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2012 – Scotland

Intimacy with earth: Creation and Awe

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The Celtic way of life, especially early on, was largely based on connection and respect for the earth; it could almost be said that the druids had a healthy ‘fear of nature’ relative to the Christian concept of a ‘fear of God’. Keeping this idea in mind, one can see how nature is a tool for communicating the mighty power of God. To be in awe of the created order is to be in awe of the creator. In connecting and allowing ourselves to become intimate with the created world, we can find deep spiritual connection.

The view from a hilltop in the Scottish highlands, south of Oban.

It’s no wonder Iona is considered to be a thin place. For myself, heaven felt closer because of how truly elemental the experience of Iona is. I have rarely felt so immersed in the natural world as i did on my afternoon hike on Iona with Charis and Cara. The further we walked south from town, the less signs of man there were. From paved road and farms, to dirt road and pasture fences, and finally to a simple mud path and terrain. We eventually got to a point where even the grass-beaten path disappeared. With no real destination, i was able to truly experience the journey. In silence, we traversed outwardly, and looked inward.

Traversing the rock and mud terrain on the southern tip of Iona.

Tangibility and Symbolism: a Celtic tradition

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Humans are born with an inherent belief that there is something that exists that is greater than themselves: whether it be a god, science, or simply a greater ‘goodness’ (or evil). Many have trouble grasping, or putting a more tangible face to this presence. In the case of the druids, the simple beauty and power of the natural world proved sufficient in finding a real sense of deep spirituality. It allowed them a physically tangible front to their spiritual connection.

Cara Thiessen experiences a nesting ground of dozens of great herons in Kyleakin, Scotland.

And it’s not difficult to see why the druids connected so deeply with their natural world. Scotland is crowded with absolutely gorgeous, untouched scenery. While it may seem strange that the pagan druids worshiped trees as though they were gods, it makes perfect sense: God is within and without his creation. As a Christian, I personally expect to find spiritual connection within the natural order. There is almost nothing like feeling the love and power of God in a sunset.

A completely untouched photo of the sunset over Oban's seaport on an April evening.

One of the arguably most consistent and beautiful pieces of Celtic culture is the art of symbolism. Symbolism, much like the natural order, provides one with a physically tangible front to their spiritual or emotional connection. The Celtic Christians used their pre-established connection with nature as a basis for early symbolism, borrowing from the pagans and often placing their stone cross carvings into the very surface of mother earth. Eventually the crosses stood erect, but maintained a natural beauty. Today, the ancient Celtic stonework blends beautifully with its surrounding natural world in a harmonious union of tangible spirituality.

A Catholic graveyard on the banks of Loch Lommond. Note how the stone only continues the appearance of natural order, rather than taking away from it.

A Celtic Pilgrimage

By | 2012 - Scotland, All Things Travel, Alumni Abroad | No Comments

We’re on our way to Scotland (April 29th, 2012)! The countdown is on and if you’re interested then you can find the full itinerary and more information online here.  This is a really great opportunity to experience study abroad SSU style, whether you’re a student or not!

Now to answer some of your frequently asked questions…

What is the exact cost and what does that include?
The total price is $3699.00 and includes round trip airfare from Saint John, NB, accommodations (double occupancy), transportation around Scotland (luxury motor coach), breakfasts and dinners (lunches not included), guides and admission to all sites mentioned on itinerary.

Can I make payments or is it all due at once?
Yes you can! While the final amount is due by Feb. 17th, 2012, you can set up a payment schedule with Freedom Tours. Bi-weekly payments can make it easier.

Is this an SSU trip or Freedom Tours?
SSU has contracted Freedom Tours to take care of most of the logistics, but SSU’s Dean of Arts (Gregg Finley, PhD) is the trip leader. Payments are made to Freedom Tours who are working closely with SSU to be sure the execution of this trip is just how we want it.  We use a similar process for our Greece & Turkey trip as well as our Israel trip.

How does this “for credit” thing work?
If you are interested in doing this as a 3-credit hour course, then you will receive a syllabus with preliminary readings and assignments. This will all be under Gregg Finley’s instruction and there is no extra charge.  To take the trip for academic credit, please send an email to [email protected], or visit our facebook page and share your interest.

What about travel insurance?
This is not included in the price but HIGHLY recommended. It can be arranged by Freedom Tours for anyone interested at the time of booking.

When and how can I reserve a spot?
Call 1-800-61-2324 to pay your $300 deposit to reserve your place as soon as possible. Space is limited!

 

    

We’re Going to Scotland! Wanna Come?

By | 2012 - Scotland, All Things Travel, Alumni Abroad, Europe | No Comments

Springtime in Scotland: A Celtic Pilgrimage

SSU is proud to announce our upcoming study trip to Scotland! Students, alumni, and friends are invited to participate in this 9-day trip throughout the lowlands and highlands of the Scotland.

Mark your calendars and book your time off and embark on this journey with our fearless leader and Celtic saint, Gregg Finley!  Here are some preliminary details, but stay tuned for a detailed itinerary and instructions on saving your spot!

WHEN–April 29th-May6th, 2012
WHERE–All over Scotland, from Glasgow to Iona, Skye, Inverness, Edinburgh and more!
WHAT--Historical sites like Culloden, and Holy Isles  like Iona & Skye and yes even a few Scotch Whiskey distilleries.
HOW–Travel by luxury motor coach and sleep in tourist class hotels (no camping on this trip!)
COST–The price will vary slightly depending on the final number of people, but expect it to be around $3500 per person. This will include everything except your lunches.
CAN I GET UNIVERSITY CREDIT?– Yes, this trip is a 3-credit hour course with readings and assignments for anyone who would like to take it for undergraduate credit.

“The tourist goes to see and collect (memories and mementos); the pilgrim goes to be changed.”    Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands