Iona, Camas and Glasgow

Iona Abbey Centre 2020 – bookings now open

We are delighted to announce that, from the week beginning 13th June, 2020, our Abbey Centre will once again be open to residential guests.

Details of the programme can be seen here and bookings can be done via the bookings page. 

2020 prices and details of subsidies here.

I saw a stranger yesterday.
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place
And, in the sacred name of the Triune God,
He blessed us and our house,
our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
‘Often, often, often,
goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.’

– Celtic Rune of Hospitality

‘At the jetty’ © David Coleman

Vacancies with the Iona Community at Camas on Mull – ‘Camas Coordinator’, ‘Community Gardener’, ‘Activities Programme Worker’

Are you looking for an alternative, counter-cultural and spiritually challenging way to live and work? Then consider joining the Resident Staff at our Centre at Camas – to share a common life and extend our ministry of hospitality to guests from all over the world.

For information, application forms and deadlines

Iona gate © David Coleman

Global Climate Strike on Iona and in Glasgow

Iona Community staff on Iona and in Glasgow took part in the Global Climate Strike on 20th September, 2019 – news of the protest on Iona even made The Guardian.

A photo below, by Iona Community volunteer Clare Redfern, of some of the wonderful atmosphere on Iona. (Ed.)

Photo © Clare Redfern

The Iona Community Shop – a place of welcome: An end-of-season reflection from Shop Manager, Marlene Finlayson

The shop has had a good season, and continues to do well even though autumn is here. Above all we have tried to make it a place of welcome for the many people who pass through. To emphasise the social nature of the shop we have set up an area at the back where people can sit with their hot drinks or browse whatever books we have left on the table there. This has been much appreciated by our visitors. The shop is also a witness in the sense that it allows people to read books and buy gifts that reflect the values of the Community. In the early part of the season we had several authors come to read and do signings.

The shop requires a lot of stamina from staff and volunteers, but work here brings great satisfaction. We have been blessed with volunteers who have shown great commitment to the job and to the Community. They have been willing to share their skills and ideas with us, making work a real team effort. Our sincere thanks and appreciation go to them.

We also appreciate the support of members of the Community who have come and shopped here during holidays on Iona.

– Marlene Finlayson, Iona Community Shop Manager

Iona Community Shop

Iona Community shop photo ©

Iona Community prize-winning entry in the ‘2019 Ross of Mull & Iona Scarecrow Competition’, from Iona Centres Manager, Heinz Toller

A photo below of the Community’s prize-winning bull/cow in the ‘2019 Ross of Mull & Iona Scarecrow Competition’. It was a team effort. Maintenance had a big hand in construction; the design was by a number of people – it just grew …

– Heinz Toller, Iona Centres Manager

Bull/cow photo ©

The Camas experience: An end-of-season reflection from Camas Coordinator, Darragh Keenaghan

Greta Thunberg has inspired many of us recently. One year ago she decided to do something about the climate emergency and stepped out of school in protest. Now millions around the world are joining in the school strikes. She has spoken so clearly about how our house is on fire and that we must do something urgently if we are to avoid irreversible environmental breakdown. Young people are clearly becoming more aware of how their future is in the balance. They will not accept the current trend of ecological destruction which will put their livelihoods at serious risk in the coming years.

Camas is a place where we can rediscover our connection and interdependence with the environment. By taking food from the soil; generating energy from the sun and wind; restoring woodland habitat; watching the big seas and skies; and living a simple yet nourishing lifestyle we can come back to a sense of being grounded and part of the earth beneath our feet. This is important, I think, because only by realising that we are part of a living ecosystem, and by coming to love the sounds and sensations of the world around us, will we find the motivation and determination necessary to protect the planet and transform the way we live. That is one of the amazing things the Camas experience offers to groups that come here each year, and will hopefully contribute in some way to the changes needed in the way we live as a society.

