Members, associates and friends
Iona Community on the march to help stop climate chaos
Over the weekend of the 28th and 29th November, 2015 people from across the world – from Melbourne to Tokyo, Mumbai to Buenos Aires – marched for climate action! On the Saturday, Iona Community members and friends took part in Scotland’s Climate March in Edinburgh – standing up for people affected by rising global temperatures and demanding that world leaders agree an ambitious deal at the UN climate change negotiations in Paris.
A whole bunch of photos here of the spirited day, with some familiar, beautiful faces …
Iona Abbey Christmas House Party – 7 nights, 22-29 December, 2015
Spaces still available, various rates – be quick though: no bookings after 8th December, 2015.
To book, e-mail Carol: [email protected]
Join us to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Photo © David Coleman
We are looking for an Assistant Bookings Administrator on Iona, from Iona Community staffing
Are you looking for an alternative, counter-cultural and spiritually challenging way to live and work? Then consider joining our Resident Staff on the island of Iona, to share a common life and extend our ministry of hospitality to guests from all over the world.
Please see our vacancy page for further details and application forms: Assistant Bookings Administrator
Closing date for applications: Thursday 17th December, 2015
Iona Community Advent calendar: a reflection for each day of Advent
Thought-provoking and fun. Enjoy!
2016 Islands Centre Programme
The lovely and exciting 2016 Islands Programme is now available! Find out what’s happening on Iona and at Camas is 2016 and book a week – see you there.
Campaigners demand immediate closure of Dungavel immigrant detention centre
Iona Community folk and many friends of our purpose took part in this recent demo for the closure of Dungavel
Photo: Members Jean Oliver and Rachel McCann ringing ‘Adomnan’s bell’ at Dungavel © Douglas Shaw
Photo by Rachel McCann © Douglas Shaw
Iona Community Working group on Israel and Palestine, from members Eurig Scandrett and Warren Bardsley
The Iona Community has a long relationship of solidarity with the Palestinian people and played a central role in translating the Palestinian Christians’ Kairos Declaration into practical action in Britain. A working group on Palestine and Israel has now been established in the Community to raise awareness of the current situation facing Palestinians and to promote action in the Community and with others in the Churches, and to support the non-violent resistance to Israeli colonisation through the campaign of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel.
The next two years will mark the centenaries of a series of British interventions in the Middle East culminating in the Balfour Declaration, which laid the foundation for much of the current conflict in the region. The Iona Community will mark the centenaries through a programme of awareness-raising and practical action, hopefully including a study tour of Palestine/Israel.
There are many Community members with considerable experience of Palestine/Israel and of other struggles against colonisation. There are many more who are looking for an opportunity to learn more and get more involved in the work of solidarity with Palestinian people in their churches and communities. The working group welcomes all expressions of interest however involved in this issue you have been in the past, either to take an active role in the working group or to be part of a wider corresponding group of supporters.
Contact Eurig Scandrett and Warren Bardsley (see Members Book).
Hungry for Change, from member Liz Dowler
On 28th October, 2015 the Fabian Society’s ‘Food and Poverty Commission’ launched their report Hungry for Change to a packed committee room in the House of Commons. It is an excellent account of why increasing numbers in the UK are going hungry and facing crises in food access, and what can be done about it in the short- and longer term. It makes clear how low wages and poor working conditions, especially in the food sector itself, and increasing problems with social security, along with challenges in the food system from climate change and loss of biodiversity, are combining in a damaging and complex web to produce critical food injustice. It sets out a clear agenda for creating a fairer food system that enables all to eat decently and well.
The Commission was chaired by Geoff Tansey (who co-led a ‘Food Matters’ week on Iona with me and Tony Phelan in September), and Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty and associate member, was one of the Commissioners. The Commission took evidence in different parts of the country and was guided by an expert panel of people living in food poverty.
The discussion in the House of Commons was urgent and absolutely supportive of the report’s analysis and proposals – which itself is very encouraging. Many struggling to feed themselves, or working in food banks or welfare support, as well as those in Parliaments and local government, are saying similar things – we cannot go on as we are. I urge Iona Community members to read the report, to tell their friends and networks about it, to write to local and national representatives and continue to work to bring about the changes needed.
