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. 

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

Reopening of the Abbey Centre on Songs of Praise

The reopening of the Abbey Centre in 2020 will be broadcast on the TV programme Songs of Praise. Songs of Praise will record on Iona during the week of the reopening, and then the programme will go out later in the year.

More news to come … Exciting!

Young Adults Pilgrimage to Iona, June 2020, from member Richard Sharples and Annie Sharples

Eighty years ago, a group of young adults, under the leadership of one George MacLeod, made a journey from Govan to Iona. That journey led to the birth of the Iona Community. In June 2020, the Abbey will reopen after its first major refurbishment since the rebuilding programme of the 1940s and ’50s. Yet, as with that first journey, the physical rebuilding is a sign of a wider rebuilding needed in church and society, beginning with ourselves.

A group of young adults arriving on Iona, on a pilgrimage during which we will engage with the founding story and contemporary reality of the Community, will be a significant sign of a fresh start, a renewal, of the Iona Community.

Could you be part of that? …

The pilgrimage will begin in Govan on Tuesday, June 9th, St Columba’s Day. Over the course of 10 days we will walk via Faslane, Dalmally, Oban, Camas, finally arriving on Iona on Saturday, June 20th. We will spend a Sabbath Day on the island, before leaving on Monday the 22nd. Pilgrims are welcome for all or part of the journey.

Mileage will vary from 8 to 14 miles. Accommodation will be varied but will certainly include camping. Tents and luggage will be carried by a support vehicle, enabling pilgrims to carry only day packs.

Our route is deliberately chosen to enable us to engage with some of the key places in our story as a Community, and we will also be travelling in the footsteps of the saints, such as Columba and Conan. We will be joined by Community members at points, either en route or in the evening, and so the pilgrimage will enable us to explore what it means to live the Rule of the Community today.

The subsidised cost of the full pilgrimage to pilgrims 18-30 years old is £100. However, we can reduce this further if this is a barrier. This cost covers all transport between Glasgow and Iona, all meals and all accommodation. For pilgrims who are planning on joining for part of the way, we can reduce costs accordingly.

For more information please contact:

[email protected] or an[email protected]

Richard Sharples is a former Iona Abbey Warden.

Annie Sharples is a member of the Iona Community Young Adults Group.

‘Iona friends’ © Iona Community. Used with permission

Vacancy for Sacristan at Iona Abbey

We are currently recruiting for a new sacristan to join our staff team on Iona for the 2020 season.

The closing date for applications is 5th January, 2020.

Interviews will take place mid-January on Iona.

For full details, see our vacancies page.

Spirit of togetherness and common purpose: from Bénédicte Scholefield, the new Operations Manager on Iona

From Bénédicte Scholefield:

I still have to pinch myself every morning when I open the curtains and have full sight of the Sound of Iona with Fionnphort and Mull as backdrop. I have now been here for a few weeks in my new role as Operations Manager, and simply cannot get enough of this wondrous view. It is a far cry from Glasgow, where I have just spent two and a quarter years as Business Director for the Iona Community, and rural Somerset, where I spent the previous 12 years as Director of a retreat and conference centre. It feels so right, though. What a blessing it is to have a sense of being in the right place at the right time, no matter the challenges and difficulties.

A big part of my job in the next 6 months will be overseeing the reinstatement of the refurbished Abbey into a fully functional centre for hospitality, and ensuring there is a full complement of staff ready to welcome guests with open arms. This is hugely exciting and daunting in equal measure.

Exciting because the next few months will be the culmination of the remarkable vision, generosity and hard work of so many people within and outside the Community. This capital project has been literally years in the making, and we are so very close to seeing it become reality.

Daunting because there is still so much to do, and so much that could go wrong. What if, for example, we cannot find the many people we still need to make up a full staff team? This is a real risk, not least given the toxic climate that Brexit has created. What will we do then?

Of great comfort to me and the small but very capable Iona team already in place is the knowledge that the whole Community is behind us in prayer, and that countless people are willing to help in any way they can. Team effort at every level has been at the heart of the extraordinary journey the Abbey project has had to date. I sense that it is this spirit of togetherness and common purpose that will take us over the line. Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and support.

– Bénédicte Scholefield

Bénédicte on Iona, by Mark Scholefield ©

Iona from the air, from friend of the Community Ian Rowan

Speaking of Iona: the Community has received this amazing drone footage of Iona from friend of the Community Ian Rowan. Ian says:

Dear Iona Community friends,

My mother, Lilias Armstrong, was a member of the Iona Community in the 1960s, and my brother and I recently visited Iona Abbey to mark 20 years since her passing.