– Darragh Keenaghan, Camas Coordinator


Camas Diary

Iona Community becomes affiliate member of Extinction Rebellion Peace (XR Peace)

The Iona Community is now an affiliate member of XR Peace, which is a coalition of organisations for peace and justice joining Extinction Rebellion.

Organisations who have joined XR Peace so far: Trident Ploughshares, CND, Scottish CND, CND Cymru, Stop the War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, War Resisters International, Nukewatch, Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre, Nipponzan Myohoji UK Peace Pagodas …

XR Peace have been a continuing significant presence as part of the October Extinction Rebellion in London, carrying the message that militarism is a central pillar of the exploitative forces that are destroying our precious earth:

October Rebellion updates

Look for a reflection by friends taking part in the October Extinction Rebellion, in an upcoming Coracle or e-Coracle.

And see the latest Coracle for a reflection by friend of the Community Gill Westcott about her experience of taking part in the Extinction Rebellion protests in London earlier in the year. (Ed.)

Photo from the Extinction Rebellion Peace website ©

Iona Community Young Adults Group (YAG): update on summer 2019 and the first year of YAG, from Laura Gisbourne 

This summer, the Young Adults Group had plans to meet up for a residential week in August, be represented at the Greenbelt Festival in August, and to generally become more communicative as a group. I find it empowering to admit that we couldn’t, for various reasons, meet up for the residential week. We have only just passed our one-year anniversary and are still, very reasonably, learning about what our group can and cannot feasibly manage. Personally, I am loving finding out what our space means to us as young adult members, and although I feel a bit disappointed about not managing to do all we had planned, I find it incredibly powerful to know that we remain heartened as a group. It seems like a very common feeling, for all people, that once we’ve got an idea it must go perfectly. This is just not realistic.

The Young Adults Group is very active. Individually we are all working towards reducing our carbon footprint. Over half of us are now looking to use bars of shampoo and conditioner to replace the bottled stuff. And a fair few are choosing bamboo toothbrushes over the plastic ones. Some are changing their diet to either vegetarian or vegan, choosing local food, or reducing their meat intake in the name of climate change. One member is helping the campaigning against mining in Belfast, and a number of members participated in the Extinction Rebellion march in our local areas on the 20th of September. Everyone is doing something as a result of being in the Young Adults Group, and I find it really lovely how we all talk about it on social media. Everyone is included, but no one is pressured into talking or doing anything they cannot reasonably do.

We managed to hold a meet-and-greet session at Greenbelt this summer too, with Annie Sharples, Rebekah Sardeson-Coe and myself. We had a number of interested people eager to learn more. A couple were just turning 18 and wondering how, having grown up as Community children, they might find a place within the Community; and we had some interest from people who had very little knowledge of the Iona Community but were very willing to learn more from us. This in itself is rather encouraging as it shows that YAG has the capacity to grow and there are interested parties from all backgrounds.

Annie and myself were also very privileged to be invited as ‘critical companions’ to the Engagement Day in York in September. It was a beautifully encouraging experience. I found myself offered many positive and heart-warming comments about YAG. Many offered tips to help us expand. As YAG members, Annie and I felt heard and respected – thank you to all Iona Community members and associates for making us feel so welcome and included.

YAG remains a supportive community to all of its members. We are working towards a common goal motivated by each other and the love we have for our world. Our first year, I think, has been very successful.

– Laura Gisbourne, Young Adults Group

Young Adults Group at Camas, photo ©

WeeWONDERBOX events in October, November, December 2019, from the Iona Community’s Programme team and the Wild Goose Resource Group


weeWONDERBOX is a series of face-to-face events that mainly, though not exclusively, take place in central Glasgow.

The vision that inspires us is the renewal of incarnational, face-to-face public occasions where committed, faithful folk can engage with the pressing issues and challenges of God’s world in all its glorious variety and contradiction.

