lessons could they learn from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Bishop John was keen to know. Lesson number one, I felt, was that a busy Christian centre needs to be served by people who live by a common Rule or Way of Life. Otherwise 'business and busyness' kills the goose that lays the golden egg. A link, unformed, unstated, was forged in our hearts.

The Diocese decided to develop their property on Raymond Island. Archdeacon Eadie Asley, the priest of the island church and the nearby mainland church by the lake, was also given oversight of the 20th century buildings that comprise 'The Abbey', and of the new Anglican Earthcare Gippsland Inc. She has an oversight group that includes the bishop, the treasurer, and spiritual directors. The hope was that volunteers would emerge who would live and pray daily on the island, but accommodation prices have so far frustrated this.

When planning for my four month teaching pilgrimage Down Under started, Brent, Edie and Bishop John agreed the Diocese should sponsor a short training course on new monasticism. Then John contracted an extremely rare, quick and fatal illness. People are still grieving, Kay, the new bishop will be installed in a month's time. Already the Diocese has launched an appeal for a large John McIntyre Centre which will combine a large refectory with top storey accommodation units with fine views.

I took participants through our Way of Life, with a special focus on its Creation Care, and explored key elements of soul friendship, We gave examples of spirituality centres that live a corporate expression of a way of life. Brent and I have subscribed as Friends. One or two who are in pioneer ministry also want to keep in touch. Edie and others are exploring possible Rules of Life. Please pray for everyone concerned with The Abbey at this pivotal time.

One other thing. The island's name. The certain Mr. Raymond after whom it is named is not likely, it seems, to feature in a catalogue of people who have 'excited others to live holy lives'. Aboriginal men camped here for seasons, and one or two volunteers seemed keen to provide information and inspiration from their heritage. I explained that Lindisfarne only gained the additional nickname Holy Island years after holy people like Saints Aidan and Cuthbert had lived and died there. Might Raymond Island gain a nickname? We discussed what's in a name? Brent discovered for the first time that the Gaelic meaning of Brent is Holy One! I told them that my name Raymond means Wise Guardian. So, as the hunt for a nickname began, and we drove off, the words 'Island of Wise Guardians' rang in my ears.

Posted at 20:26pm on 26th February 2015
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