Iona, Camas and the mainland

ColumbaFest: a seasonal celebration of faith, culture, politics and creativity, 9th-11th June 2017, Glasgow, from weeWONDERBOX

ColumbaFest is a weekend festival at the anniversary of St Columba’s death. During the festival, workshops and other events will explore themes from Columba’s life, such as learning, mission, exile, prayer, spirituality and political engagement. And in echoes of his and the Celtic Church’s emphasis on incarnation, we’ll explore issues that are of importance in the contemporary context and culture of Scotland, and which have broader resonance further afield.

ColumbaFest is part of the weeWONDERBOX programme of events organised by the Iona Community’s Programme team and the Wild Goose Resource Group.



New folk at the Iona Community’s Glasgow office

Introducing Bénédicte Scholefield, Business Director:

‘I was born and bred in France but left home at 18, first to study for an International Masters in Business Studies (France, Britain and Germany), then to fulfil my dream of working in Africa. I spent four wonderful years in northern Mali setting up village-based credit unions and only left because I married an Englishman (Mark) and moved to England. I first worked as Fundraising and Communications Director for two Christian charities in Cambridge and then, in 1985, was appointed Director of the Ammerdown Retreat and Conference Centre in Somerset. We have one 16-year-old daughter, Solenne, who is about to take her GCSEs. My faith is hugely important to me, although I have moved a long way from the ‘certainties’ of my youth as a Roman Catholic. I have been worshipping in CofE churches since moving to England, and have also recently started to attend Quaker meetings. Having worked with Muslims in Mali, I am very interested in other faiths, and am passionate about the importance of acceptance and dialogue. In terms of hobbies, I like cooking and reading and also love the outdoors and walking, so a move to Scotland definitely appeals!’


Introducing Natalie Smith, Administrative Assistant:

‘I have recently completed the work required for my undergraduate degree in Religion and Sociology at the University of Stirling, and will be graduating this coming June. I was born in England, but I moved to Sweden as a very young girl, and I lived there for ten years. Following this, I moved to Waterloo, Belgium, where I stayed until I started my studies here in Scotland.

My degree has sparked in me a great interest in mission history, especially in regards to questions of place, belonging and identity, and I hope to pursue further studies in these areas. Aside from this, I have a keen interest in art, writing and political activism, and enjoy the occasional ride on horseback.’

Photos of Natalie Smith and Bénédicte Scholefield ©

Ceilidh in aid of the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal raises £2500 – and a good time was had by all, from associate Ian Fraser

On Friday 21st April 2017, in the chapel of Glasgow University, over 200 dancers – young and old – enjoyed a ceilidh organised by four Glasgow Family Groups in aid of the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal. The sum of approximately £2500 was raised from ticket sales and a raffle – and a good time was had by all.

Macappella were the ceilidh band, featuring stars from the Community such as Neil Squires and Ian Galloway.

Young folk from Iona Community’s youth group IGLOW were present, as well as folk from the GK Experience.

The interfaith chaplaincy backed the ceilidh, with member Stuart MacQuarrie being very supportive.

Thanks to Tunnock’s of Uddingston for supplying the pies and teacakes free.

The night brought back memories of Iona ceilidhs – and was a great way of renewing old friendships and making new ones.

– Ian Fraser, associate

Glasgow ceilidh photo by Linda Fraser ©

The Iona Community’s AGM, 2nd & 3rd June 2017, Renfield St Stephen’s Church, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow

The Saturday of the AGM will feature a report on the 10th Annual Sabeel Conference, from Leader Peter Macdonald and members Mike Mineter and Lesley Orr.

See you there!

Geese gathering © David Coleman

‘Autumn encounters with the Iona Community: a short seasonal programme’, St Columba Hotel, Iona, 2017, from Iona Community Programmes Development Worker, Pat Bennett

Against a background of changing colours, falling temperatures and shortening days, autumn provides a chance to pause and take stock of life – to gather in what is ripe, to clear the ground and prepare for what lies ahead. These three programmes offer the opportunity to do this in different ways as the bright limpid colours and bustle of summer give way to the vermillion and purple sunrises and softer pace of Iona in autumn.

The Iona Community is an international, ecumenical Christian movement working for peace and justice, the rebuilding of community, and the renewal of worship. Our programmes offer spaces in which people can explore life’s meaning and purpose in the company of others, and can encounter, experience and celebrate the riches and challenges of communal life. We have a long association with the island of Iona and are delighted to have the opportunity to offer some programmes in partnership with the St Columba Hotel whilst our own centres undergo refurbishment and maintenance work.

