A Conversation with Heartbeat Pilgrimage Scholar, Brother Timothy Joyce

Brother Timothy Joyce, of Hingham, MA is a Benedictine monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He was one of the first recipients of Heartbeat’s Pilgrimage Scholarship Award and consequently made the journey to the Isle of Iona for a retreat with John Philip Newell last month. “I have recently celebrated my 80th birthday,” he told us, “I want to mark this rite of passage in my life with an experience such as Iona. I have led Celtic Spirituality retreats and workshops. I want time and space such as the Isle of Iona, with its natural beauty, can provide. I am learning more about myself as well as God, the Christ, the meaning of life in an evolutionary world. Closeness to nature has become very significant in my search.”

Why did you want to go to the Isle of Iona?

I was looking for a place in nature for a retreat to mark some important passages in my life. The opportunity to go to Iona seemed like a providential call. This had been a sacred place on my previous visits and I relished the time and space to pray, reflect, celebrate.  I had also read John Philip Newell’s works and resonated with his teachings.

Br. Timothy Joyce at the Nunnery Ruins on the Isle of Iona.

Br. Timothy Joyce at the Nunnery Ruins on the Isle of Iona

The opportunity to go to Iona seemed like a providential call.

What stood out to you about the experience?

It was a total, embracing experience. Truly a thin place, Iona is a sacred environment – the land, the air, the sea, the abbey church. Then there was this group of 36 wonderful people who were caring, supportive, loving and very open. The meals, the talks,the hiking together, the prayer times in the abbey church were all  joyous encounters with God and each other.

How did the experience impact you?

I believe I came away with a little more urgency of living and spreading the gospel message in all its social dimensions.  I also may be more free to speak and live this message.

Anything else you want to share?

I am truly very grateful for this rich opportunity. It was more than I had hoped for.
Overlooking Columba's Bay

Overlooking Columba’s Bay

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Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

Harmony of Heaven | John Philip Newell | Celtic Spirituality

_CES1338In the rising of the sun and its setting,

in the whiteness of the moon and its seasons,

in the infinity of space and its shining stars

you are God and we bless you.

May we know the harmony of heaven in the relationships of earth

and may we know the expanse of its mystery within us.

John Philip Newell, Celtic Treasure: Daily Scripture and Prayer2005 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids) 18. Photo by Chuck Summers.

Praying with Adam

For the first time in my life, I prayed with a Muslim.

Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, there were no opportunities for me to engage with Islam, or any other faith for that matter. I was used to one way of prayer—the Christian way—holding hands in a circle, closing my eyes, or bowing my head and folding my hands. As you might imagine, praying with Adam, a young Muslim from the University of Edinburgh and one of our Camino Peace Pilgrimage scholars, was an entirely different ballgame.

Praying with Adam, in our makeshift head coverings

Praying with Adam, in our makeshift head coverings

We were on our knees, our heads were covered, we were prostrate with forehead touching the earth… rising and kneeling, chanting and silent. Adam led the prayer experience, thoughtfully describing the process and intention behind this way of praying, known as Salat.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was surprised to find myself incredibly uncomfortable. Cars drove past and people walked by as we prayed and I could hear myself say, “will they think I’m a Muslim?” What a horrible insecurity to find within myself. I am a progressive, inclusive and compassionate person who believes in the need for relationship between faith traditions. How dare I think such a thing! But there I was, feeling those old stereotypes creep in from my cultural and faith upbringing. I felt a cold sweat and my blood pressure rise. Again, “will they think I’m one of them?”

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Adam during his afternoon prayer.

There is a wonderful cadence to Salat. Slowly, I continued to follow Adam and let myself settle into the rhythm of standing, bowing, sitting and touching my forehead to the ground. Eventually I could feel myself relax into the ritual. I realized that perhaps my insecurity and fear were a tiny window into Adam’s world and the reality that being a Muslim has been so unfairly associated with hatred and despicable acts of violence. I became angry that anyone would misunderstand my friend’s faith in this way.

