Iona Community Common Concern Networks

Israel planning to annexe parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley: From the Common Concern Network on Israel Palestine

17th May, 2020:

Earlier this month we heard the news that Israel’s new coalition government has announced that, from as early as July 1st, it will legislate to formally annexe parts of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. This has immense implications for the Palestinian people. Annexation, as well as being illegal under international law, threatens the livelihoods, hopes and daily lives of thousands of Palestinian families who are already experiencing severe restrictions under Israeli occupation since 1967. Despite international condemnation, Israel continues to pursue its annexation agenda with support from the United States. At the same time, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, partners on the ground tell us that Israel has increased its policies of home demolitions, closures, arrests, child detention and settler violence. This is not the first time Israel has used an opportunity such as this, when the world’s attention has been diverted elsewhere, to further entrench their illegal control over the lands and lives of Palestinians. This is not only illegal but immoral.

Last week over 140 MPs wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him to place sanctions on Israel should it proceed with annexation plans. This falls in line with the expectation of states to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law and follows the precedent set by the EU when Russia annexed Crimea.

We are asking Iona Community members and associates to please write to their MPs asking them to sign the letter to Boris Johnson and to join the call for sanctions against Israel should it proceed with annexation. Further information and links for taking action can be found here on the Sabeel-Kairos website:

Taking action for Palestine, Sabeel-Kairos

– Warren Bardsley, on behalf of the Iona Community’s Common Concern Network on Israel Palestine

Sabeel-Kairos is a small and energetic Christian UK charity committed to supporting peace and justice in the Holy Land. They are a network of individuals, organisations and communities of all backgrounds across the UK who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people by promoting and advocating on the messages of Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Jerusalem.

Warren Bardsley has served as a human rights observer in Jerusalem and the West Bank with the WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, and has written three books on the Palestinian struggle for justice and human rights. He is one of the founder members of the Kairos Britain movement.

Other news: During their virtual meeting, the Common Concern Network on Israel Palestine also discussed this recent Motion made in the Scottish Parliament on the 72th Anniversary of the Nakba, which you might want to ask your MSP, MP to support.

Photo from the Sabeel-Kairos website ©

Iona Community Common Concern Networks

Common Concern Networks (CCNs) are self-managing, closed groups to enable members who have a common concern to share ideas and frustrations, and to encourage, inform and challenge each other. They are open to members, associate members, staff members and volunteers of the Iona Community, and young adults who are associated with the Community. CCNs don’t have the authority to speak for the Iona Community but they can draft position papers or statements for endorsement by the leadership or Council.

The Iona Community has six Common Concern Networks. If you are interested in getting involved in the groups, please contact the Moderator:

Disarmament, arms trade, reconciliation, peacemaking:

Moderator: Mitchell Bunting (Bungie)  

E-mail: [email protected] 

Environmental, including climate emergency:

Moderator: Ran Nisbet (Associate member)

E-mail: [email protected] 

Faith and spirituality:

Moderator: Tony Phelan

E-mail: CCNf[email protected]

Migration, refugees and asylum seekers:

Moderator: Robert Swinfen

E-mail: [email protected] 

Poverty and inequality:

Moderator: Alison Jackson (New Member) 

E-mail: [email protected]

Palestine and Israel:

Moderator: Mike Mineter

E-mail: [email protected] 

‘Iona Community on a climate march in Glasgow in 2019’ © Pat Bennett

Members, associates and friends

Good healthy sustainable food as a right for all: The Kindling Trust, from friend of the Community Helen Woodcock

The Kindling Trust and their family of projects is a Greater Manchester-based food initiative. Helen, one of the founding members – who may be familiar to some of you as one of Brian and Sheila Woodcock’s daughters – told e-Coracle what they’ve been working at to help people in this time of coronavirus – and about one of the Trust’s exciting new plans for the future – Kindling Farm …

Our aim is to create a fairer more sustainable food system. One that values the land, the producers who grow our food and sees access to good, healthy sustainable food as a right for all and not a privilege. We work towards this through our family of interconnected projects, increasing:

Supply: Our FarmStart programme, growing site and land army volunteering programme increases production of organic veg locally and trains up a new generation of growers;

Demand: Veg Box People and Manchester Veg People – a co-operative of buyers (restaurants, universities, schools, etc.) and growers – create a fairer market for the growers and increase access to fresh fruit and veg;

Access and engagement: Woodbank Community Food Hub – where communities get involved through gardening, cooking, food and wildlife-related events and Grow, Cook & Eat (our health and well-being programme) – and it’s also a veg box collection point.