‘Autumn encounters with the Iona Community’, St Columba Hotel, Iona, 2017:

21-28th October 2017:

‘Walking into Winter’,
led by Jan Sutch Pickard, Joy Mead and Ruth Burgess

28-4th November 2017:

‘Stillness, Silence and Song’,
led by Alison Adam and Cara Riley

4-11th November 2017:

‘Cycles of Grace: Exploring the Ten Beatitudes’,
led by Alastair McIntosh

To reserve your place, please either visit and book online, or phone 44 (0)1681 700 304.

For further programme information contact:

Pat Bennett: [email protected] (Iona Community Programmes Development Worker)

Autumn Encounters with the Iona Community

 Autumn on Iona © David Coleman

‘Ropes of connection’: a reflection by Camas Resident Rhyddian Knight

Read the reflection ‘Ropes of connection’ by Rhyddian in the spring 2017 Coracle, which should be with you now, or very soon. In it, Rhyddian tells this lovely story:

‘During Work Week in October last year, eight young boys from Muirhouse joined us on a group forage of the Atlantic rainforest remnants around Pennyghael, collecting hazelnuts from the treetops in buckets for growing on at a tree nursery in the Camas garden. The week’s graft had been supplemented by the fun of fishing, along with reflective tales of the relationship between salmon and the hazelnut. The boys set to the task with glee, shaking the boughs and clambering over each other to collect the nuts. Adults, being slightly more sedentary, stayed at ground level and shouted words of encouragement and direction. One boy, eyes ablaze with excitement, shook his bough with hands and feet – and suddenly there was a loud ‘crack’ as a branch gave way. I lunged forward as he rolled gently downwards through the canopy, suspended by layers of branches, before wriggling and falling to the next; another ‘crack’ issued and he fell the last few feet and I caught him in my arms as a silence descended. We got eye contact and I could feel the energy coursing through him. He was fully alive. ‘Again! Again!’ he shrieked with excitement.

Later that night after Reflection, some of the group emerged laughing and beckoning to the staff to ‘come and see’: our hazel tree boy had fallen asleep, limbs twitching and eyes flickering in their lids making sense of the day’s doings. He was heard murmuring over and over: ‘Ah’m a fishermaaaan, deeep, deeep dooon in the fisherpoool; now ah’m a biiiiig fiiiiish …’


Camas Diary

‘Fresh harvest’, by Rachel Daniels, a former Camas volunteer ©

Iona Community Youth news – IGLOW

IGLOW is the Iona Community’s group for young people in Glasgow. It grew out of the passion of some of the young people who had met at Iona Youth Festival, who wanted the time and space to meet and explore issues in the way they had on Iona. IGLOW is open to teenagers from across Glasgow who are passionate about meeting and learning from different people and working to make the world a better place.

IGLOW Facebook page

IGLOW photo © Iona Community Youth Department

Wild Goose Big Book of Worship Resources – new book from Wild Goose Publications and the Iona Community

A wide-ranging collection of resources for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Transfiguration, Harvest, Holocaust Memorial Day, Mothering Sunday, and other special days, and on areas of concern, like refugees and peacemaking.

Worship rooted in city and country, in work and in schools, in peacemaking and the eradication of poverty, in churches and the Iona Community resident group … So – as always with the Iona Community – worship which is contextual, prophetic, with a strong justice and peace edge.

Originally published as single digital downloads by Wild Goose, these are now all brought together for the first time in one of at least two Big Books of resources and liturgies.

Contributors include Jan Sutch Pickard, Tom Gordon, Ruth Burgess, Ian M Fraser, Thom M Shuman, Ruth Harvey, John Harvey, Joy Mead, David Rhodes, Chris Polhill, Kathryn Turner, Janet Lees, Rosemary Power, Glendon Macaulay, Tim Aldred, Dave Broom, Elaine Gisbourne and others.

Holy God,
you challenge ordinary people
to live in your truth and love.
As we worship you today,
touch our hearts
with your bright fire … (Chris Polhill)

Wild Goose Big Book of Worship Resources

Iona Community’s Annual Report 2016, from Coracle

Iona Community's Annual Report 2016

‘The Iona Community on the march’, by Neil Paynter ©

Members, associates and friends

Progress of a pilgrim: Lichfield to Iona – a pilgrimage for Christian Aid and the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal, by associate Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips recently completed a 412-mile, 40-day pilgrimage – raising over £7500 for Christian Aid and the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal. (Thank you, Peter!) Following is Peter’s reflection on the walk.