I was then surprised to feel something very different. I found that the fear and anxiety lifted and this small experience of Islam began to guide me into a deeper understanding of a beautiful spirituality. Do you know that feeling of coming home after being gone for a very long time… the smell of bread in the oven, the embrace of a loved one, and the contentment of a feast at the table? This was the feeling that came over me. For a moment, I felt completely at home. I could feel that we were in the presence of the One.

Gathering on the coast during our Camino Peace Pilgrimage Walk

Gathering on the coast during our Camino Peace Pilgrimage walk

I think that part of my life’s journey will be to unpack those nasty old prejudices that surface inside of me when I least expect it. This is the only way I know how to address the brokenness that I find inside myself, which is a broader symptom of the brokenness in Christianity and western society. We must find space to name our fears, confront our assumptions, and cultivate awareness in the midst of our differences.

I’m thankful for brave souls like Adam. He was willing to be vulnerable and bring the deepest part of his life and share it in a way that created some of that liminal space for me to grow in love and understanding. Thanks to Adam, I will always hold this simple experience of prayer very close to my heart.

From Portland, OR, Ben Lindwall is the Executive Director of Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing and one of the 15 pilgrims who walked in the 2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage.

Conversation with Camino Scholar Karin Baard

Karin Baard

Karin Baard

Heartbeat: What is something you learned on the Camino?

Karin: I think the impact of this pilgrimage will continue to develop and reveal itself for a long time, which is, in itself, a gift. Though I can feel (and I feel it profoundly) that it has had a deep impact on me, I’m finding it difficult to articulate. One of my biggest take aways, however, is my restored belief in the possibility of change. The other group members, who in their own ways are all thoughtful, compassionate, caring people dedicated to working for peace, reminded me that when we come together and actually listen to one other, great things are possible.

Heartbeat: Before embarking together on the Camino, we each shared our own personal “intention” for our week of walking. What did you share?

Karin: My intention presented itself in one word: wholeheartedness. When asked, it was the first thing that popped in my head; but I also wasn’t sure what it meant. I discovered some about what it means to me throughout the pilgrimage, but to be honest, I’m still exploring. What I did realize is that, for me, wholeheartedness means an interlacing web of things: finding the balance between my head and my heart, embracing vulnerability, and slowing down to, as best as possible, live in and enjoy the present moment.

Heartbeat: What was your most memorable moment?

Karin: My most memorable moment was our dinner conversation on Wednesday, which is inextricably linked to the best part of the experience: the other people on the trip. I had never before had the privilege to be a part of such an honest, challenging, and yet deeply respectful conversation. I find it’s so easy to get defensive, or offensive, and to shut yourself off to what someone else might have to say. But to sit around a table with other people who were so ready and willing to really listen and be open to what everyone had to say was an amazing honor.

Heartbeat: Can you tell us about the biggest challenge for you on the Camino?

Karin: My biggest challenge actually came before the trip even started. I was nervous ahead of time, feeling under prepared (both physically and mentally) and worrying that I did not belong on a pilgrimage. I was afraid that everyone else would be so enlightened and spiritual, and I would have nothing to contribute to the group because in recent years, I have had many doubts and questions about my own spirituality and faith background. Thankfully, I realized quickly, that these worries were actually a significant part of what I could contribute and why I think I was meant to be on this trip.

Heartbeat: Any other comments or thoughts?

Karin: I want to thank, with the deepest gratitude and appreciation, Heartbeat for not only the opportunity to go on this trip but also for all the hard work, dedication, and detail management that went into it. As well as Ali and Philip for donating their time, thereby giving us all such a wonderful gift. I will hold onto this trip for a very, very long time.

IMG_7448Karin Baard from Brunswick, Maine is an advocate for women who are victims of domestic violence. She helps “clients discover, or rediscover a sense of peace in their lives, both physically from harm and emotionally from heartache.” Karin is fluent in Spanish and was an incredible blessing to the group as she tirelessly helped us navigate roads, meals, and anything else that arose. 

What made the Camino Peace Pilgrimage unique

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Piyush snapping photos on the Camino in Camillas, Spain.