I thought I would share an Iona video with you that I made during our recent visit.

I hope that you enjoy it. We certainly enjoyed visiting Iona again.

Best wishes,

Ian Rowan

Camas Open Weeks 2020

23/3/20–3/4/20: Working Holiday (two weeks) – Come and get Camas up and running for the season ahead. Light the stoves, spruce up the rooms and launch the boat, as well as many other tasks. Live and work together as part of a community in this remote and beautiful part of the world. There’ll be time to explore the local area and look up at the stars at night! This year we are having an extended working holiday over two weeks. Guests are welcome to come for the whole time or just a few nights. Rates are per night.

6/4/20–11/4/20: Easter Family Week – Spend a week living in community with other families in the remote and beautiful Camas Bay. We will be offering a range of outdoor activities as well trips to the beach and to Iona. There’ll be time for cooking, being in the garden or reading your book by the sea.

27/4/20–2/5/20: Nurture the Land: An opportunity to spend time connecting with the land, each other and ourselves in beautiful Camas Bay. There’ll be a mix of practical tasks in the garden and woodland, as well as time to nourish ourselves with walks in nature and wild swimming. Option of a day trip to Iona or other local place of interest.

25/5/20–30/5/20: May Family Week – Another opportunity for families to spend a week living in community at Camas. This week coincides with school holidays in England and Wales.

27/7/20–1/8/20: Community & Local Kids Week (ages 13-17) – A week for both kids of Community members as well as local kids from Mull and Iona. There’ll be outdoor activities and trips to the beach. Join us for a fun, adventurous and friendly week.

Camas Open Weeks 2020 information and booking

Volunteer at Camas in 2020

From Camas:

Camas is a unique outdoor centre based in an isolated bay in south-west Mull, offering weekly residential programmes. With activities on our doorstep we offer nurturing outdoor experiences and a sense of community for young people from some of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas. We are looking for volunteers prepared to live in a very close-knit community and who can offer real hospitality and warmth to Centre guests.

Deadline for applications: 9th January, 2020

Volunteering at Camas

‘Camas folk’, photo © Used with permission

David Dugan, new Support Services Manager & Company Secretary at the Iona Community’s Glasgow office

A wee introduction, from David Dugan:

Hello and thank you for such a warm welcome from everyone I have met so far.

I am a skilled business manager with wide-ranging commercial experience as well as 13 years’ experience running and working for membership organisations. I have worked for most business sectors, including private, public, third sector/charity and the co-operative sector.

A walk along the shoreline, followed by a good book in front of the fire, is a very happy way to spend any day off.

Welcome, David! (Ed.)

Photo of David ©

John Bell on the road in early 2020, from the Wild Goose Resource Group

From WGRG:

January and February 2020 sees John Bell on the road in the USA and Canada talking, singing and work-shopping in Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Toronto.

Wild Goose Resource Group

Photo of John Bell, by A. Murray ©

Wild Goose Big Book of Worship Resources, Volume 2, the Iona Community new book from Wild Goose Publications

Another wide-ranging collection of resources, including material for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Holy Week.

Also includes a reflection, meditation and prayer for Holocaust Memorial Day; resources and ideas for remembering the Bible with women; prayers by and for kids; all-age resources for Pentecost and Ascension, and Christmastime; harvest prayers; a meditative look at climate change, the sacredness of all life and human responsibility; a blessing for a new car; stories and reflections for the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel; a reflection and prayer on racial justice; prayers for Remembrance Sunday; a reflection, meditation, and ideas for taking action on homelessness …

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 this second Big Book of Worship Resources.

Contributors include Isabel Smyth, Jan Sutch Pickard, Ruth Burgess, Thom M Shuman, David Osborne, Roddy Cowie, Janet Lees, Joy Mead, David Coleman, Iain Whyte, Isabel Whyte, Peter Millar, Elaine Gisbourne, Richard Skinner, Ewan Aitken and others.

God of justice and joy,
help us to be faithful to our calling to walk in the footsteps of Jesus,
to be people of hospitality, integrity, justice and compassion.