Our next – very exciting – step, the Kindling Farm, is a 100+ acre pioneering organic agroforestry farm and centre for social change, owned by its community (both near and far). It will ramp up our work, showing that this model is not only possible on a wider and larger scale, but a much more desirable way to live.

As for most people, two months ago everything changed. We had to stop our well-being programme and community events; postpone our community shares campaign for Kindling Farm; and, as interest in our veg bags rocketed to almost double (350+ on a waiting list), our veg box collection points (the restaurants, universities, etc.) closed overnight.

So quite a logistical challenge (especially as we were entering the ‘hungry gap’ in the growing season), but we decided that if our model couldn’t show resilience at a time like this, we should pack up our tools and go.

So we spent some time putting extra safety measures in place for the team, finding new collection points and looking at ways to support those in the community who could no longer get to us (those self-isolating or key workers). Then we got on with scaling up what we do best: getting good, fresh, healthy and delicious veg to our communities.

It’s not been an easy time for the team, with extra long hours and physical distance from those we love, but the response from our veg box customers and volunteers helps. One told us ‘you are quite literally keeping me sane’. It has also been heartening to see so many local food initiatives across the UK and globally, able to respond in this difficult time, providing not only practical support through fresh, healthy sustainable veg, but hope that a better food system and world is possible.

To read more about Kindling Trust’s work and vision, visit their website, and to support their work, you can invest in Kindling Farm by buying shares. For details about this, please contact Helen at: [email protected]

The Kindling Trust: Igniting passion & fuelling action for social change

Helen Woodcock is a former volunteer on Iona, who spent a lot of time at Camas and Iona as a ‘Community kid’.

Photo of Helen Woodcock at Kindling ©

Serving those in need: Ludlow Food bank, from member Peter Cope

Peter Cope is a long-term volunteer at Ludlow Food Bank in Shropshire. At the moment, because he is 77, he is self-isolating and not volunteering – but says he is ‘itching to get going again’. Ludlow Food Bank is housed in Ludlow Baptist Church and is supported by all the churches in Ludlow. Some news from Peter about how the food bank has been helping folk during this time of Covid-19 …

18th April, 2020:

At present Ludlow Food Bank is definitely in overdrive. Local unemployment usually rises during the winter, and now the pressure of the Covid-19 lockdown has driven the figures up. Agriculture has been badly hit by the exceptionally long period of wet winter weather, which also caused more than 20 local properties to flood. Ruth, our hard-working Coordinator, has had to assemble a team of six people to help her with all the admin tasks, and we are planning to open five days per week rather than the present four, so the group of twenty-odd volunteers will be stretched ever more thinly. However, we are all conscious that some towns and cities are in a worse situation, and there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to serve some of those in real need.

Ludlow Food Bank

Cary Cares: Responding to coronavirus in the West Country, from member David Osborne

25 April, 2020:

I had an idea, which is always dangerous: I live in a small town in Somerset with about two and a half thousand people, a fair proportion of whom are over 70. It’s a pretty place with some posh shops but that’s deceptive. Many of the people who use them come in from surrounding villages. The town itself is actually one of the poorer ones in the county.

I had my idea when it became clear that a lot of people were going to need to self-isolate. And it wasn’t rocket science. We could organise young and fit volunteers to shop for the older ones. I suggested it to the town council and they said it would have their support, but they didn’t have the capacity to do it. I put it to the Churches Together group, of which I’m the Secretary, and they doubted we had the capacity either. But we did it nevertheless.

It runs under the banner of Churches Together but many of the people making it happen are rarely, if ever, seen at a church service. They are genuinely concerned about their neighbours, and some of them put a lot of time, energy and thought into the scheme. Leaflets, banners and social media advertise what’s available and it’s funded by local donations.

