Columba's Chapel, Iona, Scotland (Exterior)

Columba's Chapel, Bishop's House, Iona, Scotland


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Columba's Chapel
Location: Bishop's House, Iona, Scotland
Date of visit: Wednesday, 4 June 2014, 2:30pm

The building

Bishop's House, originally called St Columba's House, was established in 1894 by the Bishop of Argyll and The Isles as a retreat house and a centre for prayer and study. The chapel is inside the House, next to the dining hall (which has a reputation for its excellent cooking!) and near to the library. It is a small beautiful church with lots of stone and a wood floor. There is a life-sized statue of St Columba in a projecting bay on the east front.

The church

Bishop's House can accommodate up to 23 visitors on retreat in a combination of single and double rooms. Retreat-goers are asked to help with housekeeping. The chapel is also open to the public and celebrates the eucharist daily. Evensong is also held on Sunday, and compline on Monday through Saturday.

The neighborhood

Iona is a tiny island (population about 125) off the west coast of Scotland, part of the Inner Hebrides. It is a rocky island, with few trees, but is very beautiful, calm and peaceful. Iona has been a religious centre all throughout history, and is popular today with retreat-goers as well as tourists.

The cast

The Revd Joyce Watson, formerly warden of Bishop's House and now living on Iona, where she works part time as a priest and designs faith-based greeting cards.

What was the name of the service?

It was called Religious Subjects but was in fact a communion service.

How full was the building?

The chapel was half full with about 40 people, all adults.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes, I was welcomed by someone who was nice to me. I was shown where the seats were and the toilets too.

Was your pew comfortable?

They were not pews, but purple seats, very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was lovely music as we waited for the service to start. And also an excellent singer, a man.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Welcome, and may God's blessings be upon us."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Hymns Old and New and pamphlets entitled Daily Prayer and Scottish Liturgy.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?

The Revd Joyce said at one point, "Jesus asked God for protection." I spent several minutes trying to piece together what she meant (I think she was referring to John 17).

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Lots of singing – good hymns, good music.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

8 – The Revd Joyce preached well and was very easy to listen to.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

We as Christians belong to the Kingdom of God, but we aren't somewhere up in the clouds – we are down here, in Scotland! Jesus prayed that God might protect us, so that we might be aware of God's business. If we say, "I am a follower of Jesus Christ," we have joy in our hearts. We are united in out faith and are under heavenly protection. That is cause for great joy. Thanks be to God!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

All the words about God protecting us came to a climax in communion, where God feeds us. That is indeed a heavenly blessing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I couldn't help thinking about what it would be like if we didn't have God's protection.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

A few people smiled and spoke to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We did not have it this afternoon. I guess I'll have to go on retreat to sample the legendary cuisine of Bishop's House dining hall.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – It was a lovely church and lovely priest. I was very pleased to get to this church during the week, on Wednesday, not just on a Sunday.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes, I felt glad to be a Christian and to think about Jesus and how he loves us. And to be blessed by not one, but by the Trinity.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The beautiful little chapel in this house of prayer, on an island so steeped in the spirit of Christianity.

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