I happened to sit beside his sister Heather (left) on the bus from Craignure to Fionnphort, and she told me the family was gathering here for his birthday. Newell has written many books about Celtic Spirituality, and he joined Jerry Wright on two of my pilgrimages to Iona. He will be with Jerry for another Iona pilgrimage in late September. I’ve also heard him lecture at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. This was not official birthday celebration, but dinner at St. Columba’s. He is here with two sisters (Darlane on right), a niece, two sons and mother-in-law. His wife Ali is out of frame to right. John Philip was the warden of Iona Abbey from 1988-1992. In 2011 he was awarded the first-ever Contemporary Voices Award from Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C., in recognition of his service to spirituality and peacemaking.
Here’s a excerpt from his latest book, A New Harmony (2011):
New science speaks of being able to detect the sound of the beginning in the universe. It vibrates within the matter of everything that has being. New science is echoing the wisdom of spiritual insight. In the 12th century Hildegard of Bingen taught that the sound of God resonates ‘in every creature’. It is ‘the holy sound’, she says, ‘which echoes through the whole creation’. If we are to listen for the One from whom we have come, it is not away from creation that we are to turn our ears. It is not away from the very depths of our being that we are to listen. It is rather to the very heart of all life that we are to turn our inner attention. For then we will hear that the deepest sound within us is the deepest sound within one another and within everything that has being. We will hear that the true harmony of our being belongs to the universe and that the true harmony of the universe belongs to us…. Everything arises from that sacred sound.
And here’s a prayer. (Gary has asked me to send a Celtic prayer for each vestry meeting, and I hope he will use this one. This is a test to see if he’s reading — p.s. maybe someone can give him a heads-up.)
To the home of peace
To the field of love
to the land where forgiveness and right relationship meet
we look, O God,
with longing for earth’s children
with compassion for the creatures
with hearts breaking for the people and nations we love.
Open us to visions we have never known
strengthen us for self-givings we have never made
delight us with a oneness we could never have imagined
that we may truly be born of You
makers of peace.
— Praying with the Earth, 2011