The idea had been in my head for some time, but two events brought the project to fruition. The first was when Diana informed me, over the breakfast table, that she had booked our place at the Abbey in late April. The second was more profound. Prior to the US Presidential elections, the TV news and papers had been full of it – headlines day after day:

‘1,500 migrants have crossed the border from Syria into Turkey’ …

‘Migrants, including women and children, have been refused access’ …

However, once the Republican Party had won the election, news of refugees slipped from the headlines.

I made my own enquiries into the figures and discovered that 65.3 million people in the world are displaced from their homeland – the highest figure ever recorded.

Diana and I have been associates of the Iona Community for some years now, and have been keen volunteers for Christian Aid for about five years.

One morning last October, I found myself declaring that I had decided to walk to Iona this time.

We live in Lichfield, in Staffordshire. I quickly discovered that from Lichfield Cathedral to Iona Abbey was 412 miles. Having walked from London to Paris, I knew I could walk 10 to 12 miles per day … hence walking to Iona would take 40 days. A walk in the park, or so I thought!

Whilst Diana lovingly expressed concern for my safety, I did my research and plotted the shortest route. I informed both Christian Aid and the Iona Community what I was intending to do, and that I hoped to raise sponsorship money in the process. Both organisations embraced the project with passion,  advertising it on their websites. I felt humbled as complete strangers e-mailed me, offering me sleepovers on my proposed route. Many people offered to come out and pick me up and return me to the same spot the next morning. Without all my hosts, I would have been sunk!

On Thursday 16th March a group of friends gathered in Lichfield Cathedral as the Bishop said a pilgrims’ prayer. He then ceremoniously sprinkled holy water over me, whilst uttering the words: ‘Go on your journey, in the name of Christ, and may He walk with you and keep you safe.’

For the first four days I was on familiar turf. I am a local lad, having been born and raised in Staffordshire, and I have lived here all my life; I know the area well. The 4th day happened to be my birthday. Diana and friends drove out to wish me a happy birthday, and we drank a toast in ‘The Three Greyhounds’.

After that, I was on unfamiliar territory … and it went through my mind that refugees fleeing persecution must have that feeling of isolation when walking through lands unknown to them.

Every host with whom I stayed each night was wonderfully kind. For 12 hours they opened their hearts and homes to me – a stranger. They fed me, they offered me a hot bath and allowed me use of their laundry facilities. They shared stories about their own lives, and some even confided in me, which I found an immense privilege.

On day 6, after walking over the Manchester ship canal in Warrington, I was met by Christian Aid staff, who congratulated me for getting this far and plied me with tea and cake. That night my host turned out to be a Franciscan, with a dog named Brian. A week later Brian made national news headlines as he helped children at a local primary school with their reading. Brian was a hero – and I had met him!

Ten to twelve miles per day turned out to be the average distance. Sometimes it was 15 or 16 miles – once I walked 19 miles. Those fleeing their war-torn homelands cannot know the distance they have to travel to seek safety. At least I was assured of a warm comfortable bed, whereas many refugees find themselves sleeping under bushes at the side of busy roads.

To reach Scotland, via the shortest route, one has to cross Shap Fell. As I fumbled my way along the minor road between the two carriageways of the M6 (where they diverge) the heavens opened, and the mist began to swirl around whilst the wind started to howl. I received pitiful looks from passing motorists, ensconced in their heated vehicles. I was frightened – would I get off Shap Fell in one piece? But I was reminded, once again, of the plight of refugees.  

Crossing the Scottish boarder was a major milestone. I took a ‘selfie’ and texted it back to Diana, in the hope she would share it with folk back home … a home I hadn’t seen now for 19 days.

Everyone told me I should not consider walking on busy roads. No one told me about the service road, which runs parallel with parts of the M6 and M74. This road is only used by local traffic, as it winds its way north, unobserved. I heard curlews here and saw lapwings. It was here, Jesus and I had a discussion about why people should be forced to flee their homes. Jesus pointed out that all land belongs to God and for man to fight over it is unforgivable. God has given us all enough land to live on and we should embrace his kindness and generosity and live in peace.