– Liz Dowler
Liz Dowler was an academic advisor on the Hungry for Change report and is a member of the Food Ethics Council.
The Psalms: Prayers for Today’s Church: a course for Lent with John Bell, from York Courses
From York Courses:
The ancient poems we call the Psalms are over 2000 years old. They were written in very different times from our own but these songs have stood the test of time, for they address many of the problems we still face: violence, injustice, anger – and bewilderment. Why do the wicked prosper? Where is God when we suffer? In this 5-session course, Bishop Stephen Cottrell reflects on the Psalms in general (and five psalms in particular).
Participants on the CD are the Dominican Friar Fr Timothy Radcliffe, Revd John Bell of the Iona Community, the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Revd Prebendary Rose-Hudson Wilkin, and Revd Dr Jane Leach, the Principal of Wesley House Cambridge.
Sarah Evans joins the Iona Community’s Youth Team in Glasgow, and Alan McManus joins the Resident Group as Programme Coordinator
A wee note to say that Sarah Evans, who had been working on Iona as Welcome Centre Coordinator, has recently joined the Community’s Youth Team, replacing Ben Raw, who is now off on his travels across the globe; and Alan McManus has recently arrived on Iona as the new Programme Coordinator, replacing Ali Marshall, who left Iona, after a number of years of great work, in November.
Welcome Sarah and Alan, and thank you so much, Ben and Ali – and go well.
No winter 2015 Coracle, from editor Neil Paynter – see you in spring
Just a reminder, and a notice if you don’t know already, that there will be no winter 2015 Coracle, as we are working on a new-look Coracle to launch in spring 2016. So – see you in 2016.
Meanwhile – Family Groups, members, associates, friends – please send me news of what you’re working at and I’ll tell folk about it. Thank you for your witness, inspiration and support.
2015 Autumn Coracle cover photo © Iona Community Youth Department
LGCM Christmas Carol Service, 12 December, 2015
From Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement:
Please join us for LGCM’s Christmas Carol Service, on Saturday 12 December at 6pm at 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP
The service will be led by members of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, so you can expect a warm welcome and plenty of time to chat afterwards, and we’re delighted that our preacher will be Canon Jeremy Pemberton.
Please give this the widest possible circulation amongst your friends and contacts, and perhaps think of inviting someone who might not otherwise have an opportunity for reflection and celebration with an inclusive and welcoming congregation, or of inviting someone who finds him or herself on the fringes of church.
With all good wishes for your own seasonal preparations.
– Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive LGCM
Homeless Sunday 2016, 24th January, 2016, from Scottish Churches Housing Action
From Scottish Churches Housing Action:
Through prayer and reflection, Homeless Sunday offers an opportunity to listen to what God has to say about homelessness, and to consider what action we are being called to take.
Homeless Sunday 2016 will be held on 24 January; the theme is ‘Connect, Challenge, Commit’.
See the Homeless Sunday website for details and resources.
Scottish Churches Housing Action brings together twelve Christian denominations and organisations in Scotland, all with a commitment to ending homelessness. The Iona Community has a representative on the board of Scottish Churches Housing Action.
Photo from the SCHA website ©
Church Action on Poverty Sunday, 7 February, 2016
From Church Action on Poverty:
Food is a gift from God. But in the UK today, thousands of people are denied access to that gift by injustices that leave them destitute.
Churches play a vital role in sharing food with those who need it – and speaking out to ensure that nobody goes without. Break bread with us on Church Action on Poverty Sunday.
Give: hold a collection or soup lunch to raise funds for our work.
Act: speak out for the right to food.
Pray: use free resources to plan a worship service that gives thanks for the gift of food, and celebrates the work being done to tackle hunger and poverty in the UK.
you made this good earth and gave us enough
that all could delight
in bread and wine, milk and honey, story and song.
As Jesus sat by lakeside and table
and shared bread
and said that his body was broken for all,
he showed us a glimpse of your Kingdom.
with a vision of a society beyond the scandal of poverty
where bread is the birthright of all your children.
