We’re living here. Literally. We have our own flat, with our own groceries in the fridge and we now how our favorite butcher and place for tea. Living on an island is on my ‘dream’ list that I created after hearing Danny Silk speak on such matters down in Redding, California (here’s a taste if you’re interested). I hope this counts to some degree, despite it only being for 4 weeks. But we’re getting the hang of it and enjoying ourselves very much.
Islands are beautiful, mysterious places with nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered by the acute eye and the attentive heart. The Isle of Lewis is no exception exuding a peace and kindness that allows for the commodity of time to rest in your favor. Somehow your pace slows and your ears tune to the people greeting you and it doesn’t seem odd to ask someone to dinner whom you’ve just met.
Some FYI –
The Isle of Lewis is located in the Outer Hebrides off Scotland’s Northwestern shore. We can see the mainland and the Isle of Skye off in the distance on a clear day. The Isle of Lewis is officially the Isle of Lewis and Harris as the islands are connected by a narrow strip of land. There is, in fact, an airport, but you can also arrive here after a long bus ride on the mainland and a often turbulent ferry ride. Stornoway, where we are staying, is the commerce capital of the entire Hebrides island group.
The population of Lewis is 27,000, allowing for your basic needs to be met in Stornoway with groceries, bakeries, shops, hotels and dining establishments. One of our favorite places is the Castle Grounds, a 5 minute walk from our little flat. Acres and acres of walking paths through woods and along the river and sea are open to the public. There is a castle here, but it is not of ancient history. The original was built in the 1100s, but destroyed in the 1600s, so the present edifice is an 1800 model, but gorgeous none-the-less. This time of year the colorful leaves are abundant throughout the grounds and with scarf and gloves, the breeze that lightly blows the yellow, orange and red is welcome. Our favorite tea room is also here, The Woodlands, which serves up sandwiches, toasties, paninis, fresh soup of the day, delicious scones and treats and of course a lovely cuppa.
The Isle of Lewis also has a rich history of faith. Known for the Lewis revivals, the people here only recently have seen some services, like the ferry, operating on Sundays. When the church bells ring in Stornoway at 10:45am, notifying the community that 11am service begins in fifteen minutes, the men, women and children take to the sidewalks making way to their place of worship. Suits and ties are quite normal for a Sunday here, as are skirts and lovely hats.
We’ve attended the Free Church of Scotland in Stornoway with our good friend who lives here. We are greeted at the door and enter a silent, but populated sanctuary. There are no instruments used for worship and we sing from the Psalm book (no screens for words) with help from a man who picks a tune and sings from the front whilst we follow his lead. It is peaceful. The sermon is powerful, preached from a tall pulpit above the congregation. No matter how tall he may seem, his words demonstrate that he stands beside us; he is a humble man.
Not all churches on the island are like the Free Church of Scotland in Stornoway. Some do have instruments and a screen for music lyrics. But all have services in the morning and evening of which most congregants attend both. Sunday is indeed the Sabbath and it is celebrated accordingly. After morning church, people gather in homes to share a meal and talk (fellowship) with one another until evening service at half six.
When we discussed the Sabbath with a couple we recently met, they expressed how much their Sunday routine helped them to feel prepared for the week ahead. They said how well rested they truly felt and invigorated for the upcoming week. It has made me think about how I view Sundays, as presently it’s another day to accomplish some task or another.
The last bit of the Lewis overview is that the original language of the people here is Gaelic (pronounced gaah-lick for those who like to correct me back home). Many still speak it in the streets and in their homes. One fascinating piece of information is that a few years ago the BBC did a documentary on the Gaelic Church’s line-singing worship style influence upon the African American Church. Don’t believe me? Look here. The language is amazing and when its sung, its mesmerizing.
I’ve yet to mention the white, powdery beaches, the fresh meat, our epic trip to the Butt (yes, you heard correctly) and the incredible times of learning we have had in meeting new people and sitting with our own thoughts. More to come.
It is a blessing to be here.