In Glasgow, my head was turned by the speed and busyness of the place. I stood on a street corner for a while and a man asked me for a light. I didn’t have one, but it did lead to my hearing about life inside prison and how difficult it is to adapt to a life ‘on the out’. It was Maundy Thursday and it seemed ironic that I should have my feet washed in St Margaret’s Church.

To escape the city, I entered what appeared to be my own prison! The Clyde Tunnel is an austere place, where one can easily imagine evil deeds are done. I quickened my step, to emerge on the north side of the river, with great relief.

The Loch Lomond cycle track is a gift given by God to all those who have vowed to return to nature by trying to get away from the motorcar. Loch Lomond is 26 miles in length … over a two-day walk. For the two days I walked the cycle-track, it rained continuously. That wasn’t the problem, but having to wrestle with a wet, heavy rucksack was … but I shouldn’t complain.

I shouldn’t complain because on reaching Ardlui, on the north shore of that great loch, my next host came out to meet me from Dalmally. For the next three days, Steve drove my rucksack ahead of me. This not only saved my life (metaphorically), but saved my dignity as I was able to move with ease along the side of the very busy and very ‘main’ A85.

Near Connel, a young man leaped from a car claiming to be the son of someone I knew at home. He took a ‘selfie’ of us both to send to his mum. It was a gratifying feeling, meeting someone who knew about my home. Contrast that with a refugee, who loses all contact with home – forever.

After the ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure, I rested for 3 days on a small holding. Chickens, ducks and the growing of tea took up my time and thoughts. Then, on the 4th day, I said my farewell to my priestly host and set off to walk the Isle of Mull.

What a beautiful isle it is … but often missed if travelling by bus. Yes, one notices the hills, the lochs, the rocks and the herons, but one misses the smells, the light between land and sky, the larks, the deer … My final host on Mull has a croft. Sitting in the croft, watching the waves of the loch, was just magical.

On day 40 … right on cue! … the ramp of the Iona ferry was lowered. Ahead of me was a small but enthusiastic collection of Abbey volunteers … holding a large notice which read ‘412 miles! … Welcome, Peter’. I ran … yes, ran from the ferry. My first action was to fall to my knees and kiss the jetty – Pope-style. As I arose to my feet, a cheer went up. I felt like a star, but knew I wasn’t.

Over a meal that evening with a member and a volunteer for the Community, the subject of refugees came up. I related my thoughts on the subject … and afterwards we prayed for all those still on their journey. Mine was over. I had made it. Many people do not.

I give thanks that Jesus did walk with me, and I pray He will walk with all those who are forced to flee … and that in Him, they will find refuge.

NB: To date, the Pilgrimage Project has raised over £7,500 for Christian Aid and the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal. The ‘Virginmoneygiving’ website will remain open for some weeks. Anyone wishing to donate should go to there. Thank you for your support:

Pilgrim Project fundraising page

– Peter Phillips

Progress of a pilgrim photo © (Peter in yellow jacket)

Iona Community plenary in Dunblane: a wee report, from member Ruth Burgess

A regional plenary was held in Dunblane at St Blanes Church Halls on Saturday 29th April, and was well-attended by members, associates and friends. The plenary opened with the all-age morning service from the new Iona Abbey Worship Book (Wild Goose Publications). In the morning Leader Peter Macdonald spoke about changes within society, the church and the Community over recent years. Questions ensued – then lunch was enjoyed.

In the afternoon, WGRG member Graham Maule also referenced changes within church and society. He shared the vision and content of the weeWONDERBOX project, currently utilising the meeting place area on the ground floor of the Community’s new Glasgow office in Carlton Court.

Copies of the Iona Abbey Worship Book were available at the meeting and forty were sold. Graham enabled a participative liturgy to close the plenary.

– Ruth Burgess


It’s a new day.
Walk beside us God.
Enjoy the day with us.
We want to share it with you.