Give us hearts that yearn for it,
voices to call for it
and strong hands to build it together.
– From Church Action on Poverty
News from members, associates and friends
‘One with them: we are hungry for further commitment’, from Katharine Preston of the North Country Family Group, USA
There is something about a crisp New England autumn that nudges the thoughts and dreams of our North Country Family Group of Associates (Northeast Region USA).
Meeting together over the past five years has been precious for us all. This year we added, seamlessly, two new Family Group members. We meet regularly (although distances mean that is usually just twice a year), share and account to each other, and are all active in some aspect of peace and justice.
Our experiences with the Iona Community are diverse. Some have been to Iona, some more than once, and cherish the memory of the beauty and ‘thinness’ of the place and being ‘at home’ in the worship at the Abbey. Others feel no particular allegiance – symbolic or otherwise – to a place they have not seen. Instead, it is the Iona Community model that excites them: dispersed, contextual, prophetic and dedicated to social justice and peace.
As associates, we keep the first part of the Rule (prayer, worship, engagement with the Bible).
So, as we voice our future commitments to each other, we bless these with a Gaelic toast and a bit of scotch! And we ask ourselves this: How is what we do here in the North Country, as associates, in the presence of the Spirit, different from what full members do?
The answer seems to be two-fold: 1) we have not yet activated a full planning and accounting for our economic resources; and 2) ‘sharing in the corporate life and organisation of the Community’, presumably by regular attendance at plenary meetings, is difficult, due to distances and expense.
The first item is a transition that I suspect would not be difficult for our North Country Family Group, and, in fact, would help all of us to understand our circumstances better. We will explore this step with trust and prayer.
The second is harder. Far-flung membership has been discouraged over the years, perhaps with good reason.
But in Living by the Rule (Wild Goose Publications), Kathy Galloway describes how the Community became increasingly more inclusive over time, ‘organically’, because ‘others outside lobbied to be included’.
We wonder: should we lobby? Might it be possible to create an acceptable ‘New World version’ of full membership? What would that look like?
Why do we care? Why does there continue to be a not-so-subtle craving in some of us for a closer, more active relationship with the Community and its four-fold Rule?
I will speak for myself.
The Iona Community gives me a precious context for my faith that is conceptually, theologically and supportively different from my home church community. On a daily basis, I pray for, and quarterly am prayed for by, a group of individuals that ‘get’ what the gospel’s call to action means to me. That greatly strengthens my resolve and commitment to my work. I read Living by the Rule and say ‘yes!’ to every part. I want to live by this Rule, and by the Working Principles of the Community. I want to accept the mutual accountability that comes with that.
The planet is small. There are blessed connecting fibers afforded to us that were unimaginable to George MacLeod. As never before, we know that our local actions have global consequences. And our challenges – government immigration policies, climate change, economic inequality, guiding our young people as they inherit these challenges – are shared across the planet.
Associate membership is special – but we are hungry and ready for further commitment. We wonder if the present constraints of geographic distance are not dissimilar to the Iona Community’s previously overcome constraints to membership: being female, not Church of Scotland, not Protestant, from Scotland, Britain, or even Europe.
Exclusion due to distance across oceans seems more and more arbitrary.
We want the Family Group in Grampion and Tayside, or South Edinburgh, or Pentland to know that the prayers and actions of the North Country Family Group are one with them.
It’s a smaller, more interdependent new world! Is there a new journey for more-willing associates of the Iona Community, a wider opportunity to fuller pilgrimage with the whole Community, making its witness even more prominent locally?
– Katharine Preston
Photo of Katharine Preston ©
‘It all began on Iona’, from associate Cynthia Gunn in Switzerland
I am an associate of the Iona Community – originally from Australia now living in Switzerland.
Several years ago I visited Iona for the first time as a participant in a week devoted to discussions around the Kairos Document. This document had been produced by Middle Eastern Church leaders as a Christian response to the Palestine/Israel conflict. I had been a volunteer for the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) shortly before so the week held particular interest for me. But time spent on Iona turned out to hold more than I ever anticipated – the Abbey services and music, the speakers, the fellowship, the active endeavours of members and associates, the island itself, in excellent weather, all sought to ‘cast a spell’, and on return the only response I could possibly make was to apply for associate membership of the Community. Since then I have enjoyed the Community’s more reflective approach through its publications and resources, and eagerly await the arrival of each copy of Coracle.
