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Viewpoint from Revd Neil Spencer for 16/7/10


Revd Neil Spencer,
Rector of Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby, Ormesby St Michael and St George’s, Rollesby.
Carrie and I have just returned from holiday in the Highlands, where we spent some time on the island of Rona, which has been univiewpoints cross logo jpegnhabited since the 1940’s and is now run as a nature reserve with a warden and a couple of holiday cottages.
It is a beautiful place and well worth visiting for its own sake, but what surprised me most was a sign directing us the Church Cave. Although there was originally an ancient church on Rona it had been in ruins for many years, so in the 19th century the islanders adopted a cave as their place of worship.
It is reached by a precipitous path down the cliff, where a rope has been placed as a handhold, but the climb is worth the effort. The cave entrance is a natural pointed gothic arch with extraordinary colours in the rock. Inside is a square block of stone, again natural, which was used as altar or pulpit as occasion demREV NEIL SPENCERanded, and a font is formed by a constant drip of water from the roof into a natural basin. Across the body of the cave are rows of boulders placed by the islanders to serve as pews. It is an amazing place, full of peace, tranquility and prayer.
 dove left
The cave was used for many years, and indeed is still used for occasional services, as well as by visitors to the island. Last year the Bishop of Argyll conducted a service in the cave, and the Warden told me that this October there is going to be a wedding there. When I asked if the bride would wear white he said she’d been advised to wear wellies!
At the back of the cave is a wooden box which contains a bible, apparently placed there in the 1940’s, some candles, and notes from people who have used the cave for prayer – the crew of a ship, various holidaymakers, people making a pilgrimage to give thanks or to pray for help. Carrie and I sang Evensong there, which has probably never been done before, and prayed at the request of a lady we met, for those in her care in a hospice where she worked.
The Church cave is a wondrous example of how essential it is for human beings to pray and worship. If there is no church building available they will use a school, a village hall, a barn, a tent or even a cave. No human society has ever existed which has no religion, and that is true even on an isolated island. It is an affirmation that we owe our very existence to God and we cannot be whole and complete as people unless we affirm that in faith and worship. People who live lives of hardship and danger in marginal places such as Rona are all too aware of that – how is it that so many of us, who live lives of relative comfort and ease, have forgotten it?