There are now over a hundred volunteers working on collecting medicines and shopping; staffing the helpline, following up people who don’t just want shopping done but also to have a chat; helping people get their electricity meter cards charged; and running a food box scheme, which is our alternative to a food bank. My role is general oversight and firefighting. And I do it from home, as I am self-isolating too.

It’s a town where a lot of the older people have neighbours, friends or family who look out for them and help them out if they need it. So we are simply filling in the gaps, but even so we have over a hundred calls a week. As the lockdown continues, and economic problems follow in its wake, we are already seeing the demands change. Hopefully we’ve got systems in place to cope. And maybe we’ll have a stronger local community at the end.

Cary Cares logo ©

A new story is unfolding: West Cheshire Foodbank, from members Christine Jones and Ron Reid

21 April, 2020:

West Cheshire Foodbank was established in 2013 to provide emergency food, and over time it has continually responded to increased need. From the start, it has campaigned about the injustice of hunger and food poverty. It collaborated in drafting major academic reports with the local university and acted as a catalyst to encourage the local Council to establish West Cheshire Poverty Truth Commission.

A major focus of its recent Development Plan was an exit strategy from the traditional model of food parcel distribution centres towards the creation of much more user-friendly and dignified community-based meeting places, with food aid available in a discreet fashion. That remains an aspiration, but reality has become a significant challenge to that aspiration. In 2020, the Trussell Trust Director of Strategy and Impact met with West Cheshire Foodbank and invited it to become a pathfinder project with the objective of fast-tracking its Development Plan to act as a potential model for the future of foodbanks.

However, the impact of the global pandemic has served to highlight the extent to which foodbanks have become institutionalised. The need for emergency food has escalated rapidly, whilst social isolation has meant that public food donations have slowed down markedly. Volunteers (many of whom are in the over-70 age bracket) have needed to isolate and the face-to-face referral system operated through agencies has ceased to function with the lockdown. In contrast, the foodbank has been in receipt of significant financial donations, sometimes unsolicited but with the implication that we could and would respond by making food available to the community. However, we still need to operate within our charitable objectives of providing emergency food to those in crisis – defined as being unable to afford to purchase food, not just unable to get to the supermarket.

The crisis has created a kairos moment:

– Food poverty has not gone away, nor has the main reason for it. People do not have enough money to live on.

– There is need for a referral system to maintain our charitable accountability.

– Local groups have quickly established themselves, with trusted local people taking a lead and wanting to help the foodbank. The foodbank encouraged local Councillors to assume the role of referral agent for these groups.

– Since people cannot travel to a few centres to collect food, the local groups have set up community hubs to which the foodbank can deliver prepared food boxes from its central warehouse. Neighbours are supporting neighbours, delivering food to them when necessary.

– The foodbank has needed to supplement the donated foods with purchased goods and some funders find it difficult to understand some of the constraints of operating as a charity.

– When foodbank volunteers can re-engage with the community, they will be encouraged to participate in the community hubs so that they can develop and become local places of support in their neighbourhood, not just for food aid.

The community hubs are supplementing the basic foodbank contributions with fresh foods and some extras, and neighbours make sure food gets to where there is need. Localities are being encouraged to take the lead whilst the foodbank fulfils a supportive role.

Statutory and charitable organisations are actively working together in this crisis situation and their shared experiences will inform how things can be reshaped for the future. A new story is unfolding and an impact study is being commissioned to capture that story. There is the potential to reposition foodbanks to act as a focus for food justice, not to become an arm of the welfare state.

Christine Jones and Ron Reid are Trustees of the West Cheshire Foodbank.

West Cheshire Foodbank: Helping People in Crisis

The work of Cyrenians during the Covid-19 crisis, from CEO of Cyrenians Edinburgh and member of the Iona Community, Ewan Aitken

28th April, 2020:

Cyrenians tackles the causes and consequences of homelessness across central and southeast Scotland. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, we have adapted our services in order to continue delivering life-changing support to some of the most vulnerable people within our communities – from supporting those who were rough-sleeping into hotel and self-contained accommodation, to converting our community cook school into a food production kitchen producing over 700 meals a day, seven days a week. These healthy, freezer-friendly meals are being delivered free of charge to individuals throughout Edinburgh and Falkirk, alongside over five tonnes of food a day directly to charities and community groups across central and southeast Scotland from our Fareshare depot in Leith.

