A mission across the sea – 9 August 2021

This is the Monk’s Stone, found at Papil, on the isle of Burra, Shetland. It is thought to date from the eight century. The location where it was found and the carving on the stone tell a story of the first Christian mission to Shetland.

Irish monks have travelled across the sea. They carry gospel books (or maybe a portable altar) in satchels and hold staffs in their hands. Four are walking, one rides on a horse. This monk was most likely the leader of the community and their mission. They travel towards land, on which there is a standing cross. In obedience to Christ they have gone to the ‘ends of the earth’ to make disciples.

The monks are Papar (Old Irish for father), Irish monks who formed small religious communities in Iceland and across the northern isles of what is now Scotland. They travelled in small boats across the seas, and marked their holy places by erecting standing crosses or stone slabs.

The Monk’s Stone, possibly a panel from a saint’s shrine, can be seen in Lerwick Museum.


Jesus, said: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20


At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty
from a people tall and smooth-skinned,
from a people feared far and wide,
an aggressive nation of strange speech,
whose land is divided by rivers—
the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty.

Isaiah 18:7


Almighty God, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.