Join us on Easter morning at 8:30 or 10 in Tempe and 11 in Arcadia!

Pastor Jeff with colleague and friend Rev. David Felten on Iona, Scotland.

Nestled off the northwest coast of Scotland, the tiny island of Iona, spanning just 1 mile by 3 miles, holds a rich tapestry of Christian history. In the year 563CE, Saint Columba arrived from Ireland, initiating an evangelization process across Scotland and England. My own pilgrimage to Iona, a privilege experienced twice over the years, revealed the enduring Christian presence that has shaped the island’s spiritual landscape.

The modern Iona community, founded in 1938, played a pivotal role in reviving Celtic Christianity. During my first visit, guided by John Bell, a Church of Scotland minister and accomplished composer (whose hymn The Summons is part of our repertoire), I stumbled upon a profound work by another Celtic teacher, John Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality.

Celtic Spirituality, as Newell elucidates, is a celebration of creation, acknowledging the interconnectedness of all life. It echoes themes of hospitality, urging us to welcome the Spirit and embrace others, irrespective of their identity. Celtic Christianity, marked by contemplation and mission, recognizes the importance of both inward reflection and outward engagement. This commitment to worship renewal and social justice mirrors the emphasis on personal and social holiness found in John Wesley’s teachings.

The wisdom of Celtic spirituality invites us to awaken to the sacredness of the earth and the human soul. By discerning the heartbeat of God within ourselves, others, and the earth, we cultivate a profound reverence and care for all existence. This awakening leads us to recognize our true selves, fashioned in the image of God, and inspires us to be compassionate like Christ.

Pastor Jeff and John Philip Newell in Carefree, AZ.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a retreat in Carefree led by John Philip Newell, the Celtic teacher whose work has significantly influenced my spiritual journey. It was a reunion nearly twenty-five years in the making, and during the weekend, I even had the joy of introducing him to his first roadrunner! The retreat centered around his latest book, Sacred Earth Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World.

In this critical moment of history, Newell challenges us to awaken to the sacredness inherent in every person, transcending gender, race, or religion. Despite the obstacles presented by holders of political and religious power, the vision of sacredness persists, demanding our attention like never before. Amidst the challenges, there is hope – a hope rooted in our deepest understanding that every human being is sacred, body and soul.

Throughout Lent, I have been preaching a series inspired by Newell’s latest book. As we engage in self-examination and reflection during this sacred season, we are invited to repent of forgetting the sacredness of the earth and the human soul. The consequences of not remembering have been disastrous, both individually and collectively. (If you’d like to catch up, our archived services are available on YouTube or Vimeo.)

May this Lenten journey be a transformative time, when we listen for the heartbeat of God and reawaken to the sacredness within ourselves, each other, and the world.

– Pastor Jeff