Endless Adventure

The Norwegian sailor and pastor Tom Martin Berntsen this week recounted how God had led him as we met in the Celtic Studies Library at Lindisfarne. Some years ago, he undertook a solo pilgrimage from Ustein Klosters to Iona in his own boat – he was looking for adventures in discovering God’s will. On another occasion he journeyed by land to the Saint Beauno’s Ignatian Retreat Center in Wales. There people reflect in silence and listen to God in Scripture for up to thirty days. He wrote these words in his journal: ‘Open Gate’. 

He had read my book Soulfriendship and had vaguely heard of England’s Holy Island of Lindisfarne, but he had little knowledge or feel for it. However, something deep inside led him, on his next visit to Britain, to visit it. There was little to see, but at the cross roads his eye chanced upon a sign ‘The Open Gate’. He discovered it was the name of a retreat house run by The Community of Aidan and Hilda, and that I was in and out of it.

He decided to do something rather daring (or foolish, in some peoples’ eyes). He spent a night over the tide on the little St. Cuthbert’s islet that you could wade out to at certain times from Lindisfarne. He said this was a podvig. This is an Orthodox term for doing something that has no functional use but is purely for God.

In Next morning he sought me out. ‘On St. Cuthbert’s Island God told me to invite you to a light house in Norway’ he told me. I disliked the idea of staying a night in a lighthouse, so I told him ‘God has not told me’. However, when I learned that in Norway former lighthouses have been turned into Bed and Breakfast guest houses, and when I had time to pray about it, I agreed to go.

In due course I arrived in Norway. Tom Martin took me by boat to the lighthouse surrounded by water and left me alone while he fetched others. I was apprehensive. My thoughts were about how to get rescued if no one turned up. In due course a police chief and a travel agent arrived with Tom Martin. They were members of a prayer group. The police chief told me that in an emergency I could have climbed up the lighthouse and smashed the glass around the flashing light. That would have alerted rescuers. The prayer group ate shrimps for breakfast, lunch and supper. A part of me thought I had had quite enough of adventure, but another part of me realised that a gate was opening in Norway through which God would move.

It was, in fact, the beginning of The Community of Aidan and Hilda in Norway, under the name Anamcara.

Tom Martin did not know that David Adam had written a book entitled The Open Gate. In this he described how in Celtic mythology the worst thing that could happen to a person is to be shut in a field with no gate. That is a picture of a closed down life without hope. A gate that opens is about possibilities, fresh horizons, adventure. It appeals to people of any religion or none. That is why we decided to call the retreat house The Open Gate. David donated the picture of The Open Gate which was used for the cover of his book. For years this hung above the stairs there.

The open gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world around you.  It is a challenge to come and discover that the world and ourselves are filled with mystery and with the glory of God. It is the ever present call to become pilgrims for the love of God, to take part in a romance that will enrich our hearts and our lives. From David Adam’s - The Open Gate

 

Posted at 17:03pm on 6th January 2018