WeeWONDERBOX events programme

New Download from Wild Goose Publications – In Shop Doorways and on Street Corners: A reflection, meditation, and ideas for taking action on homelessness, by member Ewan Aitken

A reflection and meditation on homelessness, together with some ideas for taking practical and political action.

Ewan Aitken is a member of the Iona Community and CEO of Cyrenians, a charity dealing with the causes and the consequences of homelessness.

All royalties from the sale of this download will go directly to the work of Cyrenians.

In Shop Doorways and on Street Corners, by Ewan Aitken, Wild Goose Publications

New book from Wild Goose Publications – Transgender. Christian. Human., by member Alex Clare-Young

Alex Clare-Young, the first out transgender minister in the United Reformed Church, says:

Transgender. Christian. Human. is the story of my life as a transgender child and adult. Trans is an imperfect label but labels are, to some extent, necessary – especially when we choose them for ourselves. For me, being trans means moving towards a gender that varies from my sex assigned at birth. It also means moving between genders and critiquing the rigidity of gendered systems.

I believe that we are called to live in relationship and continual, open conversation not only with those who mirror us but also with those who are other to us. As a trans person, I have experienced that call as both blessing and curse; both injury and cure. I have lived through the pain of feeling that there is no one quite like me and I have lived in the joy of sharing differences and similarities with those who are open to talk about their amazingly diverse life stories.

Parts of this book are incredibly sad. Others are full of joy. Some are even pretty funny. I hope that the result is an honest and authentic reflection of being transgender, Christian and human. I have included resources and activities at the end of each chapter to encourage individuals and groups to explore the subject. I hope the book helps you to understand yourself and your friends, colleagues and family a little better – and that it acts as a mirror to reflect a different way of being.

Transgender. Christian. Human., by Alex Clare-Young, Wild Goose Publications

Iona Community gatherings

Community Week 2019, at the Corrymeela Community, 14th-19th October, 2019

Look for a reflection on Community Week at Corrymeela in the December Coracle – with contributions from Co-Leader of the Iona Community Christian MacLean, Leader of Corrymeela, Dr Alexander Wimberly, and other lovely folk.

Corrymeela Community

‘An Croí’ photo, from the Corrymeela Community Facebook page ©

Radical hospitality: Iona South West England gathering, Saturday 9th November, South Street Baptist Church, Exeter, 11.00am till 4.00pm, from member David Osborne

In times of anxiety people look for security in sameness. They are in the group that matters and people who are different from them are out. And they want them to stay out.

This is exploited by populist politicians. The outsiders become the enemy. They are a threat so we need to secure borders, tighten immigration controls and ‘foreigners’ to either assimilate and become like us, or ‘go home’.

But it is not only the Donald Trumps of this world who want clear boundaries and people to be kept out if they won’t conform. We can all be affected by it.

The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to welcome strangers. There is only one occasion in the gospels when Jesus turned someone away: a Syro-Phoenician woman who stood her ground, and changed Jesus’ mind and attitude.

And this isn’t only in the gospels. The Torah also instructs the Israelites to be hospitable to strangers. Part of their being the people of God was that they were to be concerned for others, like God was.

So how do we work out this radical hospitality in our own situations, in our society, in the church, and in the Iona Community? On 9th November we’ll be exploring that.

There will also be worship in the Iona Community style, singing, a shared lunch and, of course, an opportunity to meet up with other Iona folk from the South West.

There will be no charge but we will ask for a donation towards costs, with £7 suggested. The Gathering is open to anyone who would like to take part.

To book, please contact David Osborne at [email protected]

– David Osborne

Wild geese © David Coleman

‘Walking towards a different world’: Report on Engagement Day in York, 7th September, 2019, from Chair of the Iona Centres Futures Group, member Neil Squires

On 7th September, around 65 members, associates, young adults and ‘critical companions’ met in the Priory Centre, York, for a day of engagement regarding the wider strategy of the Iona Community and the implications of the Movement and Governance decisions, ratified at the AGM in June.