Returned EAs are under contract with the World Council of Churches in Geneva to continue advocacy work for a just peace on return home, so in 2014 I decided to spend a year in my homeland of Australia, where the programme is little known, and do just that. I received invitations over four States and spoke to church groups, business and professional organisations, politics classes in schools and a number of smaller house groups. At one ecumenical gathering in the Newcastle NSW area, I met with Iona associates Keith and Helen Weavers, and was fascinated to hear from Keith that he had once been on Iona in the early days of the Community with founder George MacLeod. An invitation to the Riverina Presbytery of the Uniting Church took me to country churches and schools where I met indigenous people and was given a warm country welcome. On one occasion I spoke to a large ecumenical gathering in the Sydney suburb of Beecroft, where former State Premier and later Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, was also a spokesman. Successive federal governments in Australia have long been supporters of Israel, and later Bob had a number of points he wished to clarify with me. The upshot was an article by Bob in The Australian stating that he had renounced his patronage of certain Israeli unions in favour of Palestine, due to Israel’s oppressive treatment of Palestinians. It did, of course, attract criticism by his readers, but it was proof to me that one never knows where advocacy for a just cause can lead. I was further encouraged to know that at this year’s Australian Labour Party’s National Congress a motion was passed that, in future, whenever MPs were offered a trip to Israel, it should include a visit to the West Bank and time spent with Palestinian representatives as well. All in all, it was a successful and happy year. Although my presentations did arouse the ire of some Christian Zionists, enough people remarked that they ‘hadn’t known the situation was like that’. And it all began on the isle of Iona, which I hope to revisit in 2016!
– Cynthia Gunn
Photo of Cynthia Gunn unavailable
To live the gospel: a regional gathering open to all, 27th February, 2016, from member David Osborne, South West England
Saturday 27th February 2016, 11.00am to 4.00pm at the Mint Methodist Church, Fore Street, Exeter, EX4 3AT
Aim: The Iona Community has always aimed to not just talk about and preach the gospel but to live it. The good news is to be lived out in work and worship, in prayer and politics, in the sacred and the secular. The purpose of the day is to help us do that.
Invitation: This day is for anyone who is concerned to try to live out their Christian faith, who wants to know more of what it means to be part of the Iona movement in the South West and to meet with other members, associates and friends of the Iona Community.
Programme: The day will include: music and worship in the Iona Community style; small group explorations of different areas of concern including, building Community, conciliation and peacemaking, hospitality, environmental Justice, justice and advocacy, the renewal of worship, prayer and spirituality, world development, art & creativity, food; news of the Iona Community in South West England and worldwide; an exploration of how we can support each other in living the gospel; a shared lunch and an opportunity to meet other people in the Iona movement; a bookstall with Wild Goose Publications …
Cost: Voluntary contributions towards expenses are invited: suggestion £8.00
Catering: Coffee from 10.30am. Please bring something for lunch to share with others.
Location: The Mint Methodist Church is in the city centre, a short walk from Exeter Central Station and the bus station. Park and Ride is available. There is a limited amount of disabled parking only at the church. If you need to use this please book and say so.
Booking is not essential but it would help to give some idea of numbers and of interests. Please say where you live and your particular area of concern, if you have one.
For more information and to book contact:
David Osborne at [email protected]
On spiritual activism: a conversation with Alastair McIntosh
A great conversation between Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue and associate Alastair McIntosh, on Alastair’s new book, Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service (Green Books), from BBC Radio Scotland, 27 September 2015 …
Photo of Alastair McIntosh by Dominque Carton ©
Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service, by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael, reviewed by Babs Nicgriogair
‘Human beings are the earth walking, feeling, thinking and loving …’
– Atahualpa Yupanqui (indigenous singer and poet, Argentina)
We live in dark times. Only this month a Russian airliner was blown out of the sky with 224 passengers and crew on board, 12 days later two suicide bombers targeted a Shia suburb of Beirut and killed 43 people, and a day after that, armed assassins took to the streets of Paris and slaughtered 136 people. The French government is gearing up for war and anyone with shares in Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and Thales will make a killing too. 4 days later the Bishopbriggs Cultural Centre near Glasgow (also known as Al-Sarouk) was firebombed in the early hours of the morning …
‘This is indeed a terrible time to be advocating spiritual activism. That’s why the time is right.’
