The Answers Given to My Question.


Is there a physical location of equivalence in the USA. Like Iona, Lindisfarne, and the Northumbria Community? I want to start discussion, does anyone in the community know of a sacred place and space that is a pilgrimage location here in US?



Following are the responses of locations that have had value to different people. Their holy space or thin place, all from The Community Of Aidan & Hilda or from people who follow their Facebook Community.

I have used the information given, but have left it anonymous apart from one contributor, as he had shared a lot, and I felt the credit needed to given to where it was due.

celtic heart

Mark, I am a member of the Community of Aidan and Hilda (CA&H), U.S., directly spun off from the Holy Island community in Lindisfarne. We are a dispersed Celtic Christian community with members all across the country. While we have regional groups that meet frequently, we also have an Annual Gathering where we all come together for the nurturing and encouragement (retreat) that keeps us on a course. Last May we met in Sewanee, TN. We’ve also met in Albuquerque, NM – the Heartland of Nebraska – and next year, we’ll be meeting in Florida. For more information, you can go to and there is contact information if you have any questions.

Ascension School Camp and Conference Center

There are “Thin Places”.

What are thin places?  I felt a little explanation was needed.

“The ancient Celts believed the world was filled with ‘thin places.’ where a human could stick his head through into the  heavenly  realm. Miracles and wonders were more likely to occur in these places.” pg 194. Kenneth McIntosh, Water From An Ancient Well.
“The Celts regarded places of God’s presence as ‘thin places’ … where the boundary that divides mundane physical existence from spiritual realities stretches to the point that it becomes transparent. At such places, those of us who live in this world can intersect with the invisible supernatural realm.” pg 301. Kenneth McIntosh, Water From An Ancient Well.

I was never into the idea of “pilgrimage”, nor of “Holy places”. For me, God is either omnipresent, or He isn’t. This idea though got shaken up, on a trip to Iona, and more profoundly on a trip to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in 1995. That WAS a place where heaven touched earth.

An excellent question, and one I have given some thought to. But I don’t yet have an answer to this.

Giving so much information, I felt it necessary to give the name of contributor, who is Duke Vipperman.

PHYSICAL: Keene New Hampshire is the official contact for the Northumbria Community, USA. They have held retreats there. But there was also an NC retreat a couple of years ago in Florida.

In Toronto, Ontario, Canada is an island with an Anglican Church with an NC vibe. NC is my rule and rhythm. NC talks about Upper Springs (Lindisfarne) and Nether Springs (some place inland),

The local NC Group, the Toronto Carrying Place has adopted it as its Upper Springs. We hold our community weekends there annually as well as covenant renewals. The island is open to the public as a park and steadfastly guarded by the city and its few residents from Disneyfication so it works for us.

We have our library in another designated space held for us at St Columba’s Church in the east end of the city, The church closed in 2014 and a month later we occupied one of its chapels as the first missional effort to bring new life into those sacred walls. But we have not had meetings there this year, otherwise it might be our Nether Springs. We have been asked to teach at least three times at a camp further north run by others but that’s not really home for most of us.

Sedulius of Liège, a 9th century Irish Celtic scholar, wrote this gloss on the margin of a manuscript he was transcribing about a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Rome

Techt do Róim, mór saítho, becc torbai;
in Rí con-daigi i foss,
manim bera latt ní fhogbai

To go to Rome is little profit, endless pain;
the master that you seek in Rome
you find at home or seek in vain.

In other words, find your own sites locally,
The Celts were local to a fault even with all there perigrination.

Retreat spots are hardly the point.
What we looked for in finding local “thin space”, is

– walk where holy ones walked before us.I compiled for our use only a 30 day devotional called “Ancient Paths” tracing where 17-20th Century Christians had made an impact on Toronto

– note especially any places where First Nations peoples first interacted positively with European settlers around the gospel. We have made pilgrimage to St Marie among the Hurons near us, where Jesuit Jean de Brebeuf lived among the Wendot and wrote a poem which became Twas in the Moon of Wintertime. (Jesous Ahatonhia)
Closer to Toronto we have walked both two Aboriginal Settlements where early French missionaries crossed paths with first nations peoples.

– a site of profound and renowned evangelization.
– as well as profound and renowned prayer where people have and may pray,
– a Nether Springs in my opinion should be able to host residential retreats but you don’t have to own it – like Acton Home Farm and Hetton Hall before it.

I was going to inquire about the same thing only to see that there’s one in Toronto about 2 hours from where I live

Bill Hockey hosts a Northumbria Community group near Bethany New York.

Circle of Hope in Philly links themselves somehow to Northumbria

I am eager to see the retreat site Christine Sine and Mustard Seed Associates are building on the West Coast.

It seems like last year Ray Simpson held a retreat at a retreat center near Albuquerque, NM.

It was the Madonna Retreat Center in Albuquerque NM. Beautiful place.

I Looked at their website and does not look updated.

John Philip Newell thinks of Ghost Ranch as a thin place.

Sanctuario Chimayo, in Chimayo, New Mexico, very near Ghost Ranch and Santa Fe. An additional plus is the New Mexican food you can enjoy at the beautiful inn in Chimayo.

Mark you should look around the places St Brendan discovered on his voyage. Eastern Seaborg. Newfoundland….