The support doesn’t stop there, with free period products still being shared, online support given to young people and parents through our Support and Mediation teams, telephone befriending provided for those who are elderly and isolated, activity packs, and much more.

Cyrenians are committed to ensuring that everyone we supported prior to Covid-19 continue to get the support they need, as well as reaching out across the Sector to work in partnership with other organisations to enable us all to care for our communities. 


Ewan Aitken’s Cyrenians blog

Cooking at Milestone, from associate member and former Iona Abbey Domestic Supervisor, Helen Lambie

11th May, 2020:

For the past six years, I’ve worked for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and blood-borne virus charity, at their residential unit, ‘Milestone’, in Edinburgh’s Oxgangs.

Milestone was set up over 30 years ago as an AIDS hospice, and is now a respite centre for people living with blood-borne viruses; the building also houses another charity, Penumbra, which runs a highly successful residential unit treating patients with alcohol-related brain damage. My job, together with a small team, is to provide food for both units, 365 days a year.

The units usually bustle with visiting healthcare and social work professionals, admin staff and a wide variety of groups, including lunch clubs, community choir, knitting groups and gardening volunteers – the Covid-19 situation has had a dramatic effect.

The Penumbra unit has been in semi-lockdown since the end of March, whilst the Waverley Care service has closed, service-users there deemed safer in their own homes. The empty beds are now being used by the Edinburgh branch of Cyrenians: the plan was to accommodate post-Covid homeless people on their discharge from hospital, but so far, there have been few in that category, so we are providing accommodation for homeless people needing extra support at this time.

It is strange to work a full kitchen shift alone – and to have no contact with the people I am cooking for. I miss the banter with other staff, both in the kitchen and throughout the building. Sometimes I envy those able to work from home, but my daily commute brings a reminder of normality, which I’m grateful for. The road between Biggar and Edinburgh is way less busy, and the lambs are bouncing around morning and evening.

Helen Lambie was the Domestic Supervisor on Iona from 1998-2000.


Photo of Helen Lambie on Iona, by Neil Paynter ©

Installing wells in Malawi and volunteering with hunger ministries in Detroit, from associate member Doug Kee in Plymouth, Michigan, USA

29th April, 2020:

Over the past ten years, associate Doug Kee has been a Board member and volunteer with Marion Medical Mission, which works in remote villages in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia to help local people install simple shallow wells, which protect the groundwater the villages rely on for their water supply. During this time of coronavirus, Doug has been at home, in Michigan, helping to distribute emergency food aid in Detroit …

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Marion Medical Mission’s ministry in Africa to bring clean water to rural villages cannot stop its work. The need for clean water becomes even more urgent when good sanitation and hygiene are vitally important to fight off this virus. We plan to build wells this autumn but our operating plans are being reassessed, as U.S. volunteers may very likely not be able to travel to Africa. We also face increased funding challenges due to the economic crisis. Our African staff and infrastructure, funded by international donors, is essential to supporting village well installation and maintenance.

Personally, this time stuck at home has focused more of my own time and energy on volunteering with a couple hunger ministries in the Detroit area. We have been very hard hit by the coronavirus in Detroit, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. The need for emergency food aid has doubled and tripled beyond normal levels in many communities. Securing donated food and hygiene products and safely distributing these items to needy families has presented a new financial and logistical challenge to government and faith communities in our region. The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the gross inequities and gaps in our social fabric. I pray this crisis finally shakes us to make permanent changes in support of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Food in Covid-19 times: Reflections of lockdown life and eating, by member Liz Dowler

Extract from a longer reflection, which is available to download from the link below:

… As families, societies, nations, we need to build on the good things we’ve experienced in these demanding times. We’ve seen that connection, care and community matter; that smaller, diverse, local systems respond better to shocks; that local creativity thrives when given economic and planning support; that being in the natural world, getting your hands dirty to grow food, and making time to cook, are life-enhancing. Governments are focused on rebuilding the economy, but many of us want a different economy and society after this global pandemic; and a resilient food system, where all are treated with dignity, is part of that new story …



Liz Dowler is a member of the Iona Community living in Oxford, a retired academic who worked at Warwick University on food and social policy, and at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as a public health nutritionist. She is a member of the Food Ethics Council.

