Wednesday was quite full of wonderful experiences for the pilgrims, culturally, personally and spiritually. Read on!
Wednesday was a travel day from Iona to Glasgow. All were sad to leave Iona, but new adventures awaited. The pilgrims were charged with meeting the 8:50 am ferry after the 8:am Eucharist. On Tuesday evening we learned about an opportunity to worship at the Episcopal church, located at The Bishop's House on the edge of the village. Rev. Gwyneth Murphy, from Chappaqua, NY, was in residence at the retreat center there for a week. Each morning visitors and residents gather to worship in the Anglican tradition. Our group woke early to ensure our bags were packed in time to walk the 25 minutes into the village. Our group of 15 soon filled the small nave, joining the 6-7 already there ahead of us. Rev Gwenyth bade everyone welcome and explained that our group may need to step out before the end to catch the ferry. But she lead us through the entire liturgy, not skipping a step, including a meaningful homily on the scripture reading from Matthew. Soon enough we were exchanging greetings of peace and introducing ourselves to Episcopalians from around the world. Then we all gathered around the alter to receive communion. After the dismissal, the pilgrims gave effusive good-byes to our fellow communicants and extended invitations to worship at St. Luke's in Virginia. We felt so blessed to celebrate a Eucharist in Iona with the familiar words of our religious heritage. And the pilgrims were struck by Reverend Gwenyth's gold sequin slippers.
The pilgrims moved on to the ferry quay and claimed our roll-on baggage that had been taxied to the dock. All felt a bit sad to leave Iona, knowing we will miss its serenity, beautiful natural setting and spiritual nourishment.
The pilgrims loaded the van in Fionaphort for the ride to the next ferry to take us to Oban, where we had time to explore the heights of the town and browse its shops. As we traveled the one-lane road on the Island of Mull, we learned that on Wednesday and Thursday nights the pilgrims would prepare their own meals using the kitchen facilities at the Glasgow Youth Hostel. These are called the "Stone Soup" meals. The adult and youth pilgrims were split into 2 teams. Each team set a menu, developed recipes and a shopping list, and shopped for the items within a 45 minutes, with a budget of 75 pounds. To top it off, this was a friendly competition. Two adults were assigned to judge the results to determine a winner. Teams had to pitch their menu to the judges prior to shopping. The judges awarded points based on originality of the menu, teamwork, presentation and tastiness. The game was on!
As we waited to board the ferry in Craignure, Team 1 members sat down in the local coffee shop with an elderly couple to talk food. Team 2 members consulted with ferry passengers. Everyone they spoke to suggested haggis.
Team 2 approached the judges first with a proposal for a four course meal, and also asked to serve on Wednesday. Permission was granted.
We made good use of our time in Oban, exchanging money, exploring McCraig's Memorial, shopping for souvenirs, and enjoying a lunch of fresh shellfish, smoked salmon or crab sandwiches. Supplemental Subway sandwiches filled up empty stomachs. Before the pilgrims left Oban, John S surprised us with a stop at a shop that makes their own ice cream each day. Lovely flavors tickled our tongues, making this stop one worthy of our time.
The drive toward Glasgow followed Loch Lomand for many miles. Food buying and preparation was uppermost in our minds and the pilgrims made a grocery run before checking into the hostel. The teams raced through the aisles of Tesco in search of the ingredients needed for their dishes. Both teams finished at the same time and assembled at the checkout so John could pay. Both teams spent just under 70 pounds to feed 15 people.
The pilgrims were happy to pull up in front of the hostel. As we unloaded groceries, luggage and backpacks onto the sidewalk, we chatted with a youth choir from Chapel Hill, NC.
The pilgrims took bags to their respective rooms, and Team 2 reported for kitchen duty.
At the appointed hour the pilgrims gathered for the evening meal and were treated to a magnificent and scrumptious feast. Bread and cheddar, cockaleekie soup, shepherds pie and fruit brûlée. Team 2's efforts are evidence of a truly outstanding undertaking and presentation.
Team 1's spirits were not dimmed by the high bar set for the competition. They immediately took action, launching a social media campaign: #holdingoutforhaggis.
A well-fed bunch of pilgrims congregated in the TV lounge for a session of "Junk, Joy and Jesus" and evening prayer.
All of the pilgrims expressed joy felt during many moments of the day, and enumerated the many times Jesus had his hand on our shoulders. Creating a menu, shopping and cooking stretched the pilgrims and led us onto new paths of exploration.
The entire group benefitted from the exercise, and it brought us closer together.
The pilgrims were sent to our beds with a very pleasing directive: sleep late! Breakfast at 8:30am. Amen!