So reads the very last sentence of the wonderfully arresting and engaging book of the same name, by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael. This powerful intergenerational collaboration, incorporating the distilled wisdom of over 25 years of university teaching and a combined century of life experience, describes itself as ‘a synthesis of time-tested fabric embroidered with bright new threads’ and aspires to be ‘a wake-up call’ to our own deeper selves, digging through the topsoil of our quotidian to the taproot beneath. These guys have cut their teeth on community and it shows. To be an activist is quite simply ‘to be active, to be alive, to use our life to give life’. The tag is not only reserved for those who are up against the BIG things in life: each of us must grow where we are planted and dig from where we stand, restoring attention to what is being overlooked and undervalued. Their definition of spirituality is similarly generous: ‘a way of knowing, a way of doing and a way of being’. They claim to be ‘on a journey that reconnects to the life force’, inviting those ‘disillusioned with, or uninterested in, religion, but open to life’ to join them. Acknowledging that much mainstream religion is spiritually eviscerated from within, both men still passionately believe ‘when old growth has died back, new seeds can find space and light to germinate’, and quote Gustavo Gutierrez, the grandaddy of Liberation Theology: ‘true religion is the practice of setting life free‘. And unleash it, they do.
This is a serious brains ‘n’ brawn addition to the toolbox for anyone involved in movements for progressive change in our world. It will give you sustenance; it will keep you rooted in the good of life. And it will also make you think. It wears its learning lightly but duly informs, warns and inspires.
Divided into 10 chapters the authors move from breaking open conventional definitions of activism and spirituality to creating a rationale for the latter that incorporates learning from the worlds of modern science and psychology. Whilst valuing modernity’s emphasis on evidence-based learning and post-modernity’s deconstruction of oppressive fabrications of race, gender and class, they highlight the former’s intellectual weakness, especially its tendency to fragment wholes, now sundering eco-systems and societies. According to our writers: ‘Spirituality values the interconnectedness of all things. Sacred is not a capitulation to superstition. Sacred is the appropriate adjective for wholes that cannot be taken apart and put back together again.’ Neither do the authors shy away from trying to understand failures within radical movements, analysing cultish behaviour, questioning what constitutes legitimate leadership and exploring the downside of authority and charisma, as well as the tyranny of structurelessness. Whilst chapters 1-6 are spent ‘mapping the shifting sands’, chapters 7-10 are very much ‘building on rock’. Punk rock even. Pussy Riot proclaim liberation in ‘Non-violence and the Powers That Be’ with more than a nod to Walter Wink. ‘The Psycho-dynamics of Campaigning’ recognises the inner work we have to do to function better collectively and the often painful learning curve that is ‘following the Dharma without tripping up on the karma’. ‘Tools for Discernment’ looks at nurturing personal support networks for clarity and avoiding burnout as well as looking at legacy via mentoring and eldership. The journey end-point is naturally only another beginning entitled ‘Into the Deeper Magic’, aptly quoting American feminist and pagan activist Starhawk:
‘Magic can be very prosaic. A leaflet, a lawsuit, a demonstration, or a strike can change consciousness … magic is the psychology/technology of immanence, of the understanding that everything is connected.’
Not worlds away then from Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ (Encyclical on the Environment) published earlier this year, which called people to an ‘ecological conversion’ stemming not so much from theological doctrine but from an inner motivation to live ‘solidarity inside themselves, with others, with nature and with all living and spiritual beings and God’. To quote McIntosh and Carmichael: ‘the human self is ultimately the ecological self of a living universe’. It is only this new relational and holistic paradigm, according to Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, which is perhaps still capable of giving us hope in the face of continuing planetary degradation of life in all its forms.
