The first week of August saw members of the Tsedaqah Community driving up to Scotland for the annual community retreat. It was a retreat for both members of the Community from 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, as the community was unable to go on retreat in 2020 for obvious reasons.
We went to an island not far off the coast of Glasgow: the Isle of Cumbrae. We stayed at the Cathedral of the Isles of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Anglican presence in Scotland. The island is, like my hometown, a tourist destination. It was actually quite fun to play the tourist after being a proper Scouse “townie” in Liverpool!
The Cathedral is the smallest in the United Kingdom, and you could probably fit three of them in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool alone. The Cathedral was more or less ours for the week, as there are no weekday services there. Tsedaqah therefore provided the offices, complete with Organ accompaniment and the sweet smell of incense. (The SEC is quite high in Church of England standards, as the presbyterian Church of Scotland is by definition lower down the candle). No one will be surprised by the fact that I served as a thurifer and often was to be found lighting candles before services. But I followed the ancient saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Cumbrae, burn so much incense that you leave an inch of charcoal dust in the thurible when you leave.”
The island was stunning, with ancient rocky shores and ample heather lining the otherwise forest-covered island, with the exception of the farmland where cattle grazed. Driving around the island was also a de facto tour of the nearby islands, far less inhabited and stunning in their tall green hills and mythic presence shrouded in clouds and mist.
The water, too, was freezing! It’s been a while since I’ve swam in the ocean, and had forgotten how chilly and salty it is. Splashing Debra was also quite fun!
Some of my favourite memories are those in the Cathedral library. Late into the evening we’d stay up, with the musty smell of old books and the warmth of dark wood adding an air of class to the proceedings. I don’t remember who’s idea it was, btu I got my first taste of the British “Carry on” film, a Monty Python-esque absurdist genre, but with less cross-dressing.
The retreat was a time of rest and relaxation in the beauty of creation, yet one of profound personal growth and introspection. It was particularly refreshing to have some time away from the business of Cathedral and Micah Food bank life for a few days.
It also began, for me, the process of taking stock of my time in Liverpool, which comes to an end by my flying home on September 11th. As I write, I’m on the other side of two week’s Annual Leave, which I’ve used to see a few of the sites I’ve yet to visit. (When I moved here and got acclimated, I became a proper townie and went, “local statues? Those are for the tourists!”).
Liverpool has become a bit of home, and I’m now preparing for feeling homesick when I go home! Much of my time here has been an exercise in realising what is possible by persistence and hard work. I’ve begun to feel more confident in myself and abilities, as well as continued to discern a calling to ordained ministry in the future.
You can expect a blog or two more out of me before or not too long after I return stateside!
Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!
Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.