The title of the day was ‘Walking towards a different world’ and was facilitated by the Iona Centres Futures Group. The morning focused on the Iona Community’s strategic vision, programme strands and Governance model, with the leaders providing an input on the wealth of activity which has taken place over the last two years, resulting in a lighter, more streamlined structure in order to help us realise our Purpose: ‘Inspired by our faith we pursue justice and peace in and through community.’

In the afternoon, we heard from David Osborne, Convenor of the Movement Working Group, about three areas of the Movement we will be focusing on in the coming years: Common Concern Networks; the Regional Family Group Structure; and Support to Family Groups.

The day was highly interactive and reflective, with methods such as ‘the fishbowl’ and ‘speed conversations’ helping us deeply listen to each other. Times of reflection and worship were also woven throughout the day, including communion over lunch.

The day allowed the opportunity to make sense of, and appreciate, the incredible range of work which has taken place in recent times in relation to the Vision and Strategic Planning of the Community, with a real feeling of energy and excitement about our future direction.

Thanks go to Maeve McLaughlin of the Corrymeela Community, Annie Sharples and Laura Gisbourne of the Young Adults Group, and John Polhill, member, for being critical companions on the day, bringing much insight and positive challenge. And a big thank you, also, to the Family Groups in and around York for hosting the event.

– Neil Squires, Chair, Iona Centres Futures Group

Gaggle of geese © David Coleman

‘The joy of creation’: Reflection on the Iona Continentals Meeting in the Netherlands, 27th August–1st September, by Meriel Followell of the Swedish Iona-inspired Network

After flying, driving, travelling by train and bus, cycling, and more, we all arrived at Dopersduin, a Mennonite conference and retreat centre in Schoorl, which is located on the edge of a large polder area, behind a very high sand dune kept in place by planted trees. The North Sea was close by, about 30 minutes by bicycle.

Our regular rhythm of morning and evening gatherings in the chapel began with the Dutch Iona Group’s welcome service. Desirée van der Hijden held a short meditation on the theme for the weekend: ‘the joy of creation’. She referred to the times we live in, where the ‘T-word’ in the U.S., the ‘B-word’ in the UK, and the climate emergency can keep us plenty preoccupied and occupied. The Dutch planning team for our weekend thought that we need to keep sight of our joy. As stated in the programme: ‘Envisaging the joy may evoke power, so much needed in years to come!’

During the service, we shared what we had been instructed to bring with us: some small thing that brings us joy that can be given away during the meeting. I brought a container with seeds from my euphorbia plant. This I was blessed to share with two other people, who also shared with me.

After Desirée, the Dutch theologian Erik Borgman got us further along with our theme. He spoke to us on Friday morning. He stated that climate issues are also social issues. Just focusing on limiting and decreasing CO2 in the atmosphere is too limited a perspective, he said. Quoting Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’, Erik stated that we are not above nor outside of nature. We are ourselves part of nature; we are ecological beings. A tree is also created in the image of God. We need to be in dialogue with everything else in nature, nature which is, in itself, a biodiverse representation of God. Each extinct species is a lost image of God. At the same time, each plant that shoots up through the ground and lives is part of the resurrection of Christ …

On Friday evening after dinner, Iona Community Co-leader Christian MacLean spoke to us about the Community; she was followed by David Osborne, Convener of the Movement Working Group; then Isabel Sarle spoke to us about the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal.

We spent the weekend exploring joy together. The Austrian group read and animated with movement a children’s book as part of their service. Three of us shared our own stories of joy with the larger group on Saturday morning as a presentation. We went on a pilgrim walk, or did our own thing, on Saturday afternoon.

We had our traditional ceilidh evening on the last night. Our two teenage attendees hosted it perfectly. We learned to sing ‘Amen Siakudumisa’ in Czech, watched a popular Dutch song about a shipwreck being performed with great enthusiasm – and got a stomach ache laughing while listening to a limerick describing our weekend.