Prayer from the all-age morning service, Iona Abbey Worship Book, Wild Goose Publications, 2017

Gathering of geese © David Coleman

‘Care and share’: Iona Continentals Meeting, Salzburg, Austria, 7th-10th September 2017, from associate Evelyne Martin

The next Iona Continentals meeting will take place in Salzburg, 7th-10th September, at the guesthouse of the Pallottiner Order of monks, right in the heart of the city. The theme of the gathering is ‘Care and share’. News to follow …

Geese in flight © David Coleman

Lifeline: A Reformation Pilgrimage, new book by member David Osborne, from Christians Aware

The Reformation began in 1517 and in the following years reshaped the church and society in much of Europe. As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approached David Osborne made a pilgrimage by bicycle through many of the places where significant events occurred in that religious upheaval. The journey was more than a visit to ancient sites. David Osborne grew up in England just after the Second World War in which Germany had been ‘the enemy’. He was also aware of the great debt that he and many other people owed to German culture: in science, music and particularly in theology. The pilgrimage was a time to reflect on this German contribution to society and the church, to face some of his own shadows, and to try to work out what the events of the Reformation might mean in the crises of the present day. In telling of that journey, Lifeline: A Reformation Pilgrimage describes the major events of the Reformation in Germany, how Germany developed in the following five centuries, and how theologians after Martin Luther addressed the challenges of their society, particularly in the turmoil of the twentieth century. The author suggests that their work is very relevant to the ecological crisis, growing inequality and ‘post-truth’ politics of our time.

David Osborne is a member of the Iona Community, an Anglican priest and the author of several books, including Love for the Future: A Journey (Wild Goose)

To order Lifeline: A Reformation Pilgrimage, contact Christians Aware, 2 Saxby Street, Leicester LE2 0ND,  tel 0116 254 0770, [email protected], or contact David Osborne for info (see Members Book).

Christians Aware

Sanctuary and Light: the Iona Community’s Capital Appeal

Generations of people have been touched by the varied and vital work of the Iona Community – work we want to ensure continues to be a reality and not history. This is especially true of our presence in the Abbey on Iona.

As a proactive and forward-thinking organisation, we have been evaluating and reassessing what we offer to our guests and staff. Wide consultation and guest feedback have identified key issues about the building’s accessibility, flexibility and sustainability. These must be addressed in the next five years if the Abbey is to remain fit for purpose.

The Iona Community has commissioned Tiree-based Roots Design Workshop to draw up proposals for reconfiguration of the existing accommodation in the Abbey, taking into account the considerable challenges of working in a listed building of significant historical interest, on a remote island. As a result of the survey of the building we have been made acutely aware of the critical need to carry out these works as a matter of extreme urgency.

In partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, we will ensure that active use of this iconic building, for its original purpose, is safeguarded for the future.

The Capital Appeal


Photo by Martin Johnstone © Used with permission

The power at work among us: an Iona story, by Nancy Cocks

It was Friday lunch, a time for staff to relax together and eat up leftovers from recent meals at the Centres. At the MacLeod Centre, we had just said goodbye to a group of refugees and community workers who spent the week with us. It had been a moving week. One of the families was called back early to face a hearing on their right to remain in Britain. When I said goodbye to them at the ferry, they embraced me with tears in their eyes, ‘This is the first time we felt welcome since we arrived in Britain,’ they told me. Humbling words to pass along to my colleagues on staff.

At the lunch table, I was joined by a young man volunteering with us for a few weeks. Normally a cheerful lad with a scheme or two up his sleeve, he looked solemn. ‘Do you ken what those people have been through, Nancy? It’s just nae fair.’ He had been deeply moved by what he’d heard from our guests.

I reflected on the power at work among us. This young man had come to get his life straightened out. He’d had a brush with the law. Someone in the Iona Community’s network thought time on Iona would help him make a fresh start. In lots of ways, he hadn’t had a fair chance, either. Yet here he was, marvelling at the courage of refugees also trying to make a fresh start. Their stories lay beyond anything he could imagine, just as his story lay beyond mine.

– Nancy Cocks, former Warden of the MacLeod Centre, from Invisible We See You, Wild Goose Publications

‘Iona heart’, by David Coleman ©


Into futures without fear, by member Alison Swinfen

In the old days we learned
that you were not in the earthquake
and not in the storm
but in the stillness
in the breeze.

In the old days we learned
that you could use your breath and
all those lost, desiccated in the desert,
would rise, and return.

In the old days, they said
that those lost to the wilderness
were fed.

God of the stillness and breeze
God of the rising and the return
God of all absence and all plenty,

grant us the first lesson,
grant us that we may learn it again,
grant the faith that can look
upon the bones in desert
the bodies in the sea
and after the waves
of grief
and shame,

grant that we too may rise, turn again
and walk with our sisters and brothers
in your peace and into futures without fear.

Alison Swinfen, from In the Gift of This New Day: Praying with the Iona Community, Wild Goose Publications


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