Members, Associates and Friends
The 2015 Iona Continentals meeting, from the German Region of the Iona Community
Dear Iona friends,
The next Iona Continentals gathering will be held on Thursday, 2 July– Sunday, 5 July, 2015 in Ratzeburg, halfway between Hamburg and Wismar. We will meet in Christophorus Haus. Details of the programme will be available by the end of 2014. For more information, contact Rolf Bielefeld (see Members Book).
Keep us in your prayers, as we keep you in ours.
Grace and peace.
Tarnos School, Kenya, from member Danus Skene
It isn’t difficult to depress yourself by thinking too much about Kenya. The corruption of a country that elected its richest citizen as President. The tribal and clan politics. Internally ‘displaced persons’ still in tents after violence in New Year 2008. ‘The network’s down’ and/or ‘hakuna powa’ – the electricity’s off. The Nairobi jams. The potholes. The deforestation. The elephant poaching. The forgotten North. And above all, the inexorable population pressure …
But there is beauty, and generosity, and grace. Most importantly, there is hope, buoyed by that extraordinary African capacity for living in the present. The most concrete expression of that hope is an obsessive national commitment to the virtues of education, embodied in a remarkably robust and inclusive school system.
I am blessed by Kenyan friendships, and by knowing parts of the country quite well. You can get the stories out of me over a pint, but it means deciding to do my peace and justice bit with Kenyan schools after I had, in 2001, done a stint as Principal of a Kenyan ‘college’ – mainly a secondary school. I was steered by the Ministry of Education to schools in the western Rift Valley, mainly in the tea country around Kericho.
Kericho County is neither crisis Africa nor tourist Africa. There is pound-a-day employment on tea plantations, and there are fertile peasant farms with a cow or two at every door. Down the hill towards Kisumu, sugar is grown. There is functioning infrastructure, and every child goes at least to primary school.
I met Samuel Rugut when he was Principal of a big government boys’ secondary school. We hit it off, and I was privileged to do some work with teachers in his school.
Spurred on by what he saw on a visit to Scotland, Samuel then developed the ambition to found his own secondary school. The principle would be to provide a ‘centre of excellence’, securing high-quality results in the Kenyan exam system but also building in some of the student-centred approaches and experiences learned from European education.
I signed up to this without hesitation, and we have started by founding an exemplary primary school. The rural area in question has been without a primary school of sufficient quality to assure parents and children of access to good secondary schools, and we want to be sure that our secondary school dream is rooted in the reality of a core of self-confident young people with a compatible primary school experience.
At Tarnos School, our first pupils came to a simple, single building in 2008. This year we have completed facilities for a full eight-year primary school with two preceding nursery years. The first students to complete a final Standard 8 year with us have all gone on to good-quality secondary education. We are turning heads in the district.
But the secondary is still a dream. I spent time in March trying to negotiate the purchase of land for a new school. So far, nothing. But we are hopeful about a plot in a gorgeous hilltop site.
But what is happening within Tarnos is exciting. Time in the classrooms is a joy. A fantastic team of teachers – on as little as £3 a day – are working wonders. They are so receptive to ideas about involving children in their own learning. Old hat to us, but revolutionary in Kenyan schools. Then there are art and music activities that are painfully absent in most schools. Computer provision that is effectively unique for a Kenyan rural primary. Plenty opportunity at playtime to appreciate why so many of the world’s best runners come from this immediate area. And always the giggles as the little ones from the nursery have to rub my arms again and again to see if the pink comes off.
All this happens in an atmosphere of faith and hope rooted in a still centre. That cup of revoltingly sweet tea always comes with a whispered word of thanksgiving and blessing.
I am honoured to have been asked to suggest the name for our new secondary school. Samuel and my other colleagues warm to ‘St Columba’s’.
If any individual or Family Group want to know more about Tarnos, or would like to help developments there, please get in touch with me (see Members Book). Visitors to Tarnos would be particularly welcome!
– Danus Skene
Photo by Danus Skene ©
A personal reflection on the disconnections of our time, by Peter Millar
Some food for the soul:
On Sunday, August 24th, member Peter Millar spoke at Mayfileld/Salisbury Church in Edinburgh: on breaking ‘the culture of revenge’ and healing divisions in the modern world … To listen to Peter’s very powerful reflection, go to:
Peter Millar is the author of Our Hearts Still Sing and A Time to Heal (Wild Goose Publications), among other books. He is an activist and a soul friend to many, who worked for many years in India with his wife, Dorothy.
Gaza Appeal, from Hadeel: Supporting Fair Trade with Palestine
From Hadeel Fair Trade Shop, Edinburgh:
You can help in two ways:
– Purchase their products at the Palestinian Fair Trade Shop Hadeel in Edinburgh, or online at www.hadeel.org
– Donate to Palcrafts UK charity (Reg. 242506)
Hadeel is a fair trade shop which aims to provide a sustainable source of income for craftspeople working with social enterprises in the West Bank, Gaza, as well as one in the Galilee and another in the Negev. Our work also helps to sustain infrastructures, as many of the producer groups also provide health, education and emergency services in their communities, which lack any form of local government which might do this.