The Dutch Iona Group did a great job of planning and hosting our meeting. Thanks to all who were there for a weekend of community.

– Meriel Followell, Swedish Iona-inspired Network

Iona Continentals Meeting photo © Karin Schmid

Iona Day: Report on the Kirchentag in June, from member Karin Schmid

For several years now the ‘Iona Community Germany’ has been part of the Kirchentag. This year we organised an ‘Iona Day’ in Schwerte, near Dortmund, in the parish of Tom Damm, one of our German associate members. We felt very happy about welcoming Iona Community Co-Leader Kathy Galloway to our events, and also Annie Benjamin, a member from the Netherlands, who helped us during the day. The afternoon started with an information session led by Kathy. Later we had a wee sing with Claudia Brigatt, another German associate member – people really enjoyed the singing. In the evening there was a ‘Feierabendmahl’ where Kathy was preaching. The ‘Feierabendmahl’ is a communion service with elements of an agape, always on Friday at the Kirchentag. We celebrated it as a ceilidh communion, with over 200 people in the church. Following that, we had a nice sit together sharing good conversations and shortbread, flapjacks and whisky. It was very nice that some of our British members were with us on the day.

On my way home, I met a woman, a real world citizen: she was born in Germany, had lived in Scotland and England, and nowadays in the Netherlands. I told her I had been to the Kirchentag, and about the Iona Day. The lady had been to Iona, a long time ago.

Iona lives in hearts of many people.

– Karin Schmid

Iona Day at the Kirchentag photo © Karin Schmid

Members, associates and friends

2020 Iona Calendar to help raise funds for the new Iona Village Hall, from the Iona Village Hall Trustees

From the Iona Village Hall Trustees:

To help raise funds for the new hall, we’ve created a calendar for 2020 featuring 12 stunning photographs by Iona photographers …

2020 Iona Calendar

Iona Village Hall: at the heart of Iona

‘Nuclear disarmament: What next?’: a study afternoon organised by Scottish Christians Against Nuclear Arms (SCANA) and sponsored by Fellowship of Reconciliation Scotland, from Iona Community member John Harvey

‘Nuclear disarmament: What next?’:

Saturday 16th November 2019,
12 noon to 4pm,
St George’s Tron Church,
163 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 2JX
(between Queen Street and Central stations)


William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway
Bill Kidd MSP

For a full programme and further information, please contact [email protected]

SCANA photo © Bungie

Chernobyl’s Angels of Hope, from members Jean Oliver and Douglas Shaw

Jean and Douglas are involved in this wonderful charity, and recently hosted a child from Belarus. (Ed.)

From Angels of Hope:

‘Chernobyl’s Angels of Hope, Biggar is a charity that provides a month of love and care each year to children affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Affected children aged around 8 years old from Belarus come over to Biggar, South Lanarkshire, Scotland to live in a loving home for a month, breathing clean air, eating fresh wholesome food, and sharing family life. The children travel with two interpreters, who remain in Scotland with the children for the duration of their stay …’

Chernobyl’s Angels of Hope

Remember the Saidiana Project, Kenya, from associate member Madge Irving

Too many years ago, more than I care to remember, my husband and I visited Iona for the first time. There we met Fridah Wafula, a volunteer with the Iona Community who was putting together a business plan for a project in her home village of Matunda in Kenya. She eventually returned home with something like £800, donated by other volunteers, members of the Iona Community, guests of the Centres, and others to commence the work (with the help of her husband, Marksen Masinde).

This birthed the Saidiana Project – which is alive and well today. It operates to train and support women to undertake work which will provide an income so that they can feed and sustain their families. Saidiana offers training in knitting and sewing, in agricultural skills, water harvesting information, HIV/AIDS care, and business planning. It also provides micro-credit and help to people to start up small local businesses, like market stalls.

