Message from Jude Boulden from the Isle of Iona

Hello My St. Aidan’s Family,

Greetings from the Isle of Iona, Scotland.  I am well settled in to my volunteer work at the Abbey on Iona.  The department I have been assigned is ‘Housekeeping’ but it has varied duties:- setting up all the tables in the dining room for the Guests and the cleaning up process after each meal; keeping our part of the kitchen clean as well as the common areas.  The Guests to the Iona Community arrive every Saturday afternoon and depart early Friday morning – participating in various programs and activities during the week.  Friday and Saturday is known as ‘change-over’ which is really busy, hectic time when we have to completely change all the rooms – clean bedding, towels, etc; wash and sanitize all the bathrooms and showers; and all the laundry that comes out of that.  There are two large washers but no dryer – only a drying room, which is a work-out in itself – lots of bending and stretching to hang everything up, then take it down and fold it.  There are three meals a day plus morning coffee to set up and take down.  We work in shifts – some days a split shift: 9:30-2:30 & 5:00 5:30; or 7:00 – 2:30; or 9:00 – 5:00 p.m.; and we get one day off plus a half day each week.  There are two services in the Abbey each day which we also attend and participate in.  The evening services have a theme: a Healing service; a Silent Reflective service; Taize; a Welcome service; an intimate Communion service where they arrange tables down the centre of the Abbey, covered with white cloths and wee candles down the centre.  This is very intimate.  Sunday morning is the community Communion Service.  Services in the Abbey are very spiritual – the sound of voice and music is very pure and rises to the rafters.  The music is wonderful and totally surrounds you.  The Abbey is very ecumenical – accepting ALL who enters its doors.  Next to you in the pew you may greet a Nun, a Muslim, a Jewish Rabbi, a monk in brown robe & hood.  The site of the Abbey (built in the 1200s) is also the site of the ancient monastery of St. Aidan so there has been spiritual practices on this spot for hundreds of years – we are connected by deep, spiritual roots !!

We volunteers are called “Vollies”.  We sleep in dormitories with five bunk beds.  I have two roommates, both women from Germany.  One is a teacher who teaches special needs young adults; the other is a young woman who is a doctor in Berlin specializing in neo-natal care.

Our days are busy and FULL but there is lots of time for tea breaks and socializing – every Monday evening we attend the Iona Community Hall to participate in their Celidh; Wednesday evening is the Guest Talent Night!  Late Friday afternoon/evening is everyone’s time off – where we have left-overs for lunch and dinner so no one has to work.

I have never physically worked so hard in all my life and there have been stressful times during the first couple of weeks learning all the duties and routine.  Even though I have performed most of these duties all my life, I have had to relearn as there is a specific way of doing things here, a strict routine and order of doing things.  So this has been a real learning curve for me!

I am beginning to feel at home in my work and routine and making new friends from all over the world – both on staff, Guests, tourists and community residents.

Til Next Time,

An-comhnaidh le beannachdan – always with blessings, Jude