Faith journeys have always been emotionally calming and spiritually nurturing experiences that have returned me with immense positivism. I have undertaken part-walking, part-vehicle driven pilgrimages to Badrinath in the Himalayas, the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu & Kashmir, Lord Venkateswara’s Temple in Tirumala Hills of South India and the Dargah Sharif of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Western India. These pilgrimages however were generally done with family and friends of my ‘Hindu’ faith. The Camino pilgrimage was unique as it was with followers of different faiths, most of who were also unknown to me before. Talking to them, partaking in their stories and sharing their faith lessons, from lived experiences made this a truly humbling trail. My pilgrimages in the past were about seeking, this time it was about receiving – unasked, unprepared, and often unusual… beautifully designed by the Almighty!

-Piyush Roy, Camino Peace Pilgrimage Scholar. A photographer, videographer, and accomplished journalist “hailing from the Hindu faith”, Piyush is a columnist for the Orissa Post and his latest piece on song and dance in Indian cinema can be found here: http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/sundaypost/220614/p7.htm

What Michel learned | Camino Peace Pilgrimage | Heartbeat

 

IMG_7375One part of the profound impact the pilgrimage had on me was realizing that I can fall deeply in love with a range of faith traditions without compromising my Christian faith. Prior to the pilgrimage I questioned whether it was possible to go beyond coexisting with multiple traditions, to a place of experiencing and loving other traditions, without watering them all down.  My answer came our first day on the Camino as our entire group engaged in salah.  Throughout the week the answer came again and again with a resounding YES!

-Michel Gribble, Camino Peace Pilgrimage Scholar who walked with our group while six months pregnant with the one who came to be known as “the 16th pilgrim.”

 

Unpacking the Camino

Fifteen of us from multiple faith backgrounds walked together with John Philip and Ali Newell for seven days on the Camino de Santiago. It’s difficult to avoid hyperbole while reflecting on such an epic experience. The impact is felt on so many levels: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. And that’s the beauty of pilgrimage– it engages your entire being.

Over the next few weeks the Heartbeat Blog will be dedicated to introducing you to our pilgrims and sharing about our journey. We have poetry, prayers, stories and some brilliant photographs. Thanks for coming along!

Ben Lindwall, Executive Director, Heartbeat

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Light within all light

Soul behind all souls

at the breaking of dawn

at the coming of day

we wait and watch.

Your Light within the morning light

Your Soul within the human soul

Your Presence beckoning to us from the heart of life.

In the dawning of this day

let us know fresh shinings in our soul.

In the growing colours of new beginning all around us

let us know the first lights of our heart.

Great Star of the morning

Inner Flame of the universe

let us be a colour in this new dawning.

 John Philip Newell, Praying with the Earth

Bring Your Treasure, Bring Christ

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By John Philip Newell

A number of years ago, as the little spirituality center of Casa del Sol in New Mexico was being conceived, I spoke with a native leader about the types of conversations we might have in a community of listening and dialogue. I asked, “What is it I am to bring to the table of humanity? What am I to bring to our relationship in this place?” He answered very simply and very challengingly:

“Philip, bring your treasure—bring Christ.”

He then said, “Would you expect me, as a native leader, to bring something less than my greatest treasure? Would you be satisfied with something less? So I tell you, bring your treasure. Bring Christ.”

I understand why those of us of liberal sensitivity in the Christian household have hesitated from bringing Christ to the table. In the past, he has been used to beat others over the head and to tell them they need to become “like us.” So I understand the hesitation. I know why many of us have simply gone silent. But if we are to establish true relationships in the journey of the world today, as distinct cultures and religions and nations, we need to find ways of bringing our treasure to one another. And we need to do it now, with reverence and with costly self-giving, if there is to be healing. The treasure we carry is never simply our own. It belongs to the human soul. And in that sense, we are only giving it back. “Bring your treasure,” he said. “Bring Christ.”

This is my desire, to bring the treasure of our Christian household to the yearnings of the world today. And I am seeing that we can do it in new ways, in ways that listen reverently to the hunger of the human heart and in ways that will bring us closer to one another, as individuals and as distinct traditions, instead of into further separation and brokenness. This is a desire that issues up from deep in the soul. It is not a Christian desire or a Jewish or a Muslim desire. It is a holy human desire, and it will cost us much. But it is for the healing of creation.

Christ of the Celts: the Healing of Creation, 2008 (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco) 131-132.