FTA 2017 Routes of Faith I | Page 8


Ganges River
By Bob Rouse
FTA members not only put travelers in touch with their religious roots , they also reveal the places and faces of different religions and diverse cultures . Diversity extends to the many terrains of faith travel , too , from the mountains of Tennessee to a river in South Asia .
An island abbey On the west coast of Scotland is the serene Isle of Iona , home to one of the oldest sacred sites in Europe . Iona Abbey was founded in A . D . 563 by St . Columba and 12 Irish followers and became an influential center of Christianity among the Scots . St . Martin ’ s Cross , which dates to the eighth century , still stands outside the abbey . “ Iona retains its spiritual atmosphere and is a popular site for Christian pilgrimage and worship ,” says Maggie Anderson of VisitScotland . “ There ’ s an organized walk around the island every Tuesday , with stops at places of historical and religious significance .” The abbey church was restored at the beginning of the 20th century , and work on the living quarters began in 1938 , which marks the beginning of the Iona Community . This ecumenical group founded by Rev . George MacLeod embraces Christians from different traditions and walks of life . In 2013 , marking the 1,450th anniversary of Columba ’ s arrival , the island ’ s ancient carved stones were placed on display in the Abbey Museum . Visitors can also learn from interpretive panels and an educational audio guide . For more info , email Anderson at maggie . anderson @ visitscotland . com or visit visitscotland . com .
Spirit-filled Smokies A motorcoach heading to the mountains of Tennessee can get loud — in a good way — says Jerry Varner of Making Memories Tours in Washburn , Missouri . “ When we take groups to the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge , they really bond along the way ,” he says . “ There ’ s lots of singing on the bus .” The weeklong event , set for Sept . 24 – 30 this year , attracts gospel music ’ s top names and their fans , according to Joy McNealy , Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism . “ Most tour groups stay about three days — with two evenings of concerts — and some stay for the entire event ,” McNealy says . “ During the day they explore Pigeon Forge ’ s dining , shopping and attractions ; visit Dollywood ; or schedule a mountain tour with a step-on guide into the national park .” “ It ’ s a different themed trip for us , and a lot of fun ,” Varner says . “ We do all the ground logistics and advertise on Southern gospel radio stations .” 2017 marks the 60th year of the event , “ Our town comes alive with the sound of gospel music everywhere .” To learn more about the annual event in Pigeon Forge , email McNealy at jmcnealy @ cityofpigeonforge . com or visit mypigeonforge . com .
8 routes of faith