– From a prayer by Norman Shanks

Wild Goose Big Book of Worship Resources 2

Invitation to contribute to a new Wild Goose resource book on mental health, from Wild Goose Publications

Reflections, poetry, prayers, liturgy …

Deadline: 15th March, 2020, to [email protected]

Thanks so much to everyone who has sent in their writing already.

Photo © N & H

The Iona Prayer Circle

The Iona Prayer Circle was established by the Iona Community for people and situations that require prayer over a period of time. This network of prayer takes place across the world.

For more information:

The Iona Prayer Circle

 Iona Prayer Circle Coordinator:
Chris Polhill,
[email protected]


Watch now, dear Lord,
with those who wake or watch or weep tonight;
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Christ,
rest your weary ones,
bless your dying ones,
soothe your suffering ones,
shield your joyous ones,
and all for your love’s sake.

– Prayer from St Augustine, from Iona Abbey Worship Book, Wild Goose Publications, 2017

Photo © David Coleman

Members, associates and friends

Community Week at Corrymeela, October 2019

There will be some reflections on Community Week at Corrymeela in the upcoming Coracle, which should be mailed out in late December, early January. Meanwhile – a great Community Week pic below, by member Mitchell Bunting; and a beautiful wee prayer here by member Katy Owen, from a moment during the week: a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway. Thank you, Katy and Bungie (Ed.):

A Community Week prayer

Not walking in the footsteps of giants,
but walking in the footsteps of Columba,
who lived a life of courage, faith and cheerfulness.

Not really listening to the tour guide,

but hearing the crash of the sea
as it pounds on solid rock,
which over the centuries is remoulded and reshaped
by the powerful, unceasing waves of time.

Gracious God,
remould us and change us
to be the people you want us to be.

– Katy Owen

‘Travelling together, Community Week 2019’ © Bungie

Reflection on the ‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’, from the Corrymeela Community

Both Corrymeela and Iona Community were participants at Place for Hope’s ‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’ at the end of October/beginning of November – which brought together over 200 practitioners and activists from throughout the UK and Ireland committed to conflict transformation and peace-building. A reflection here from folk at Corrymeela, just to give you a feel of the gathering.

‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’, from the Corrymeela Community

More to come.

(The Director of Place for Hope is Iona Community member Ruth Harvey.)

Photo © Place for Hope

Spirituality of Conflict: Reading conflict through the lens of the gospels – weekly reflections

From Spirituality of Conflict:

Spirituality of Conflict was initially imagined by Pádraig Ó Tuama, former leader of the Corrymeela Community. With generous funding from the JVM Trench Will Trust, the project soon gathered co-workers from other Christian witnesses across Ireland and Britain: the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland, the Iona Community, Place for Hope, the Irish School of Ecumenics and Coventry Cathedral Reconciliation Ministry. Coming from across Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Pentecostal backgrounds, the reflections reflect the ecumenical nature of the witness to peace …

Spirituality of Conflict: Reading conflict through the lens of the gospels

Open Door Community, Baltimore, USA

As part of the Iona Community’s monthly prayer cycle, on the 28th day of each month Community members pray for ‘intentional and basic Christian communities throughout the world’. One of these communities is the Open Door Community in the U.S., who do vital work in inner-city Baltimore and in Georgia.

‘The Open Door Community is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition (we’re sometimes called a Protestant Catholic Worker House). We seek to dismantle racism, sexism and hetero-sexism, abolish the death penalty, and proclaim the Beloved Community through loving relationships with some of the most neglected and outcast of God’s children: the homeless and our sisters and brothers who are in prison.

We also advocate on behalf of the oppressed, homeless and prisoners through non-violent protests, grassroots organising and the publication of our monthly newspaper, Hospitality.’

The Open Door Community, Baltimore, USA

Open Door Community Jesus Prayer

Our Beloved Friend
Outside the Domination System
May your Holy Name be honoured
by the way we live our lives.
Your Beloved Community come.
Guide us to:
Walk your walk
Talk your talk
Sit your silence
Inside the courtroom, on the streets, in the jail houses
As they are on the margins of resistance.
Give us this day everything we need.
Forgive us our wrongs
as we forgive those who have wronged us.
Do not bring us to hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.
For Thine is:
the Beloved Community,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen.