In 1999 we travelled to Kenya to meet up with Fridah and Marksen. We took with us a sewing machine. Since then, we have been able to freight out at least eight knitting machines which were surplus to requirements at Ayr College. I have been back to Matunda on two occasions.

This summer when I was there, I saw the new training house which is getting ready to open its doors. It is situated in a highly populated area where alcohol and drug addiction are rife. In addition to the training house, there are plans to construct some basic huts within the safety of its compound; these will act as refuges for women fleeing violence.

I was able to travel to remote rural areas where as many as 70 women regularly gather. In a local church, with the help of Saidiana, they support one another in the kind of activities mentioned above. Saidiana has also acted as guarantor for a group who plan to set up a business hiring out tents and seating for local events.

Saidiana also offers relief supplies in times of crisis. I visited a local family who, having taken in a child, now house around 40 youngsters who had no one to care for them, and are supported in this endeavour by the local Saidiana Project.

Marksen and Fridah are tireless in their concern for their neighbours. Their compassion is endless, and to see how they have become wise elders in the communities makes my heart sing. This project, which was conceived in Scotland and born in Kenya, desperately needs our continued support.

Donations and prayers would be most welcome.

Please contact Mary Smith (Treasurer) at [email protected] 

Saidiana Project photo ©

The Kentigern School: Fierce contemplation for nomads, from member Stephen Wright of the Sacred Space Foundation

Applications are now invited for the next Kentigern School, beginning in November and ending in April 2020.

Don’t bother applying for this course if you are content in your faith and feel no need for anything new. If, however, you feel:

– alienated by religion, of whatever sort, yet longing for the ‘something other’,

– put off by doctrines, dogmas or rituals,

– on the margins of faith (or feeling somewhat lost in the present one),

– a longing for enquiry, truth and a deeper connection to the ‘Real’, however you experience that,

then this course may be for you. It’s a collaborative venture between the Diocese of Cumbria and the Sacred Space Foundation offering a deep exploration of the contemplative tradition: what it is, how to engage with it, how it might help you live a more fulfilling life. The course won’t require you to believe anything or try to make you into anything. It’s an open and inclusive and sometimes intensive programme of exploration of belief and relationship with ourselves and that which lies beyond the self. Only 18 places are available.

Participation requires a full commitment to stay the course, which includes two residential weekends (held at the Blencathra Centre, near Keswick) and ten ‘workbooks’ via e-mail in between.

If you would like to know more or would like application forms, please contact Stephen Wright on [email protected]

Tree whisperer and ex-stand-up comedian, Iona Community associate Bob Gilbert, goes looking for poplars in Poplar …

‘The tree whisperer: why ex-comic Bob Gilbert went looking for poplars in Poplar’, from The Guardian

Ghost Trees: Nature and People in a London Parish, by Bob Gilbert

‘A next step’: from new associate members David Howells & Lucy Reid in Canada

From Rev David Howells & Rev Lucy Reid:

‘We both walked to Iona from Lindisfarne this past May, as part of a sabbatical. It was David’s first time at Iona, and I had only spent a couple of hours there previously. For both of us it was such a rich experience to end our long, footsore pilgrimage there, and to share in the worship at the Abbey. We’re both Anglican priests in Canada, and have been using liturgical material from Iona for years with great gratitude. Becoming associates now makes sense as a next step. We’re looking forward to being more connected in that way. And I can’t wait for my next visit!’

Welcome, David and Lucy! (Ed.)

Photo of David & Lucy ©

Hebridean Treasure – new play from John Philip Newell

On Hebridean Treasure, which ran at the Edinburgh Festival this summer:

‘Internationally acclaimed writer John Philip Newell works with some of the most talented young artists of Scotland to tell the story of an enchanted Hebridean world that was lost but is being found again in a new sense of the earth as sacred. The composer and singer Mischa Macpherson weaves her spell of ancient and new sound around the equally compelling performance of the beautiful dancer Kirsten Newell, under the artistic direction of Shane Shambhu, achieving what has never been attempted before, a memory of the forgotten influence India has on the Celtic soul …’ (From the Edinburgh Festival website).