Just in case you think this book is too weird for you, think again. Old-school movers and shakers get a look-in too. Jesus pops the charts along with Elisha, Jeremiah and Moses. Don’t be put off either by the book’s subtitle Leadership as Service if you think you’re more of a gofer than a leader. Decrying any elitism, leadership here is based on role rather than status, and something to which any of us can be called at any time. Case studies studded through the text admirably illustrate this. You’ve got your Gandhis and your Tutus rubbing cross-cultural shoulders with Muhammad (pbuh), Basava and master Digger Gerard Winstanely, as well as a raft of good wimmin: Sojourner Truth, Julia Butterfly Hill, Mama Efua (FGM campaigner), Anne Hope and Sally Timmel (Training for Transformation), ending up in Govan, the most important religious site in the Britonnic Kingdom of Strathclyde and birthing place of the Iona Community and now home to the Galgael, building boats and community. From George MacLeod to Gehan Macleod. All things connect. So breathe easy. You’re on sacred ground. Just take off your shoes and revere the earth beneath your feet.
As I finish writing this, a donation request pops up on my Facebook messenger from an Iona friend who’s set up a crowdfunder page to repair the firebombed Cultural Centre mentioned earlier. Within hours the total is exceeded. Magic.
Babs Nicgriogair is an activist, poet and associate member of the Iona Community.
A story for the season
Christmas Eve in the city, by member Jan Sutch Pickard
Surely darkness is not too dark for you and night is as light as day; to you both dark and light are one … You know me through and through; my body was no mystery to you, when I was formed in secret, woven in the depths of the earth … my life was fashioned before it had come into being … Examine me and know my mind; test me and understand my anxious thoughts. Watch lest I follow any path that grieves you; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:11–12, 14–16, 23–24, REB)
I was 33, living in a rough part of Inner London, a mile from the church where a midnight service was held on Christmas Eve; I had baked bread for Communion. Late at night I carried it to the church, through rowdy streets. I was also carrying a child in my womb, fearful about the future of the world into which that child would be born. Conflict and uncertainty cast shadows on the happiness of our family, shaking my confidence. Yet I was also filled with joyful hope for that new life. The bread was my reason for that difficult journey, and that night I felt God walking with me.
Carrying this bread through the midnight city, I am a passer-by,
stepping over the broken glass, uneven pavements, the dark puddles;
past houses curtained, shrugging off the street, screen-lit;
past hoardings with their obscenities and philosophies,
sidestepping clinches and wrangles –
blows struck in a confusion of feelings;
past empty houses and empty faces, under the motorway –
lights travelling from nowhere to nowhere.
Midway between conception and birth, carrying this bread, newly baked;
I bear a secret more enduring than the city:
a fragrance against the petrol fumes,
a growing thing to rock these barren towers,
and heal the self-destruction of these streets.
I carry this bread to be shared among waiting people in the still church.
Carrying this bread, I’m caught up in living patterns of the city.
Not just a passer-by, but becoming part in what I fear,
what links me to others.
The bread I bear now, the child I will bear in the uncertain future –
because of these, I am threatened.
Yet I walk safely through the midnight streets,
carrying something more than myself – the weight of a world.
Loving God, who in Jesus was born as one of us –
a helpless baby in a dangerous world –
be with those who are homeless, powerless, afraid tonight,
with those who hunger for bread and for love; and with those who have bread to share –
in your name and for your sake.
Walk with us, and be present in the breaking of bread.
– Jan Sutch Pickard, from Walking through Advent: Daily Readings, Wild Goose Publications
Prayer from Iona Abbey
O Jesus, you belonged to a refugee family.
We pray for the millions of displaced people in our world,
and for the opening of borders to the nationless.
O Jesus, you identified with the naked and with those who had no place to lay their heads.
We pray for the thousands of homeless men and women, old and young, in our cites.
O Jesus, you sat at table with the betrayed and rejected of Palestine.
We pray for those today who do not feel welcomed in their daily lives …
– From Iona Abbey Worship Book (adapted), Wild Goose Publications