If anything could be cooler than a converted school bus, it would be a converted school bus with an Eastern Orthodox chapel (complete with onion domes) on top.
Steve and I did not plan to visit the All Merciful Savior Orthodox Monastery
when we decided to spend our anniversary weekend on Vashon Island, but when we read an article about the monastery in a tourist guide, we knew we had to stop by.
Our interest in monasteries developed in Ireland as we visited the ruins of ancient Celtic monasteries, one of which we reached by kayak.
According to Father Tryphon, the abbot of All Merciful Savior, these ruins would have been home to Celtic Orthodox monks some time before the Roman church became dominate in the British Isles.
However, the Christian Orthodox monastery on Vashon Island is by no means an abandoned ruin. It is a beautiful place, full of life and the presence of the Spirit. Father Tryphon, Father Paul, and Father Moses maintain an extensive organic garden, keep chickens for eggs, eat a vegetarian diet, bake sour dough bread from a sixty year old starter, and plan to install solar panels on the roofs of the monastery buildings.
Over the course of our afternoon visit, we enjoyed a cup of the monastery’s coffee while learning about the Orthodox faith from Father Tryphon, then we toured the grounds, attended vespers, and enjoyed soup and home-made sour dough bread. And we heard about a time when Father Tryphon had considered converting a school bus into a mobile monastery and a decommissioned ferry into a floating version.
Once we returned to the mainland and took off down I-5, we realized how much the beauty of the monastery, the fervent and ancient faith of the monks, and their example of sustainable living had inspired and encouraged us.
Our bus and garden may not be a slice of the garden of Eden, but I hope they can be a place of peace and an example of one way to live in harmony with creation and fellow human beings.
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