– Open Door Community

Welcome table photo © Open Door Community, USA

Idealism, creativity and energy: Reflection on the XR Autumn Uprising, from Iona Community member Margery Toller

‘Let’s take a moment, this moment, to consider why we are here.
Let’s remember our love for this beautiful planet that nourishes, feeds and sustains us.
Let’s remember our love for the whole of humanity in all corners of the world.
Let’s recollect our sincere desire to protect all this,
for ourselves, for all living beings and for generations to come.
As we act today, may we find the courage that brings
a sense of peace, love and appreciation for everyone we encounter,
to every word we speak and to every action we make.
We are here for all of us.’

This is the Extinction Rebellion ‘Solemn Intention Statement’ (it soon became renamed the ‘XR Prayer’ in our group), which we read when we met every morning before deciding on our action for that day.

I was part of the XR Peace section, of which the Iona Community is a supporter, along with a number of other long-standing peace groups, including 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, Forces Watch and XR Against Arms Trade … Our focus in all we did throughout the rebellion was the contribution of the military to carbon emissions: about 6% of the global carbon footprint comes from military-related activity.

The active involvement of significant number of rebels, the majority of whom were young adults, shows how seriously the climate crisis is being taken and how urgent people believe it to be. Central London was full of idealism, creativity and energy with different initiatives constantly popping up in different places: there were over 200 mothers breastfeeding simultaneously in Parliament Square; larger-than-life kangaroos bouncing about from one protest site to another; die-ins; the mysterious Red Brigade, who walked around in single file dressed in flowing red robes and fluttering headdresses, with dramatic white makeup punctuated by black-ringed eyes, never speaking and silently beseeching with outstretched arms; a praying rabbi was arrested outside the Bank of England; Ronald MacDonald, Jesus Christ and Father Christmas appeared as a threesome doing a knockabout comedy act, saying that they didn’t believe in climate change.

There was an unofficial wedding on Westminster Bridge, blessed by Canon Jessica Martin from Ely Cathedral. More than 400 MPs responded to the invitation to pick up one of the thousand trees which were brought to Westminster for people to take away and plant. There was a hearse parked at the Whitehall entrance to Trafalgar Square with ‘The Future’ in large letters along the side of the coffin inside. At the end of the rebellion a man dressed as Boris Johnson climbed halfway up Big Ben tower and let down a couple of huge banners reading ‘No pride on a dead planet’ and ‘Citizens’ Assembly’. And there was singing – a lot of singing. Mostly protest and pro-creation songs, but one afternoon, a large crowd of us who were sitting in the road in Whitehall sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of the policemen on the line blocking us from moving further up the road.

All the sites and actions where I was present were completely non-violent and impressively good-tempered, on the part of both the rebels and the police.

We had leaflets to give to diverted motorists and pedestrians saying: ‘We’re sorry for any inconvenience’ and explaining why we believed rebelling was the only thing that would get the government to act with the urgency we believe is required; and another leaflet to explain why we were adding to the burden of the police, saying that we are both trying to protect people, in different ways.

Over 30,000 rebels joined in the London actions and there were parallel protests across the world. In little over a year, XR has expanded to include 340 groups across 72 countries. There was a very wide range of people involved in the UK rebellion, many of whom had taken annual leave to come and take part: families with children, grandparents, scientists, doctors, nurses and other health professionals (who had produced a document on the detrimental effect carbon emissions have on health), electricians, farmers (one of whom brought a pink tractor!), teachers (who protested with scientists, parents and children outside the Ministry of Education to demand that climate and ecological truth be taught in schools), former police officers (one of whom acted as police liaison officer for our group), faith groups (including Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians), writers, artists, poets, actors (Benedict Cumberbatch brought us ginger cake), animal activists, lawyers, and even Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, who spoke from one of the rebellion’s stages in support of it.

Overall, it was a very intensive, positive, peaceful, hopeful experience (despite a lot of rain!).

Extinction Rebellion’s Demands:

1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.

2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

If this third demand is enacted, XR believes, it would greatly reduce the need for mass disruption, because an independent but representative body would be looking out for our – and our children’s – future in a way that is not led by profit.

The movement was also clear that some things went wrong, particularly the two isolated instances of disruption of the Tube and the Docklands Light Railway, as XR said in a press release on 17th October.

– Margery Toller

Photo from the XR Peace website ©

North Country Iona Family Group, USA, from associate Katharine Preston

From Katharine Preston:

Just to show that the Community is alive and well in the USA, this is the North Country Iona Family Group at its October gathering.  

Because of distances, we can only meet as a whole once a year, although we do arrange to have a catch-up at the annual Regional meeting in June. 