Photo of Liz Dowler from the Food Ethics Council website © Used with permission

The unprecedented challenges this pandemic brings, from an Iona Community person working in a hospice

19th April, 2020:

I work in a hospice and, like all health and care providers, we are facing unprecedented challenges during this coronavirus pandemic. All our patients are highly vulnerable; many require ‘shielding’ to protect them as far as is possible from this virulent virus. We have had patients with Covid-19 admitted to us for end-of-life care, and others, who have developed symptoms after being admitted for other reasons, have subsequently died.

We are working hard to reduce the risk of transmission to our patients, their families and our staff; one way in which we are doing this is by severely restricting visiting. Currently only one named visitor is permitted for one visit, either in the last hours of life, or to say ‘goodbye’ before the patient loses consciousness. This harrowing decision was not taken lightly, and we ensure regular updates are delivered by phone, as well as assisting our patients to use technology for ‘face-to-face’ contact as much as possible.

Understandably, more of our patients are choosing to remain at home rather than be admitted for management of symptoms, or for end-of-life care. We continue to deliver our specialist services to them, whilst respecting the need to reduce visits into vulnerable people’s homes. This is requiring us to be creative and learn new skills, offering ‘remote consultations’ whenever possible.

There is much in the news about provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in all health and social care settings. Our organisation is following Public Health England’s guidelines, but staff are often concerned, both for themselves and for avoiding transmission of the virus to other patients. Staff have responded by sewing ‘scrubs’ and washable laundry bags, to supply the teams on the wards. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination by changing clothing frequently when working with affected patients, and ensuring laundry taken home can go straight in the washing machine, and therefore protect staff’s families.

The hospice where I work is in the fortuitous position of having six months’ funding in reserve; not all hospices have this financial safety net. However, with all the hospice shops closed, and fundraising events cancelled or postponed due to the Government guidelines, along with every other charity, there is concern about the longer-term impact of loss of income.


In your prayers, please hold all those who have symptoms of coronavirus and who fear for their lives, those who love them dearly but are separated from them, and all those who care for them.
Pray for staff, who remain resilient, compassionate and courageous during this time.
May kindness and generosity of spirit inspire all our thoughts and actions, as each person in our communities faces the challenges this pandemic brings.

– Anon

Butterfly photo, by Ed. ©

We say farewell as best we can, a prayer by member Peter Millar

Remembering in love our many sisters and brothers locally and around the world who have died from coronavirus …

We say farewell
as best we can, and as tenderly,
often in tears and unbelief that this is true.
They are gone, and we are left – and –
all too soon –
often in the dark reaches of the night,
memories become our companions.

Yet through our tears,
a dawning always breaks,
even if at first just a sliver of light.
Their voices, now distant, guide us to that path.
Where love returns,
and reaching out again
is what we do,
even when our hopes are fragile still.      

– Peter Millar (from ‘A candle in the window’, his series of monthly reflections during lockdown)

Peter Millar is a former Iona Abbey Warden. For the last four years he has lived with an incurable cancer.

Relig Odhráin, Iona, photo from the Iona Community website ©

Spiritual care: news from associate member Rev. Pamela Turner, Chaplain, Spiritual Care Department, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

20 April, 2020

I work as part of an ecumenical multifaith team offering spiritual, religious and emotional support to service users, staff and visitors in Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which covers the conurbation of Birmingham and Solihull. Before C-19 I engaged face-to-face on four different inpatient units. Since C-19, I am contributing to an internal online resource called ‘Strength for Today: Hope for Tomorrow’ and am preparing resources for possible ‘virtual’ funerals. Most support now is by telephone or e-mail.

I hope you are keeping safe and well.

Love and prayers,


Photo of Pamela Turner ©

‘Pay them fairly, keep them safe, listen to them, show them we care: Support NHS/Key workers and the amazing work they do’, from member Jan Sutch Pickard and Meg Pickard

From Jan Sutch Pickard:

I’m sharing, here, this initiative by Meg Pickard, former Iona volunteer (Coffee House) and Camas staff member in the 1990s.

She’s also my daughter, and there has been a vigorous family correspondence between Croydon (where she lives), Cheltenham, Bunessan and San Francisco about the political shambles around this pandemic.

