Refuge to Megalithic Park
Much like St. Columba, Bill admitted to having created more than a few "dust ups" in his passage through the world, and in 1975 he found himself at a one of life's crossroads. He would later describe that time as feeling in exile and feeling a kinship with Columba during his own time of crisis, journeying to a "new country" from all he had known. Bill was presented with an opportunity to buy a parcel of land at the foot of Blue Mountain near Bangor, PA. It was, as he described, "a 150 year old, three-room house built of hewn oak, one-half acre of rocky soil, and 20 acres of forest." Bill decided to make that house his home and christened it Casa Colum, the House of the Dove in Gaelic. He affectionately called it a place at the side of the road for tired sinners and reluctant saints. It was to be his refuge, a place he could retreat from the world to contemplate and heal. He quickly saw it as a place for others to find refuge as well, a safe place for clergy, many gay, and others. He also fell in love with the land, the exposed boulders and stones that sat throughout the property, and the rhythm of the natural world. Bill began to work to restore the house and land.
In 1977 Bill returned from Iona, shaken but more certain than ever that he was being called to spiritual service in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. The following year, he met Fred Lindkvist and found in him the partner, co-conspirator, and playful spirit that would help him realize the spiritual sanctuary and community he was being called to create. Together, they founded Columcille Inc. in 1978, a charitable non-profit to nurture the land and its nascent community. Bill, Fred, and the first members of the Community of Columcille laid out plans for a chapel modeled on St. Columba's on Iona in early 1979. They raised the six sided chapel, constructing it out of uncut stones in forty working days, or so the legend goes, roofing it with wooden shingles. The chapel was dedicated in June of 1980, but still Bill felt the call to create more sacred space. Compelled and inspired by his triple visits to Iona in '77, '78' & '79, he came to realize that ancient energies of Iona that he had first encountered decades before, were manifest in the 3.6 billion year old stones laid bare all over the island. The stones he was coming to know around Casa Colum had been created at the same time as the ones on Iona. Knowing work lay ahead of them, with joyful anticipation, Fred and Bill prepared to enter the next decade.
The 1980's brought rapid growth and Columcille Megalith Park was born. Realizing he was being called to create more sacred space, the dreams and plans for Oran's Bell Tower took shape. Work began on the Tower in 1982. The idea was that it was to be "unfinished," reflecting the ongoing nature of spiritual work and growth. Still feeling more was needed, Bill and Fred, along with a growing number of volunteers, began setting the inner Circle of Stones in 1983. Slowly, largely by word of mouth and through Bill's charisma, Columcille was drawing more visitors, building connections in the surrounding communities, and beginning to resemble the Park of today. A small, freshwater pond was created in front of Casa Colum and dedicated on June 23rd, 1985. Feeling their Circle of Stones not quite complete, Bill, Fred and the community raised a second, outer, Circle of Stones six years after the first was installed in 1989. At the same time, two other major settings were also completed; The Brighid Stone and the Sirius Stone.
Throughout the decade Bill initiated many different programs, continuing to try to do the work of those ancient archetypal energies. As he would later admit, not all of them worked out the way he thought they might. Bill and Fred also began to celebrate seasonal observances at the park, inspired by early Celtic Christianity and other traditions. Two apartments were built onto Casa Colum and the main house was expanded with a screened porch and additional living area. Fred filled Casa Colum with laughter, love, and the smell of food as he and Bill ministered to the diverse souls washing up on the "shores" of the Park. A community was forming, around Bill and Fred, around the Stones, and around and amongst the people drawn to the "Playground of Myth and Mystery. By the end of the decade, Columcille featured more than 80 megaliths, several miles of trails, and a Trilithon (Thor's Gate).
The last decade of the Twentieth Century saw Columcille thriving. In 1991, the largest single stone in the Park, the 30+ ton giant, Manannan found its home on the hill Bill affectionately called Dun-I, in honor of the hill on Iona on which he had laid down for his fateful nap in '67. Columcille Inc. was continuing to develop with Bill continuing as President of the Board of Directors, bringing in new leaders and continuing to define its mission to maintain the Park as a sacred playground of the spirit. Seasonal Celtic observances began to take on a regular schedule and draw hundreds of participants columinating in the yearly celebration of the Celtic New Year, Samhuinn, a torch lit evening of magic amidst the Stones. Visitors came to Columcille from all over the country, and indeed the world, each drawn for their own reasons and with their own stories. Additional stones were set throughout the Park, then numbering nearly 90. 1996-97 witnessed the creation and dedication of the Sacred Men's Site and the Sacred Womens Site at the Oak Grove.
The 17 acres of the Park was placed under a conservation easement with the Heritage Conservancy in 1997 to ensure Columcille would be protected for a century from development or significant alteration. Also that year, the park first felt the mighty footsteps of Ryan MacEdward O'Sullivan The Mad, and nothing would ever be the same. In 1998, a local blacksmith, (Bill Wycoff?) created and donated a wrought iron gate for the entrance to the Park. Christened the Infinity Gateway, the gate has served as welcome to tens of thousands of visitors and still serves to remind visitors they are entering a special place on this Earth. Bill made the decision to end the decade, century, and 21 years of Columcille's existence by declaring a Year of "No Time" and suspending all formal programming at the Park from Samhuinn '99 through Samhuinn '00.
The new millenium found the Park mostly quiet as Bill's year of "No Time" gave the Land and Her caretakers some much needed rest and renewal. At that year's Annual Meeting, Fred and Bill deeded over Columcille Megalith Park to Columcille Incorporated, ensuring the future care of the Park. To help meet future needs, the Megalith Fund was initiated and began to accept donations for the support of Columcille.