A tribute to associate member and former staff member Alison Macdonald (Ali Mac), from member Caro Penney

Nearly 70 folk gathered in the Pearce Institute (PI) in Govan on Sunday, October 6th for a Thanksgiving Tea in memory of our dear friend, associate member and former staff member Alison Macdonald – known to us all as Ali Mac. We sat around tables laden with scones, meringues (Ali’s favourite!) and shortbread, sharing stories, singing songs, with poetry and prayer, laughter and tears. Ali was remembered as a good friend to many – gentle, kind and generous. So far over £500 has been raised in her memory for the Alastair Crerar Fund for the ‘single poor’. 

Ali worked on Iona as Staff Coordinator in the early ’80s before moving to Glasgow to work in the PI. Ron Ferguson was the Leader then and, although he couldn’t be with us, here are some of his reflections:

She may have been quiet and reticent, but Ali Mac was a many-sided person. Typically, she did not look for praise, nor did she fully value her own considerable contribution. One of the happiest times in her life was when she was part of the fundraising team for the MacLeod Centre. She was brilliant at the task. She loved the zaniness of the ideas and the campaign’s energy, and she ensured that the necessary decisions were implemented.

People sometimes underestimated Ali because she was so unassuming and polite – but the charming front masked a fierce determination to get things done, and done properly. Let me put this on record: the MacLeod Centre would not have been built on schedule without the erratic genius of Maxwell MacLeod and the skilled input of Alison Macdonald. Ali Mac saved the day.

Ali also had a mischievous sense of humour. When she teamed up with her sparring partner, the great and unforgettable Maggie Simpson, there could be trouble. They played a brilliant joke on me – persuading someone to pretend that they worked for HarperCollins publishers, and to phone me at the PI to say that there had been a mistake in the printing schedule for Chasing the Wild Goose and that I had to produce the final copy within a few days. When I turned round, ashen-faced, the PI staff burst out laughing. Ali and Maggie looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

Like many deeply committed people, she was better to other people than she was to herself. When she worked for the YWCA after she left the Community’s employ, she was known as a prodigiously hard worker who transformed the fortunes of the organisation. Driven by a sense of duty, she over-committed herself and suffered a breakdown. I am reminded of the words of the 16th-century Anglican Divine Richard Hooker: ‘Ministers of good things are like torches, a light to others, waste and destruction to themselves.’

The Iona Community is deeply indebted to the much-loved Alison Macdonald: we have been privileged to have known her. May she rest in God’s perfect peace.

At the PI we endorsed all that and more – and though so sad that Ali is no longer amongst us, we had come together in community, bound in love and faithfulness, with a deep sense that Ali is with us. ‘How can we keep from singing?’

– Caro Penney

‘Gathering in memory of Alison Macdonald’ © Don Stubbings


‘Justice and equality before peace: A reflection, prayer and actions for the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel’, by member Mike Mineter

‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.

Jeremiah 6:14 (NIV)

Early in September I mentioned the WWPPI to a quietly spoken, compassionate, gentle lady with a ready smile. She paused a moment, frowned, stood up, face reddening with anger, and shouted, ‘When will your churches do something for justice for the Palestinians, and stop just talking about peace?! To speak of peace without working for justice is to sustain the injustice.’ She had unknowingly echoed the theme of talks I have heard from Palestinian Christians. She had also echoed the call from non-violent activists in the West Bank – for the international community to name and challenge injustices. What needs to be named? Why is she right? What can we do? …



Photo © Mike Mineter

Prayers from Continental Week in the Netherlands

Some prayers from Continental Week in the Netherlands, by associate Roel Bosch. Roel led the pilgrimage on the Saturday afternoon and used these beautiful and powerful prayers.