– Katharine Preston

Love to all Iona Community folk in the USA. (Ed.)

News to: [email protected]

Photo of North Country Family Group ©

Advent message from Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland and Iona Community associate

From Sally Foster-Fulton, Christian Aid:

… This Christmas, we can share the gift of hope and solidarity with our global sisters and brothers. We can share the God-given gifts offered to us all, not a select few. Join congregations across Scotland in our Christmas Carol appeal, as we sing together, lifting our voices to raise awareness and funds for the work of Christian Aid …


Photo of Sally, from the Christian Aid website ©

An Advent letter from associate member John McCall in Taiwan

Dear friends,

Advent is one of the seasons where we have not yet arrived, but learn to wait with expectation and joy.

This Sunday was one of joy and also expectation. Saturday I took the train from Taipei Station along the Pacific Ocean to the city of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast. The tracks hug the east coast, so the huge Pacific stretches out to our left. A tropical storm had just headed north toward Japan, so the waves were big. But there is something about water which brings peace, and as I sipped my coffee on the Tilting train, I had a deep sense of peace.

When I arrived at my destination of Hualien, Pastor Jee Hau from the Taroko tribe met me and drove me to his home in an aboriginal village. I have known Jee Hau for many years. He and his wife, Sebiq, had been hoping and waiting for the gift of a child for a long time. And now I was headed to their village to baptise their son on Sunday morning. I had been in Hualien two months before to speak at a youth event, so I had already met his son, Wani, who was born in July.

We arrived at the church and met Jee Hau’s wife and son, and his wife’s brother, who is a high school student. We walked down the street to the local elementary school to see a sports contest for the local village children. We got there in time to see the tug-of-war. Each side hoped to win the prize.

We then hiked up the mountain above the village to a crystal-clear stream running down the mountain. Taiwanese village aboriginals tend to live in the most beautiful places. And each time I visit them, I anticipate time in nature being renewed by the clean air and the beauty of the surroundings. As we sat by the stream and talked, we saw many fish darting between the rocks. It was a beautiful moment.

We then walked back to the church past a home. Jee Hau told me that early the next day he would be back at this home to offer a prayer of blessing. A couple had become engaged and tomorrow fresh pork would be shared with the whole village. Aboriginals always share both their blessings and their pain with each other.

This Taroko village was the home of one of the first Christians in their tribe. Do-wai was a courageous and energetic evangelist who shared the Gospel with the Taroko people. Under the Japanese occupation, the Japanese forbade the aboriginals to become Christians, so Do-wai was quickly in trouble with the Japanese police. They found a Bible in his home. They then did a general search of the village and all Bibles and hymnbooks were confiscated and burned. More were brought in; again they were hunted down and destroyed. Three times it happened. At this, the police rounded up Do-wai and the other principal offenders, and made them kneel while they were beaten. ‘You can cut off our hands – we are still Christians.’ The police sent them back to their homes with a warning – everyone but Do-wai. Because he was the ringleader, they put him in prison. All he had to do, in order to be free, they said, was to renounce his faith. He would not do it. He then contracted a serious disease. The doctor refused to treat him, saying, ‘Pray to your God for help.’ Because of Do-wai’s witness, over a thousand aboriginals became Christian.

So as we ate a wonderful dinner of fresh vegetables and pork, I thought of the legacy that Do-wai had left to his people and looked at Wani, who would be baptised the next day.

Sunday morning after I preached, Jee Hau and Sebiq brought Wani to the front of the sanctuary. They, along with the congregation, promised to be witnesses of Christ’s love to Wani and then the water rolled down his face. He slept through the whole thing! As I took him down the steps among the congregation, I saw older folk whose faces were lined with stories of hard lives lived on the edge of Taiwan’s high-tech society. I saw young people who come home on the weekend and attend youth group and worship, and then head back to the cities for their education. And I thought about Do-wai, who had given his life for Christ and for these people. And I prayed that Wani would also be a witness of Christ’s love in a very different day.

After worship, Pastor Jee Hau took me back to Hualien train station where I took the Tilting train back to Taipei train station, where I then caught the bullet train south to the city of Tainan, where I would teach two courses on Monday. Sunday evening I had dinner with three students who take my Monday afternoon course on Creative Ministry. As we ate, they shared their stories of being called by God to seminary and to ministry. It is always encouraging in this non-Christian land to hear both how folk become Christians and how some are called to be pastors.