Meg wrote: ‘I’m getting frustrated with the socially mandated Thursday night communal clap being seen as enough. I made some posters to stick up in the window and have shared them in case others want them too.’

The photo below is of part of Meg’s front window. My one window on the village street in Bunessan isn’t big enough for these posters. And also in Mull there’s a lot of realism and practical support for the NHS and folk on the frontline.

But within the Community there might be a good few in different places (with bigger windows) who would like to make these statements (words by Meg Pickard, not copyright). If so, please go to the link below to download the posters. I’d like to share them more widely.


Photo © Meg Pickard

A wee hospitality story, from member Sally Beaumont

Sally lives in Glasgow, where for over a decade she has regularly hosted refugees and asylum-seekers through Positive Action in Housing’s ‘Room for Refugees’ programme – folk from Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, China, Guinea …

Sally writes:

‘I am staying with my daughter and son during the lockdown, but have a hospitality story. An Iona Community member put on Facebook that her son’s girlfriend was trying to find a place to live in Glasgow: although still a trainee midwife, she was being directed by the NHS to work here. Since my flat was empty, she is now ensconced! I only met her to throw her the keys!’


May the moon, sun and stars shine on us and warm every heart
till it glows like a great fire
so that strangers and friends
may come in and find welcome.

– Iona Abbey Worship Book

Rainbow by Millie, from David Coleman ©

A kiss through the glass, from friend of the Iona Community Janet Lees

9th April, 2020 (from a longer blog post):

Last night I witnessed a kiss. It was a kiss between a father, inside a care home, and a daughter, outside in the garden. The kiss took place through the glass. It made me cry. My dad is in his own home, on his own, about 20 miles from where I live. He rang to thank me for the kippers I sent him.

A kiss may seem to be such a small thing, yet it can mean such a lot: to help and heal.

There are many kinds of kisses.

The sun kisses the earth and the bee kisses the flower.

The rise in domestic violence during the Covid-19 lockdown indicates the increased danger some face when kisses can be a sign of control and coercion.

That Jesus knew about kisses is obvious from the Gospel. The kiss in garden would not have been his first kiss. He would have been kissed by his mother and friends and family. Who knows who else would have kissed him: read between the lines. The family at Bethany were his friends, the death of Lazarus made him cry …

Janet Lees’ blog

Janet Lees is a regular contributor to Wild Goose books and downloads. She is the author of Word of Mouth and Tell Me the Stories of Jesus (Wild Goose) and lives in England.

Photo © David Coleman

Who would you trust to cut your hair?, from member Yousouf Gooljary

From Yousouf’s Facebook series of reflections on life during lockdown, ‘Diary of a Wee Boy’ …

I actually let my 14-year-old cut my hair today. He had been building up to it for a while. A friend had bought him a mannequin head, which has been hair-braided to death (indeed, this is his second: the first one died). He bought professional haircutting scissors and eyebrow trimmers on the Internet (without my knowledge or permission). The mannequin had long hair and I don’t have much so the first few minutes were nerve-racking. And now he’s cut my hair, and trimmed my eyebrows and beard. There was much shouting and screaming to begin with. However, I am not too concerned, for two reasons: firstly, I am not going out for a month; and secondly, as the old joke goes: ‘What’s the difference between a bad haircut and a good one?’ … Answer: ‘Two weeks.’ So I shouldn’t have to worry. So all his preparation, and then suddenly it comes into its own in our isolation.

The interdependence of the whole world is somehow mirrored in the interdependence between me and the only other person in the house. It necessitates treating them with a bit more respect, listening a little more to their views, seeing things more from their point of view, negotiating with some win/win for us both …

For the last few years I have only trusted a fairly pricey hairdressers in Morningside to cut my hair. I’ve suggested that if this goes on monthly for the next six months, then I’ll purchase a salon razor! (I just hope no one finds out how much money I’m saving, otherwise pocket money might have to increase exponentially.)

Yousouf Gooljary was formerly Rector at St Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Edinburgh.


Yousouf’s new haircut, photo ©

Glimpses of blessings in this new situation, from associate member Pat Bryden

E-Coracle asked us for some glimpses of blessings we had received in this new situation. Here are three from me:

1. The immediate response of many younger members of the local community offering help with shopping or other needs for us elderly.