On coppiced trees, by Roel Bosch

On trees, cut – and growing again,
     cut – and growing again.
This patience you have is so miraculous.
Stopped, and yet you decide to start up, all again.
Bereft of leaves and fruit, and there you go, a first green leaf showing up.
Please can you spare some of this patience for me?
Please can you help this planet, cut and cut and cut,
to keep going, keep growing,
a place to live,
     a tree planted with its roots reaching to the living water?

A blessing for the windmill, by Roel Bosch

May the wind be always ahead –
to make you turn and go,
turn and go,
get the water to the place where it should be.
May the sun shine on your face,
and may there be people who know what they do,
let you turn, let you stop in due time;
may there be birds that can find their worms in the soil around
and flowers in abundance –
to reflect the love of God.

– Roel Bosch


Windmill © Roel Bosch

Poem from Continental Week in the Netherlands

This poem changes nothing, by associate Niall Cooper

A poem inspired by the theme of Continental Week (‘the joy of creation’), by associate Niall Cooper. Niall is the Director of Church Action Against Poverty (CAP).

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

Words laden with meaning.
The wonder of the moon, the stars, the sun.
The beauty of the babbling brook.
The scudding of the clouds.
Gathering on a sun-kissed morning.
Vibrant grasses, scent of flowers,
lichen on the rocks, tang of seaweed.
Words convey beauty.
‘The joy of creation’.

But the house is burning down: It’s time to act.

How many words will it take to save the planet?
How many studies, symposia?
How many researchers, reports, resolutions?
How many texts, treatises, tomes, theological talks?
Millions, billions of words.

But the house is burning down: It’s time to act.

No amount of words can stop the spread of Saharan sand.
No stanza has ever stopped a single ton of CO2 being spat forth from a coal-fired power station.
No sonnet has halted the inexorable rise of the sea.
No song has saved a single species from extinction.
Words have power, so they say.

But the house is burning down: It’s time to act.

The house is burning down.
It is real and it is happening.
Already one degree hotter.
Already halfway to the tipping point
at which global warming will become irreversible.
Already sea levels are rising at the fastest level for three thousand years.
Already a sixty percent drop in wildlife populations.
Already as much CO2 as three million years ago,
when sea levels were metres higher and trees grew at the South Pole. 

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

The younger generation say:
‘Unite behind the science,
unite behind the science,
that is our demand.
We must hold the older generations accountable
for the mess they have created …
We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis …
if solutions within the system are so impossible to find,
then … we should change the system itself.’

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

Act as if the planet depended on it.
Act as if it mattered.
Act as if it, the house, was burning down, because the house is burning down.
Act as if it was a climate emergency.
Act to challenge the status quo.
Act to challenge the notion that nothing and no one needs to really change:
as long as I drive a little less, fly a little less, use a little less plastic, eat a little less meat,
smile a bit more, recycle a bit more, do my little bit, the world will be a better place.
And ‘all things will be well and all manner of things will be well’.
All manner of things will not be well.

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

Act with others.
Act with courage.
Act out of our comfort zones, out of love for our planet.
Act out of outrage at the lack of action.
Act to disrupt the status quo.
Act to disinvest from the fossil-fuel-fuelled financers and fossil-fuelled fabricators of fictions
that fracking is fine and fossil fuel is fine, as long as it’s our fossil fuel.
Act to keep it in the ground.
Act to close the roads.
Act to close the coal-fired power stations.
Act to stop more runways.
Act to stop the fracking.
Act to open minds.
Act to open minds to the possibility that action changes anything, everything.
Act to show ‘that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world:
it’s the only thing that ever has’.

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

Words change nothing.
This poem will change nothing.
Unless we act.
And now.

The house is burning down: It’s time to act.

– Niall Cooper

Iona Community taking part in the Global Climate Strike, 20th September, 2019, Glasgow, photo ©


‘People have the power’, Patti Smith

Anthem by prophetic, punk poet/musician Patti Smith and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith …

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