Columba’s life  (521-597) was captured through his biographer Adomnan who was abbot of Iona about 100 years later. Columba was a warrior and politician, a scholar, a priest and poet, who played an important role in both Scottish and Irish history. He was born into the royal family of the Northen Ui Neill in Donegal. This was a powerful northern clan which ruled at Tara in Ireland in the late 4th century.

Columba (in Latin meaning “dove”) was invited to sail to Scotland as a ‘pilgrim for Christ’. Columba was probably invited by Conall, the new king of Argyll, to help him repel the Picts. The Irish Gaels, or Scots, had begun migrating to Argyll in about 300 AD, and at that time the Gaels fought alongside the Picts against the Romans in north Britain. The Gaels called their territory Dalriada after the Irish Kingdom from which they came. In 560, a powerful Pict warrior named Brude attacked Argyll and drove the Gaels westward to the sea. In response, Columba, then aged forty-two, set sail from Ireland with twelve companions.

Columba travelled north to Inverness, beyond the ‘Spine of Britain’, traveling by curragh up the Great Glen, through Loch Lynnhe, Loch Lochy, and Loch Ness where Adomnan relates that one of Columba’s companions was almost swallowed by a monster! This is the earliest recorded reference to the existence of a shadowy creature. Columba spoke Irish Gaelic (which the Picts did not understand) and so brought with him two monks from Irish Pictish families who spoke a similar language. Thankfully, the negotiations were successful and for the next 80 years there was peace between Dalriada and the Picts.

Iona is Hebrew for dove which of course refers to Columba’s name. Columba lived on Iona for thirty-five years.

In our first gathering experience, the Iona Team considered the place of hospitality in our community. We considered the role of food, story, song and prayer as we welcomed others. In the course of one hour, 30 participants were led through three creative stages: the making of chocolate chip cookies, the churning of homemade ice cream, and the gift of song. Our thirteen leaders divided into leadership teams of three rotating the participants through these activities. The participants reflected a range of ages and conversation flowed naturally as people remembered times where they experienced hospitality. The rotations served as prompts encouraging strong memories and feelings. In closing, we formed a wide circle and Jenni Windsor led us in a song of gratitude.

Two biblical resources utilized:

1) Hebrews 13:2–“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

2). Leviticus 19:33-34–“You shall treat the stranger who sojourned with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you we’re strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”

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