I found this info: The above image, click and gives some info about St. Brendan and the Eastern Seaborg. Here is a further reference

Thinking purely of places with a Celtic connection, I’ve had some profound experiences at the Iona-inspired Columcille Megalith Park in NE Pennsylvania. Kirkridge Retreat & Study Center right next door has several small apartments that can be used as hermitages for a solitary retreat, as well as facilities for various sizes of groups. BONUS: The Appalachian Trail runs through Kirkridge’s property.


Columcille park in Bangor Pa. This was a second person who recommended this location.

Third person: My Wife, and I(especially being local) consider Columcille to be a pilgrimage location and Thin Place.

I live near Seattle, Washington (west coast, not DC), as far as I know there are no Christian sacred sites here. We have retreat centers and such. For me personally, the communion table at my church (Presbyterian) is my “thin place”. I’ve read books and use the book the Northumbrian Community has printed in my daily devotions.

Not Celtic, but in the Pacific Northwest is the amazing community of Holden Village.

have you ever met anyone who has visited the Orthodox monastery on Vashon Island? It looks quite unique and beautiful. And they have a little book shop.

The St. Padre Pio Shrine is an outdoor Roman Catholic shrine in the Landisville section of Buena, New Jersey dedicated to the 20th-century Italian saint Padre Pio and completed in 2002.

My thin place is the Episcopal church camp on Flathead Lake in Montana. It’s called Camp Marshall, and it used to be known as Lindisfarne-Camp Marshall! It is definitely a sacred place. Morning service in the chapel.   At evening camp fire.

 The Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky former home of Thomas Merton. Locally here in LA the grave of Father Aloysius at the San Gabriel mission which is said to be Miraculous. Also the Guadalupe feast day at the original founding settlement in LA on Dec. 12th. There is also quite a number of shrines in the Midwest.

Mount Savior Monastery in NY

Clear Creek Abby

Our Lady of the Northwoods Monastery in the middle of Nicolet National Forest in north central Wisconsin: It’s a contemplative order in the Episcopal Church.

multiple native American sites probably near you

I have been to a stone circle in New Hampshire and also a very thin place in a Native American reserve in Massachusetts. It might be open to the public for walking etc. You could try getting involved in local Native American organizations and you will find out a lot about your area.

Wouldn’t you have to ask the natives? Celtic spiritual havens often appear in places revered by earlier pagan peoples. Holy wells and such are often pre Christian and churches and other holy places built near them.

I nominate Ocracoke, the outermost island of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, accessable only by ferry. There is not yet a spiritual community or retreat center there comparable to Iona, Kirkridge, or Ghost Ranch, but I think it has the potential.

Desert House of Prayer in Tucson, AZ. Thanks for the question and responses.

Spruce Island, off Kodiak in Alaska. St Herman of Alaska lived there in the Russian colonial times. is related to the Iona community in Scotland, it’s located in Bangor Pennsylvania

This has been a great discussion, there looks to be need or yearning for a place of meeting here in the US.
Where could that central location be that could be an annual gathering for full filling this longing.
I will over the next few week put all the wonderful suggestions onto my website for all to peruse at our hearts desire. As I don’t want to lose this excellent information given.

Thanks again to all who contributed.

Mark can you expand a bit on what you mean by this longing? In other words, what is the intention you have in mind for such a meeting?

I have no authority to speak after looking at your experience. It may solely be my longing to see a central location to have like-minded people meet for a retreat or pilgrimage location like Iona or Lindefarne, these are my own personal holy places spaces to go to for self reflection (in the past, not now) This is to get away from the norms of life for moment to have quality time on your own or within a group setting. Yes like a retreat, but with a Celtic Christian Spirituality focus a lot like what David Cole offers in the UK, but here in the US. But this is still a process of thought and prayer, and reflection on my part.

Thank you, everyone, for contributing to this resource, and to Mark for making it available on his website. One final comment: Contemplative prayer, when practiced faithfully day after day, creates a ‘thin place’ wherever we are. I should add “some days”, but more and more as we hang in there. Martin Laird (Augustinian monk, I believe) has written a book called ‘Into the Silence’ which is the best thing I’ve read on contemplative prayer. He defuses anxiety about distractions — very helpful! re Into the Silence, mentioned already, featuring its author: Martin Laird;…/into-the-silent-land…&

The North Shore of Lake Superior in MN is a sacred spot for us. Here is an oil painting my with Wendy did one night.


Charles Farrell

Mt. Shasta in Northern California comes to mind, as does Mt. St. Helens in SW Washington (sacred to the Cowlitz people).

I am guessing a ‘thin’ places? There are many here sacred to the Natives but since America is primarily protestant, the people don’t put much stock in the idea of ‘sacred space’.

“Thin places’ become sacred as they are marinated in prayers over time. In north america, there are thin places that are becoming, some much further ahead because of the First Nations people, and some lessor so, yet still on the way. Rivendell, on the B.C. coast, would be one of those places,…..

If memory serves, Ray Simpson had urged the Community to find the thin places realizing they were not going to be the same as England. Native Americans, Civil Rights locations were a few of the ideas brought forth. Since the US was primarily Protestant (excepting Maryland) and people escaping from religious intolerance, the concept of “thin places” were not inherent in our thinking.


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