24/07/2016 Songs of Praise


24/07/2016

Josie d'Arby visits the tiny Hebridean island of Iona to experience its unique spirituality, while on the Northern Irish coast teenagers combine surfing and faith.


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Transcript


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It's the middle of summer and I've travelled to a tiny Hebridean island

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just one mile wide and three and a half miles long.

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It's home for about 130 people,

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but every year attracts thousands of visitors.

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Many come here for the sandy beaches,

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dramatic scenery and rich wildlife.

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But, for centuries, this has also

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been a place of special significance for Christians.

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Today I follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims

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who've made their way here from all around the world

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to experience the unique spirituality of the island of Iona.

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I meet the leader of one of the Christian groups on the island,

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the Iona Community, and learn about its founder

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who was behind the restoration of Iona's Benedictine abbey.

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And the summer theme continues,

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as Claire heads to the Northern Irish coast,

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where teenagers are exploring their faith through a spot of surfing.

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And for those of us who think self-assembly furniture is

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a modern invention, Pam is at the Ashmolean Museum to prove otherwise,

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with a 6th century flatpack church.

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This tiny island off the west coast of Scotland

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is the symbolic centre of Scottish Christianity.

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Its restored abbey, visited by thousands of pilgrims,

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has architecture spanning the 13th to 16th century.

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And there's been a place of worship here

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for more than one and a half millennia.

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Iona's Christian story began in 563,

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when a nobleman of royal blood landed here from his native Ireland.

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His name was Columba and he set up a monastery here which went on

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to become a centre of learning, healing and hospitality.

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Columba's successors continued his missionary work.

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It was a monk from Iona, St Aidan,

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who converted the Kingdom of Northumbria to Christianity.

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He founded his own community

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on an island off the north-east coast called Lindisfarne.

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Our first hymn was recorded there.

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It's based on Psalm 23

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and sung to a traditional Irish melody called St Columba.

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Iona's tiny population swells during the summer months,

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as thousands come to visit.

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Four churches serve

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the spiritual needs of islanders and visitors alike.

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At the heart of Christian life here on the island is the Iona Community.

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It was founded in 1938 by a minister from the Church of Scotland

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called George MacLeod.

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George was a war hero turned pacifist with unconventional ideas.

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I met today's leader of the Iona Community to find out what

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brought George to this tiny island.

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We've been thinking about

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George MacLeod recently because it's 25 years now since his death.

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In the 1930s, he was a parish minister in Govan in Glasgow

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at a time of unemployment and hardship and very real poverty.

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And out of his experience in Govan, he felt there was a need

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for the renewal of community, but also for the renewal of the church.

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And the rebuilding of this part of the abbey was to serve as a symbol

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of that rebuilding of community and of the renewal of the church.

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So who worked for him here? Who helped him rebuild this?

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George gathered here, each of the summer months from 1938 to 1965,

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craftsmen who gave of their skills and of their time,

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but also a whole succession of young ministers and theological students

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from around the world who came and actually did the rebuilding.

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# ..who give our songs of love and praise. #

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And George MacLeod's ideas

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are still attracting people to join his community.

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No matter where they live in the world or what their denomination.

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What unites us is a commitment to the rule,

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and a rule commits us to care about our own faith,

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so the importance of prayer and of reading and studying the Bible.

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And those issues that George highlighted back in the 1930s

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are as vital today as they were back then.

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Do you feel like you're still rooted in the ethos of Columba?

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We try to take, as he did,

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what we understand as the essentials of the Christian faith

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and to find ways of living out today in the 21st century.

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So we're not trying to play at being Columban monks, and we're not really

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trying to imitate what George MacLeod did in the 1930s.

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We're trying to be faithful to that tradition today.

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# Come, thou fount of every blessing

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# Tune my heart to sing thy grace

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# Streams of mercy, never ceasing

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# Call for songs of loudest praise

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# Jesus sought me when a stranger

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# Wandering from the fold of God

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# He, to rescue me from danger,

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# Interposed his precious blood

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# O to grace how great a debtor

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# Daily I'm constrained to be

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# Let thy goodness, like a fetter

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# Bind my wandering heart to thee

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# Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it

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# Prone to leave the God I love

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# Here's my heart, Lord

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# Take and seal it

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# Seal it for thy courts above

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# Come, thou fount of every blessing

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# Tune my heart to sing thy grace

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# Streams of mercy, never ceasing

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# Call for songs of loudest praise. #

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During Columba's lifetime when he was setting up the monastery here,

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over on the other side of the world,

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a Byzantine Emperor was doing his bit to further the Christian gospel

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with an ingenious idea.

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Prefabricated flatpack churches sent out across the sea

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to the far reaches of his empire.