Monday morning I taught a course on prayer to pastors from southern Taiwan. They come to the seminary eager to grow and learn. That afternoon I taught Master of Divinity students who are preparing to be pastors. After class, one of the students took me on his motor scooter to Tainan train station where I prepared to head back to Taipei.

Advent, coming, hope, expectation … I arrived home tired, but hopeful of the ways God has worked, and continues to work, in this land.

– Advent blessings, John McCall


Photo © Used with permission

The Shepherd and the Morning Star, by Willie Orr

Fascinating newish book by a former Iona Community volunteer (published by Birlinn)

Willie Orr was born in 1940 in Northern Ireland. After a public school education, he turned his back on the values of his parents, working for a time in the Belfast shipyards and also as an actor in theatres throughout Ireland. He then moved to Scotland and spent time in the Iona Community, before becoming a shepherd and later a teacher. He now lives in Oban with his wife, Jan.

The Shepherd and the Morning Star

‘Community kid’ Lorn Macdonald wins Scottish BAFTA

Congratulations to ‘Community kid’ Lorn Macdonald on winning the BAFTA Scotland Actor award for his role in the film Beats.

Lorn graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly RSAMD). He previously starred as Renton in an acclaimed production of Trainspotting at the Citizens Theatre (Glasgow). He has also appeared in the BBC crime drama series Shetland.

Looking for Christmas gifts? – Hadeel Fair Trade Shop

From Hadeel:

Hadeel is a Fair Trade shop which aims to provide a sustainable source of income for craftspeople working with social enterprises in the West Bank, Gaza, as well as one in the Galilee and another in the Negev.

Palestinian handcrafts have always been living examples of ethnic art deeply rooted in Palestinian folklore; they have now become a symbol of the people and their striving for a normal way of life with a national identity, in the face of the Israeli occupation of their land. Making beautiful crafts also helps people psychologically to survive during long hours and days when they are not permitted to travel because of Israeli-imposed barriers and restrictions. …


Hadeel was originally set up by Iona Community members Carol and Colin Morton, who worked in Palestine/Israel for years. (Ed.)

Photo from the Hadeel website ©


Church Action on Poverty Sunday, 23 February 2020

From CAP:

As followers of Jesus, we are called to speak truth to power – especially when too many are struggling to make ends meet across the UK.

For ideas and resources:

Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Positive Action In Housing Winter Appeal: Help destitute refugees and asylum seekers

From PAIH:

… In Scotland and the rest of the UK, the number of destitute and insecurely housed refugees and asylum-seeking children, families, women and men has risen. Winter is the toughest time for the people we support throughout the year. It’s doubly hard being far away from loved ones at a time when families are traditionally getting together for Christmas.

Positive Action In Housing’s LifeLine Service has been providing winter emergency relief for over 17 years, assisting homeless and destitute refugees and asylum seekers …

Positive Action In Housing is an independent, anti-racist homelessness and human rights charity (SC027577) dedicated to supporting refugees and migrants to rebuild their lives. We believe in a society where everyone has the right to live stable and fulfilled lives, free from poverty, homelessness or inequality.

Positive Action In Housing Winter Appeal

Photo from the PAIH website ©

No Room for Homelessness: Scottish Churches Housing Action (SCHA)

From SCHA:

We bring together the main Churches in their work to eliminate homelessness in Scotland.

We develop volunteering at a local level to help homeless people.

We encourage use of church property for much-needed affordable homes.

We link local problems of homelessness with national means of tackling them.

Scottish Churches Housing Action

(The Iona Community is on the Board of SCHA.)

Photo from the SCHA Facebook page ©

Advent, Christmas and New Year

Bread: a reflection and prayer for Advent, by member Jan Sutch Pickard

‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour
until it worked all through the dough.’

(Matthew 13:33, NIV)

In Jesus’ time every village, and most homes, had a bake-oven. Jesus watched women like Mary his mother at work daily, adding yeast to flour and setting it to rise.

When I lived in the village of Yanoun, high in the hills above the Jordan Valley, I was invited to spend time with our neighbour, as she went about this daily work. First she took yeast, mixed it with flour and water, and set it to rise. The yeast was bought from the nearby town. The grain, grown in the valley, was ground by a mobile mill. Water came from the village well in an olive grove.