Hadeel is owned by the Scottish charity Palcrafts. Any surplus we make on sale of goods is gift-aided to Palcrafts, which distributes small development grants to our producers. We are a member of the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers, supply other fair trade shops and individual fair traders as well as Palestinian solidarity groups. We are a sister shop to Sunbula, which has two shops in Jerusalem, and work closely with Zaytoun in the UK.
Hadeel was founded by Iona Community members Carol and Colin Morton, who worked for many years in Palestine/Israel.
Photo from the Hadeel website
Scottish Christians Against Nuclear Arms (SCANA) vigil at Faslane following the Scottish Referendum, Saturday, 20th September
From Lyn Peden on behalf of SCANA:
SCANA are planning a vigil post Referendum at Faslane, no matter what the outcome of the vote.
We will meet on Saturday 20th September at the North Gate at 12noon and share a time of silence, food and fellowship.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Conscience: Taxes For Peace Not War
From Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War:
Conscience: Taxes For Peace Not War is a campaigning organisation which works to create a world where taxes are used to nurture peace, not pay for war. The ultimate aim of Conscience is to bring about a situation where national security is ensured using non-military rather than military means. To achieve this aim we advocate non-military security and provide information and resources to support the development of peacebuilding and conflict prevention methods. These methods are more effective and better value forms of security than military intervention. On this basis we campaign for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and the preparation for war. In addition, we campaign for an update in the law, so that people with a conscientious objection to war can have the part of their taxes currently spent on war and the preparation for war – approximately 10% – spent on peacebuilding and conflict prevention instead. This is in recognition of the fact that we no longer face military conscription in the UK, yet we bear a moral responsibility for our contribution to the military through our taxes.
Photo from the Conscience: Taxes For Peace Not War website ©
‘Alongside our homeless neighbour: 20 years of Scottish Churches Housing Action’, Friday, 3 October 2014, 10:00am-3:30pm, Falkirk Trinity Church
Join Scottish Churches Housing Action at our annual seminar, marking the opening of our 20th anniversary programme. Keynote speaker: Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Cyrenians, and Iona Community member.
– Tough times for homeless people – the reality; the prospects, known and unknown. Can we work together better?
– Affordable housing – what’s the big problem with ‘a home for everyone who needs one’?
– Our distorting media – how to challenge public perceptions of people experiencing poverty and homelessness.
Glasgow Food Forum: A place to discuss the issue surrounding food in Glasgow
From Kenny McBride, Iona Community Poverty Project Worker:
These forums are for anyone to talk about food in their communities, community growing, food banks, food poverty, cooking food on a budget, locally grown food, affordable food, bulk-buying, selling food, setting up a community shop or stall in your area and much, much more.
We invite you to share your ideas, pitch new ones and expand on the thoughts of others:
Harvest resources, from Christian Aid
From Christian Aid:
This Harvest, as families in the UK get together to break bread and give thanks for what they have, we’re focusing on a baker called Nyipock living in the village of Alok in South Sudan.
Join us to make your Harvest go further this year. Acting together, we can turn our daily bread into a secure harvest for some of the world’s poorest people.
You can download or order inspiring resources to learn more about Nyipock and his community, to worship and to raise vital funds to support work like this across the world|:
The ceilidh of creation, by Jan Sutch Pickard
The grass is dancing,
all over the machair,
partnered by wildflowers – vivid and fragrant –
in a summertime reel;
on the dunes marram grass silvers, ripples,
and runs like the waves of the sea.
The sea is reciting: and
the rhythm of the waves as they fall on the sand
is a poem we learned by heart, long ago,
that rhymes and chimes with the wind.
The wind is singing ,
in rigging, around the eaves and through the trees,
sometimes a battle chant,
sometimes a love song among the leaves –
it fires and inspires.
The fire is dancing,
on the hearth or on the shore,
turning dry dead matter into energy,
it is dangerous, graceful, fruitful and free.
The fruit is juggling,
bobbing in bunches on the rowan,
tumbling from branches bowed down,
apple, pear, plum, sloe, and
swinging on raspberry canes in the breeze.
The breeze is playing plaintive airs,
and pibrochs: it has brought along its pipes,
and, what’s more, there’s a fiddle, a penny whistle
and a button-key accordion,
if you listen carefully,
on this changeable autumn day.
The day is dancing,
and the night, when the stars are singing far off
and the moon paces in a stately dance;
the mountains are telling the story of their making
and the earth is dancing through space.
The breeze is playing,
and tossing birds high in the sky,
the fruit is juggling, and telling juicy jokes,
the fire does a dazzling jig,
the wind and the sea move us
with words and music, in strange tongues
and, all over the earth, the grass is dancing.
– Jan Sutch Pickard
For books and resources by Jan Sutch Pickard, go to www.ionabooks.com
Photo © David Coleman