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Pam Rhodes went to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to find out

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about one of those churches that never reached its destination

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and ended up at the bottom of the sea.

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PAM: In an effort to cement the Christian faith,

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Justinian the Great initiated an ambitious church-building scheme.

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I must say, this doesn't look much like a church.

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What have we got here?

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Well, what you have here are some of the elements from

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the shipwreck discovered off the coast of Sicily,

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and it contains a flatpack interior of a church.

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So, if you like, the local people would build the exterior,

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and the emperor provided the interior,

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and these are the pieces that have come up from the seabed.

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Had the parts reached their destination,

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the constructed church would have looked something like this.

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To date, 450 pieces have been brought to the surface.

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Paul and his team got to visit the rescued remains

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and hand-pick items for the museum.

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We were like kids in a sweet shop.

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We had all these different elements to choose.

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We couldn't rebuild the whole thing because there's 450 pieces

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and would go through the floor of the museum,

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so we chose little elements of every part of the church.

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Here we've got the columns,

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you've got the bases,

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you've got the capitals.

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You've also got fragments of the pulpit.

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This pulpit was a monster.

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It was huge, with two staircases going up the side

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and a great platform

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where the priest could have looked out onto the flock.

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So it's a full kit, if you like, to make the church.

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Some of the fragments even have marks on them,

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which could be masons' marks. Or they could be instruction marks.

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So, why did Justinian want to do this?

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For two reasons. First, he was the Emperor. He's in control.

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But very importantly he is also a very strong figure in the faith.

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So, we have to thank Justinian for spreading the faith?

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I wonder what he'd think about his self-assembly church being here?

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I think he'd be absolutely delighted.

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He didn't intend it to come to Britannia,

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he intended it to go to North Africa or Sicily or Italy, but the fact

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that it's sitting here in Oxford, a centre of great learning

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and also of faith, I think he'd be absolutely delighted that we,

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the British, are coming to see his church and coming to see him.

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Columba was a renowned intellectual,

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and Iona's reputation as a place of learning continued after his death.

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It's believed that the famous Book Of Kells was illustrated here

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by monks at the beginning of the 9th century.

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And today the Iona Community

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has continued to keep that cultural tradition alive.

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# Come all you people Come praise your maker... #

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John Bell, a member of the Iona Community,

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has written many songs and hymns that are now known and loved

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around the world, including our next hymn, Will You Come And Follow Me.

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It was recorded at St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow,

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and conducted by John Bell himself.

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Set to a traditional Scottish melody,

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it's often referred to as The Summons, a summons to faith,

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to self-discovery and to a conquering of our inner fears.

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Summer's here and it's the perfect time to hit the beach.

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And the sun was certainly shining for Claire

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when she went to the north coast of Ireland, to meet some teenagers

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who are taking the opportunity to explore and share their faith

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in the great outdoors.

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CLAIRE: The seaside resort of Portrush

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is just seven miles along the north coast from the iconic stones

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of the world-famous Giant's Causeway.

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But the visitors here don't just come for the dramatic scenery.

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they come for the surf.

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MUSIC: Surfin' USA by The Beach Boys

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Every surfer is searching for the perfect wave.

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And I think in life too,

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I think we're all searching for that perfect wave.

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And unfortunately a lot of people don't go to God to find that.

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Jono Griffin has turned his passion for surfing

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into a ministry, called The Surf Project.

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It's pretty much about creating a place and space for young people

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in particular to encounter God.

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So we're using the sport and culture of surfing

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to create a safe place where young people can come and be themselves

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and encounter God's creation, the ocean and the waves.

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This church youth group has come from Portadown,

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not just to learn how to surf, but also to strengthen their faith

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in the workshops later on in the day.

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A lot of people who come, some might come from the cities, from towns,

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and this would be a totally new experience.

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And by just simply being on the beach and in the water

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and in this environment, just...

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I think it changes perspectives for young people.

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And it gives you a platform, and an openness,

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to really connect and give them a different view on life.

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Getting right onto the hands, OK?

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Because you lean back and it slows up.

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-So, come right forward.

-OK.

-Good. Well done.

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I thought it would be such a good opportunity

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to come and meet new people

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and try new things and also just deepen my relationship with God.

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Getting to know other people through the fellowship that comes with that

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has been a real blessing to me.

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It's such a good opportunity, like,

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to even come and worship God while you're out here on the beach.

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It's pretty unique in terms of ministries.

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Why did you decide to set it up?

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Part of my own testimony, my own calling,

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was working in Manchester as a PE teacher

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and living in Cheshire at the time

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and I had the job, I had the car,

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I had the full-time contract.

