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Thursday 5 May - Getting our Bearings!

When pilgrims pause their journey, story-telling begins. Weary hands and legs release their burdens; speech and hearing quicken. Where better to tell and to listen to our stories than Iceland, Land of the Sagas? So, our day was spent in telling our stories and in listening.

Morning prayer in the church set the tone for the day. There, under the gaze of the Saviour enthroned in glory above the altar, we sang God’s praise. Over the morning, our hosts in Iceland recounted the saga of the Church here, a thousand years of Christian history. Iceland’s relative isolation and small, scattered population over much of that time allowed the faith to develop in distinctive ways. The bond with land and sea; family lineages; contact with distant Europe and North America; Iceland’s rich, vibrant language and literary heritage; all these came together to mould the Church. Hymns and poetry expressed and continue to embody the people’s faith, their theology, their very own salvation history. As the morning drew to a close, out in the biting wind of an Icelandic spring, Bishop Kristjan wove into a seamless tapestry the archaeology of Skalholt, family genealogies and the landscape, at once forbidding and majestic.

More stories told in the afternoon; more to listen closely to, to discern and decide on. Paul led us through the AGM. There were reports to be approved; Teemu to re-elect as our Treasurer; new members to be approved. Kathryn and Teemu took us through the new and still-developing SDE website, which is steadily becoming a community-building tool. Between one item of business and another, moments of thanksgiving and blessing.

We returned to the church for communion in the evening. Tuula led the liturgy on the theme ‘Living Stones’, inviting us to ‘Look to the rock from which you were cut’ (Is 51:1).

Our second day together was a ‘memorialising day’: we renewed our awareness of the Spirit at work in the Church, here in Iceland and in our home countries, in the hearts of many people of good will, in the ‘house-Church’ which is SDE. The opening verses of Tagore’s great epic hymn, Gitanjali, come to mind:

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

Edward Warrington

Bishop Kristjan led a mini-pilgrimage around the site and here he talks to the pilgrims at the memorial to one of his predecessors, Bishop John Arason. He was a Roman Catholic bishop who was executed at Skálholt in 1550 . 

Photo: Judita Stankunaite

Four of the eight Members who were accepted into SD-Europe last year joined our six brand new Members for a blessing at the end of the AGM. 

Photo: Judita Stankunaite

Sisko, Ulla, Tuula and Sirkka-Liisa arrive in Skálholt to prepare for eucharist.

Photo: Judita Stankunaite

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