The Academy Holds First Celtic Pilgrimage

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
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At the end of June, twenty-three alumna of The Academy for Spiritual Formation set out on a pilgrimage to Scotland and visited what the Celts call “thin places.”

Their journey, which included time on the isles of Iona and Lindisfarne, was framed primarily through the stories of four Celtic Saints: St. Columba, St. Aidan, St. Hilda, and St. Cuthbert. Professor Loyd Allen—and the land and sights themselves—offered sacred space for learning and guided the gathered community to experience the veil between this world and the next as tissue paper thin.

From the outset of the planning for this trip, Academy leadership was intentional about using the word “pilgrimage” instead of “tour” or even “vacation.”

“Pilgrimage,” said Loyd Allen in his opening remarks to the gathered group, “is a moving to another place to make more clear the Christ we will find again when we return home.”

With this intention, pilgrims worshipped together, listened to lectures, held silence both individually and communally, and engaged in times of reflection and prayer that helped them “return” to the presence of God.

“I allowed myself to be vulnerable and open, as fully present to God as was possible,” reflected Becky Potter upon her return home from the Celtic pilgrimage. “My deep gratitude to The Academy, to Loyd, and to my fellow pilgrims for being the container that held me. For it was as much the community as it was Iona and Lindisfarne that allowed me to stand in the Thin Place.”

Learning more about Celtic Spirituality’s emphasis on the imagination, creation, and the integration of both the physical and spiritual helped pilgrims engage one another, God, and the earth as sacred places of grace. Upon leaving Lindisfarne, the group received the traditional Celtic blessing offered to pilgrims as they continue on their journeys:

To the prayers of our Island Saints, we commend you.
May God’s angels watch around you to protect you.
May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you for all that lies ahead.
May Christ Jesus commend you with his compassion and peace.
Lord, be a bright flame before us.
Be a guiding star above us.
Be a smooth path beneath us.
Be a kindly shepherd behind us.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.

“It was an honor to be on pilgrimage with this beloved community,” said Johnny Sears, Director of The Academy for Spiritual Formation and chief organizer of the journey, “and I look forward to the ways we can offer these experiences to others in the future.”

The Academy is currently working on setting dates for another pilgrimage in 2016. Visit academy.upperroom.org for updated information and to learn more about the many offerings from The Academy for Spiritual Formation—for those who hunger for deep spiritual experience.

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