Sunday, our last full day in Scotland! We meet in the dining room at the hostel, grab a breakfast consisting of a choice of meats (haggis is one of the choices), and load up in the van to go to St. John's for the 10:30 am service. We arrive a bit early to make sure Markus knows that we're there and that the readers and chalice bearers know when to move from their seats to the lectern or go to the altar. We arrive in the sanctuary just as the prior service ends, and talk with people in the narthex and nave.
There is a huge bulletin board in the back filled with magnets, a device used to solicit funds for St. John's development campaign. For 1 pound you can remove a magnet covering the face of a well-known humanitarian. Welcome brochures are placed at the end of each pew, making "Welcome" very prominent at St. John's. We see Mary and Bill, and Father Markus, and other congregants begin to engage the pilgrims. These folks are very good at welcoming the stranger! A Presbyterian choir from Houston sings the service music, so the church is filled with Americans and tourists and regulars alike.
The preacher is Sarah Kilbey, a team priest. She focuses on the Gospel reading from Mark 5:21-43. Sarah is profoundly deaf, and this reading struck a very personal chord with her. She preached how we can each use our gifts to touch one another and help heal our broken souls. And the fact is that each of us has a gift, though it may not be readily discernable. The pilgrims who volunteered to take part in the service perform their duties admirably. The familiarity of the Episcopal service engulfs us, making us feel quite at home. We retreat to the parish hall for the coffee hour, and spend time speaking with clergy and congregants, sharing experiences and life stories, and discovering common ground.
Too soon we need to move on once again. The hours to spend in Edinburgh enjoying its sights and attractions are dwindling. There is one more mountain to climb, Arthur's Seat, and a few more gifts for loved ones at home to be bought. We overwhelm the attendant at the hostel cafe with our lunch orders, but discover that the food is quite delicious. Pilgrims who are going hiking give money to the group heading to the Royal Mile for some last minute purchases of shortbread. We split into two groups, and enjoy the partly sunny day with moderate temperatures, blessed again with dry weather. A bit breezy, perhaps, but we're not complaining!
At the appointed hour, all the pilgrims gather in the reception area to head to dinner. John has made reservations for the "celebration dinner" at an English Pub-style restaurant. Everyone likes the sound of this! Sure enough, there are choices such as the traditional fish and chips, and steak and mashed potato, but also scallops or salmon quiche. John orders bread with 3 different dipping sauces for the entire group. Each pilgrim finds an entrée to their liking, and we are all blessed once again with a terrific meal and opportunity for fellowship. Best of all, we have dessert, too, sampling a Scottish ice cream flavor.
At the end of this delicious meal, we retired to a conference room in the hostel for the final evening program. We lit a candle, and shared thoughts with each other about how Christ graced us with His presence during the week we spent together. The week was very special. Each pilgrim carries in their heart their own unique story and interpretation of the pilgrimage. Each will remember a moment that only they experienced and felt. But the group has a collective experience, too, that was lived by the community that came together on Sunday, June 21 at the sign on the side of Fort Hunt Road, and grew when John met us in Edinburgh. We grew together, learning that living in community has its ups and downs. Our love for Christ seems to be a bit stronger, and we gained new confidence in our faith and ability to venture away from home. We came home changed by the grace of God through our interactions with each other and with others.
All the pilgrims were charged with packing that evening due to a very early departure time on Monday morning. Reality set in that we would leave Scotland within a few hours.