The dough took twelve hours to rise. Then our neighbour went into the bake-house and sat down by the taboon. That’s an earth-oven, a depression in the ground, lined with stones that hold the heat, and fired up with dross from the olive-press, which makes very good fuel, the embers of which are piled over the domed cover of the taboon to give out smouldering heat and bake the loaves right through. I sat with her for the time it took, watching her at work and talking gently, as we waited for the flatbread to bake.

Her husband was a farmer, on a small scale, like a Hebridean crofter. He herded sheep and goats, had olive trees and some land under plough – in every case less than before the settlements were built and the outposts appeared on the hilltops around the village. There were six children to feed, and his housebound mother, too.

When the lid was lifted from the taboon, heat rose into the dark little hut, flour dust and smoke danced in a ray of sun. With deft, floured hands, she scooped some of the soft dough from the bowl, flattened it on a floured tray. She lifted it up with both hands; it stretched; without tearing it, she draped it on hot stones, covered it.

I looked at her beautiful tired face, which I could not photograph, out of respect. And, with equal respect, watched the growing pile of bread she was making – and made every day – to feed her family. I was given a crusty, fragrant, still-warm loaf to take home for our household. It was a Sunday morning. For me, this was a sacrament.


With-us-God, you came to share our human lives
in Bethlehem – ‘the house of bread’.
We pray for those who bake bread and break it
on both sides of the wall of separation:
Jewish families gathered for the Shabbat meal,
Christian and Muslim Palestinians,
sharing flatbread fresh from the taboon.
You are Living Bread, broken that all might be fully alive,
so we pray for the day when all your children
will be free to share their daily bread together, in peace.

From Sing But Keep Walking: Readings, Poems and Prayers for Advent, Jan Sutch Pickard, Wild Goose Publications, 2019

Jan Sutch Pickard is a former Ecumenical Accompanier with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel and a former Iona Abbey Warden.

A Christmas prayer, by friend of the Community Carol Dixon

You came as a baby, Lord,
as a little helpless child
who relied on a human family
to care for him.

You cried because you were hungry,
because you were homeless,
because you were a stranger
far away from home.

You still cry with hunger, Lord,
in the voices of the many starving;
your tears still flow: for the homeless,
the lonely and the forgotten;
you still rely on human families
to care for you.

And so this Christmas, Lord, we pray:
help us to be the kind of people
who look for you in the world,
and joyfully discover you
as we care for one another.

– Carol Dixon, from Candles & Conifers: Resources for All Saints’ and Advent, Ruth Burgess (Ed.), Wild Goose Publications

Pause for thought, by member Norman Shanks

One of my favourite old Hollywood films, often shown on television around Christmas, is a James Stewart black-and-white classic, Mr Smith Goes to Washington. It is a kind of fairy tale about a decent man in small-town America, who in the pursuit of honesty and public concern is precipitated into politics and ends up in Washington, on the threshold of the White House. One memorable line of dialogue has stuck in my mind: ‘All good things in the world come from fools with faith.’ The distinguished anthropologist Margaret Mead put the same thought in a slightly different way that challenges us to commitment, and also reassures us in our continuing quest for social and political change: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.’

– Norman Shanks, from Iona: God’s Energy – the Vision and Spirituality of the Iona Community, Wild Goose Publications

Song: ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’, by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, from YouTube

A classic. Thank you, John and Yoko. (Ed.)

Always Emmanuel (A prayer for the new year), by member John Harvey

God, above time, above space,
yet with us and in us in Christ,
we who are creatures of time and space
come to you with thankfulness.

We give you thanks
for the year that is passing.
We thank you
for the many ways in which you have touched us,
in moments of great happiness
or in deep distress.

You have been present in Christ,
the Alpha and the Omega,
the beginning and the end.

We thank you
for the people who matter to us,
near and far,
who have given themselves to us
and through whom you have
been present to us
in their love.

We thank you for your church,
the community of faith
in whose company we have journeyed,
whose friendship we value,
whose challenge we welcome,
and whose wide boundaries
are not defined by time, by space or by death.

As we move on now into a new year,
give us grace
to leave behind our regrets and our failures
and any sense of guilt,
to let go of the past with gratitude,
and to leave in your hands the future in faith –
to live each moment
in joyful discipleship,
in the company of him
who is always Emmanuel,
God with us.

– John Harvey, from Hay & Stardust: Resources for Christmas to Candlemas, Ruth Burgess (Ed.), Wild Goose Publications

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