Anglo-irish Reconciliation And Celtic Spirituality

Wednesday April 1: I leave Lindisfarne at 7.45 am and arrive, via the Stanraer Belfast ferry, at Ballinasloe at 10.0 pm where Trevor offers me hospitality. Thursday: We pick up the Rector of Clonfert, Alan Nevin, and drive to a hotel at Roscrea to meet the Church of Ireland Bishop, Trevor Williams, who is en route between engagements in his vast Diocese. We talk about how to break free from group conditioned reflexes, fresh expressions of church, leadership training, the transforming church course, new monasticism and The Community of Aidan and Hilda, clergy with an interest in Celtic spirituality, healing wounded history, the emerging structures and possibilities of 'The Isles' (the UK's four lands, Ireland, the Channel Isles and Man) and future plans. We chance to meet Dr. Christie Cunnicliffe who has completed a PhD on Clonfert. He told me that whereas Anglo Saxon sites have an urban basis (an ordered master plan), the Gaelic church sites grew organically around the central place of prayer. The Catholic Bishop oif Clonfert talked with Trevor anfd I for nearly three hours before our evening meeting on Celtic spirituality. He and Trevor are long-time trusted friends.

On Friday I drove to the ancient cathedral of Kilfenora. Brian, a local Catholic who is steeped in the history of The Burren, took us to ancient sites and Columcille's well. Here Colum stayed while on his way to study under Enda on Aran Isle. Brian and co. plan to restore the ancient wells and launch a pilgrim trail. A crowded meeting at Kilrush ended at 11.30 pm! I am learning to be culture friendly! Everyone was so positive. They say thay will organise a c ycle pilgrimage from nearby Senan's Isle to Lindisfarne, via Armagh and Iona. I said I'd join them if they provide me with a helicopter. They said 'After what you've said about Celtic hospitality we expect it when we come to your island.'!

Saturday: Nephew Peter Simpson, wife Fiona and infant Fiachre arrive. They join us on a herritage boat trip up the Shannon to Clonmacnoise where I lead devotions and Fiona sings in Gaelic. We spend the evening together. They join the worshippers at Clonfert Cathedral on Sunday. The Rector asks me to both preside and preach. IIt's ad hoc but a great privilege to be in this historic cathedral on the site of Saint Brendan's community.

Personal discussions about future networking, thinking and leadership both spiritual and political have begun. The Anglo Irish Reconciliation Process is developing. It has international implications. As part of this the Reformed traditions begin to listen deeply to the Celtic Christian British roots. Healing and fresh direction are ahead of us.

Posted at 08:05am on 4th April 2011
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