When we saw Stone Hill Farm for the first time nearly three years ago we noticed this odd "sculpture" of sorts in the yard. It reminded me of a round tower in Ireland.
Round Tower, Glendalough, Ireland
Gate on Holy Island
East Window, Holy Island, Lindesfarne, England
And now for the quickest way I know possible to tell you the story of the brick tower at Stone Hill.
In the late 90s I was a youth leader at Christ Church, Georgetown. After volunteering for eight years I felt called to the priesthood and went through the discernment process to become an Episcopal priest. I withdrew from the process realizing that I could do God's work just as easily as a lay person. After September 11th I was laid off and was immediately offered a job at CCGT as the Youth and Mission Program Manager. It was the best job and I learned so much about myself working there. As horrible as September 11th was, it gave me an opportunity to follow my passion for youth ministry for nearly three years. This is a photo on my first pilgrimage to Holy Island in 1999 with my co-leaders. We had to bring everything for our trip on our backs so we could cross the sands by foot. I extended my trip to visit my French exchange student, hence the ginormous LLBean pack.
Having a free pint after the tour at the Guiness factory.
My stepfather at the grave of his family's tomb in Tipperary. Two wives were buried on top of each other.
When I returned to Ireland in 2003 it felt like I was coming home. There was a stange pull on my heartstrings ever since I had left in '97 to go back. However, the 2003 trip was different. I was leading a pilgrimage and I worked for the church. When you are a pilgrim, the experience is completely different. The places pass through you. You are no longer a tourist, but have a focus in prayer for the journey. There is an incredible book that I highly recommend to anyone wanting to go on pilgrimage called The Art of Pilgrimage.
I could write my own book on Celtic Spirituality and pilgrimage. After leading the 2003 group, I ended up getting invited to go back to work in Ireland in 2004 leading groups from the states all over Ireland, England and Scotland. I visited the Book of Kells weekly in Dublin. Heard countless stories about how lambs were kept free of thorns so their skin would be perfect for the velum that made such gems as the Lindesfarne gospels. I imagined the young hands that helped illuminate these gospels. I walked the paths of 7th century monks. Went to church three times a day. Journaled. Painted. Wrote more poetry in three months than I had in my entire life. I was quieted. I was home.
The Celts worshiped the sun. During the solstice they believed when the sun passed through the tombs, at Newgrange for instance, that the spirits of the dead would go up to heaven. The Celtic Cross symbolizes the sun intersecting the crucifix. And the crosses on church grounds were used to teach the Bible when a town didn't have a Bible of it's own. Because gold leaf and Lapis lazuli are pretty pricey and it took years to finish such books. The monks all learned the psalms by heart and chanted them.
Most churches or villages had a cross with the scripture stories carved into them.
This is hard to see but there is an angel sparing Isaac at the alter when Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his only son. Genesis 22:1-24
|J2A 1999, Sanctuary Retreat before going to Holy Island|
I love all of my youth groupies, as they fondly named themselves.
|2003 Irish Pilgrimage on the Aran Islands.|
If you are still with me, let's circle back to Stone Hill and that weird tower before I get too mushy about my youth groupies.
|Holy Island, England 2004|