2. The wonderful poetry sessions from Pádraig Ó Tuama on Poetry Unbound twice a week. Pádraig chooses and reads a poem, meditates on what it means to him, and then reads it again. Beautiful.

3. Time to watch birds: Lesser-spotted woodpeckers feeding on my neighbour’s bird feeder. They are very pretty little birds and are not supposed to be in Scotland. Yes, they have been verified by the British Trust for Ornithology, so are not just imagined.

The same hospitality that we learned to offer on Iona, from former Iona Resident Group member Dora Nyamwija in Kampala, Uganda

3 May, 2020:

The month after I returned to Uganda – after spending four fabulous years as housekeeper on Iona – I married my very patient boyfriend, Tom, who I met at university, and we settled down and made a home in Kampala, where Tom now works for a refugee company under UNHCR. I stay home and look after our son Ketchup Daniels, named after my late father and my Scottish ‘dad’ Danny, and also my favourite sauce – ketchup!

During this time of pandemic, I am aware that everyone has been affected differently, but I am praying that God will give each and every one of you a little hope, courage and strength to hold on to. Be still and know!

This month the government introduced lockdown in Uganda, initially for two weeks, but it has just been extended to a month, which is obviously very hard for most of the population, who live from hand-to-mouth, and without work they have to manage on what little food they can grow. The markets and public transport in Kampala in particular are very crowded and a breeding ground for such viruses, but thank God, the death toll hasn’t been too high, possibly because of the lockdown or because the average age of the country is relatively young. The hospitals would certainly not be able to cope with a large increase in numbers. The government has also been able to provide food to most of the population.

Meanwhile I have been busy planning my next project, which is to build a B&B on land I purchased with money that I earned on Iona. My dream is to offer accommodation that will be accessible and inclusive so that local people and anyone who comes to visit Uganda can have somewhere to stay and experience the same hospitality that we learned to offer on Iona. I have been offered match-funding dollar for dollar for this project and I’m looking to crowdfund the rest from people who would be interested and able to help with any amount for my dream to become a reality.

Please come and visit Uganda in the future and hopefully stay at the B&B while accessing the nearby national parks for safari trips. This will also help me to support the ‘Dora’s Loos for All’ charity I started up on Iona, which provides accessible toilets for schools across Uganda.

If you would like to find out more about these projects, please e-mail me: [email protected]

‘Dora, Tom and Ketchup’, photo © Used with permission

Open doors: hopeful news from friend of the Community Jane Darroch-Riley in Barcelona

Jane wrote a reflection on life in lockdown, and the freedom of creativity, for the March/April e-Coracle. An update from Jane on the beginning of the end of lockdown in Spain …

4th May, 2020

We were finally allowed out, between 6-10am and 8-11pm, to exercise. It was surreal, as kids and old folk were allowed out at different times – but blissful to finally be able to walk. So lucky that we are up above the city with lots of places to walk in nature on our doorstep, as the people downtown apparently all flocked to the closed beaches, which were rammed, and so it was hard for people to keep a distance from each other. Here was tranquil – and just the idea that we can go out together for the first time in seven weeks feels like a turning point, so hopefully that turns out to be true.

About the photo below: ‘Portes Obertes‘ means ‘Open Doors’ and 13th of March was the last day before lockdown here, so there is something quite poignant about the sign still hanging there now.

Hope you and yours are all well.



Jane has been a designer, typesetter and admin person for Wild Goose Publications for the past 20 years.

‘Open Doors’ © Jane Darroch-Riley

News and blessings from associate members Nancy and Garry Dodman in London, Ontario, Canada

19 April, 2020:

Canada shut down a couple weeks before Britain did. While the death toll in Canada is unacceptable, especially in Quebec, I think we have flattened the curve somewhat. It is the nursing homes that have been hardest hit so far. Quebec is bringing in the army medics, etc to help with long-term care homes that have been decimated.

Farmers are threatening to not plant this spring as they are having a hard time getting migrant workers into the country. And migrant workers have recently fallen ill with Covid due to the cramped quarters they are forced to live in. We want things cheap, and are reaping the harvest of that now.