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But there was something missing inside. I wasn't fulfilled.

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So I just felt God say to me,

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"Jono, how can you use your surfing to serve me?"

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And the Methodist Church have been very supportive here?

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Absolutely. I've been brought up in the Methodist Church,

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so I suppose my roots are in Methodism.

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I just approached the church about three or four years ago

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and they really liked the idea, as vague as it was back then.

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So we have that backing and that support.

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And we use their facilities.

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We work in partnership with the local churches.

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The project is a team effort.

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Back at the church hall,

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Jono's wife Beth has been busy preparing a well-earned meal.

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We both have very different gift-sets,

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but both just felt called to the ministry.

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We believe living life to the full is living God's way

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through a relationship with Jesus,

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and we as Christians have a responsibility to share that.

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We're just going to bring all the day in and we're going to do our

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Living Life To The Full workshop. We'll look at those Bible passages

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that you had your homework for, to read.

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I guess we're just trying to use our gifts and skills

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to serve God and serve others.

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And I suppose The Surf Project is a real reflection of that.

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Do you pinch yourself when you look out on views like this every day?

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This is your office effectively.

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Absolutely. Yeah, and I get to surf regularly.

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I get out on the beach with the dog.

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And that's the times when you get that inspiration

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and when you hear from God and hear that small voice.

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And what better way to get to know Creator God

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than to immerse yourself in his creation, you know?

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You can see why George MacLeod, the founder of the Iona Community,

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described this island as a thin place,

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by which he meant there seems to be

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only a thin tissue dividing the material world from the spiritual,

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because it's that beautiful.

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Joyce Watson first discovered

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the beauty and spirituality of the island through her camera lens.

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I really fell in love with the landscape more than anything.

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And the nature, the variety of it.

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The ruggedness and the gentleness.

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The birds, the flowers. And I see that as almost a window into God.

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There's an amazing little patch of flowers just here.

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Bird's-foot trefoil.

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And this is a tiny little flower called eyebright.

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Iona has been Joyce Watson's home for 18 years.

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She first came as a visitor,

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but was unexpectedly left a house on the island

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by a friend in her will.

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It was such an incredible gift.

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But I also had that sense of responsibility.

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I'd been given so much and what could I give back?

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Joyce found her answers six years ago, when she was asked if

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she'd like to become Iona's resident Episcopalian priest.

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-The Lord be with you.

-ALL:

-And also with you.

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Most of my life is a kind of happy accident

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and things just seem to happen.

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And it wasn't what I was looking for,

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and I was a bit daunted by the thought,

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but I've grown into it now and it feels right.

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People know who I am and if anybody just needs to talk in confidence,

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I'm available.

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One of the lovely things about Iona is all the people that you meet,

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literally from all over the world.

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One of the old crofters once said that, you know,

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you just stayed here and the whole world came to you.

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And that's a joy. It's lovely.

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# Sitting here tonight

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# By the firelight

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# It reminds me I already have

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# More than I should

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# I don't need fame

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# People to know my name

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# At the end of the day

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# Lord I pray

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# I have a life that's good

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# Two arms around me

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# Heaven to ground me

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# And a family that always calls me home

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# Four wheels to get there

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# Enough love to share

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# And a sweet, sweet, sweet song

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# At the end of the day

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# Lord I pray

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# I have a life that's good

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# Sometimes I'm hard on me

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# When dreams don't come easy

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# I want to look back and say

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# I did all that I could

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# At the end of the day

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# Lord I pray

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# I have a life that's good

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# Two arms around me

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# Heaven to ground me

0:29:440:29:47

# And a family that always calls me home

0:29:470:29:52

# Four wheels to get there

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# Enough love to share

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# And a sweet, sweet, sweet song

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# At the end of the day

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# Lord I pray

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# I have a life that's good

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# At the end of the day

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# Lord I pray

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# I have a life that's good. #

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Well, that's it for this week.

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Next week, we're meeting Olympians past and present

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ahead of the Games in Rio.

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But to end today, our final hymn is another by John Bell.

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This one expresses the thought that, although you might get

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a heightened sense of God's presence in a beautiful place like Iona,

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we ought to remember that he is with us anywhere and everywhere.

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Josie d'Arby visits the tiny Hebridean island of Iona to experience its unique spirituality, while on the Northern Irish coast teenagers combine surfing and faith.

Music:

The King of Love My Shepherd Is from the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Lindisfarne Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Ashton Lane The Church's One Foundation from Canterbury Cathedral Will You Come and Follow Me from St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow In Christ Alone from Ballydown Presbyterian Church, Banbridge, Northern Ireland A Life That's Good from St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen God Who Is Everywhere Present from St Aidan's Church, Leeds.


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