Bonnie Bowman • Derry Member

On Thursday, April 11, 44 members of Derry boarded a bus in the church parking lot and departed for a two week tour of Scotland and Ireland. I was very excited as I had never been to either country before and had always hoped to visit them and experience the culture.

We began our journey in Edinburgh at St. Giles Cathedral, which is celebrating its 900th anniversary (making Derry seem young in comparison)! We also attended church at St. Giles the first Sunday of our trip. Each day was filled with historic sites and opportunities to learn more about the landscape and the people.

Mary Lemons and Bonnie at Corrymeela.

Scotland and Ireland are breathtaking in their physical beauty. As we traveled by bus and ferry, I was overwhelmed by the views out our window. From a rainbow nestling across the foot of a mountain, to the landscapes seen from many of the castles we visited, every day was a feast for the eyes. I particularly enjoyed the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that was formed over the last 60 million years by the cooling and shrinking of lava flows.

As we visited Belfast and Derry, we learned a great deal about the “Troubles”, that period in the latter half of the twentieth century when Ireland was in great turmoil. I learned that the tension stretched back centuries. We visited the walls erected in Belfast and Derry (some of our group even left words of encouragement in the graffiti on the wall) and participated in tours that gave perspective from both sides of the conflict. We were fortunate to meet Rev. David Latimer, a former pastor of First Derry Presbyterian in Northern Ireland, who worked to establish better relations with

both sides of the conflict.

So many of our travels were rooted in our faith and the history of our ancestors. The weather didn’t cooperate on the day the full group was to go to Iona. However, Pastor Stephen managed to put together an excursion the next day for some folks to forego the planned activities and visit on our own. I was fortunate enough to be part of that group. Iona felt to me like a truly holy place. The history and the souls who have worshiped in that beautiful, isolated place seemed palpable to me. I would love to return one day and spend more time there.

Another special day was our visit to our sister congregation in Derry. The people there were so gracious and welcoming. The ladies of the church had a reception before the service with tea and scones (some of the best I’ve ever tasted) and it was such a pleasure meeting and getting to spend time with them. After the service, there was a luncheon just for us at the Guild Hall where we were greeted by the mayor.

I’m a relatively new member at Derry. I joined the choir when I joined the church and have made many friends in their ranks. One of my favorite aspects of the trip was getting to know more members of our church. Every meal and every activity, members of our group spent time socializing, sharing and worshiping together. The sense of community was real and made me so glad to be a member of such a vibrant, caring congregation.

The trip was everything I hoped for and more and I’m so happy to have been a part of it.