The federal government has now given emergency funding (essentially a living wage) to those who have lost their jobs over this pandemic. Some people have been cut off of their disability pension and benefits because they have taken the federal funding. When this is over, we need to look at things and ask what kind of society we want to live in.

On happier notes, Garry and I have, in the past year, moved churches and are now worshipping at St Aidan’s Anglican, which is very aligned to the Iona style. I get my Iona ‘fix’ each week and on Thursday mornings Iona Morning Prayers are said too! Hoping to have John Bell come next March. Garry and I love Iona very much and Garry has often toyed with the notion of being a vollie. Our favourite time to be there is Holy Week and we have been there countless times. Today, as I write this, I am reminded of the ending of the Wild Goose book Iona of My Heart, and I too can now declare at last – after wrestling with the church we were in, questioning what I believed, always being unsettled when we returned from Iona – that indeed ‘Christ is risen! We have seen Him! Hallelujah! Yes!’

Blessings on all of the Iona Community.

Nancy and Garry

Photo of Nancy Dodman ©

‘Calling all of humanity back home to the heart’, news from associate member Israel Nelson in Wasilla, Alaska, USA

20 April, 2020:

I’m confined to my cabin because of Covid-19 but my test was negative.

I try to keep up with Dan Ketchum, who now lives in Anchorage and is a faithful associate member.

Our Presbytery completed a meeting focused upon climate change last year by adopting the Fifth Ethical Directive of the Parliament of the World’s Religions called ‘Sustainability and care for the earth’.

A major emphasis here now is combating the rise of addiction in the Alaskan villages of the North Slope.

I continue to be depressed by the exploits of Donald Trump, and strongly support Joe Biden for the Presidency.

I am sending you all a link to a new film from ‘Wisdom Weavers of the World’, which I hope you will find powerful and inspiring:

‘Thirteen Indigenous Elders from around the world come together to co-create a message for humankind, weaving wisdom of diverse cultures and lifeways, uncovering one common thread: for humanity to survive, we must shift our consciousness from the mind to the heart … In this time of great uncertainty, the Elders are calling all of humanity back home to the heart’ (from Wisdom Weavers of the World).

Israel Nelson is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is now retired. He has been an Executive Director for a counselling service treating mental health and substance abuse issues and a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Mat-Su. With exposure to Alaska native peoples, he has developed a deep appreciation for their spirituality.

Rethinking America in this time of Covid-19 and Trump, from associate members Mark Reeve and Leslie Withers in Decatur, Georgia, USA

Dear friends in the far-flung Community of Iona,

Leslie and I are fortunate to be among progressive people of faith as we live into the hard times of Covid-19 and Trump. Faced with life-threatening challenges, the support of our communities has never been more valuable. Oakhurst Baptist Church here in Decatur is an example of how progressive churches in America – and no doubt around the world – have responded. Many members of our church are on the frontlines as medical professionals, hospital and hospice chaplains, and filling other risky jobs essential to keeping society running. Some folks have parents or other dear ones with serious illness residing in care facilities where even close family members are banned. Jobs have ended. Children are isolated from friends and schoolmates. Shortages of paper goods and some food items contribute to an overall feeling that the social fabric is fraying. Brian Kemp, our governor, an ardent supporter of the president, has declared our state ready to reopen for business, even as infection and death rates escalate.

Into this strange and frightening time has come the body of Christ via teleconferencing, as we discover new ways to be church with one another while maintaining social distance. Sunday worship via Zoom brings us together as a whole and allows for the active participation of the worshipping community. We honour our God with music performed by individuals in their living rooms and at the kitchen table. Scripture readings, liturgical leadership and even sermons have been led by a variety of different community members. We have adopted new traditions each week, including a prayer of lament and a prayer of hope in our worship, as we acknowledge our despair and our hope in the face of uncertain futures. Sermons are brief to include time for spontaneous community responses.

Many more folks gather for worship than were formerly attending in person. Former church members currently living in Wales, Italy and across the United States are active participants in Sunday worship. Sunday school classes meet, and we even have virtual Wednesday night suppers, where participants share their lives. The choirs meet at their regular times for mutual support despite the limitations of choral singing remotely.

We have been astounded by the fruitfulness of our worship. Hope stays alive. Our shared faith assures us that better times will come. We have grown and learned from the coronavirus experience. Now more than ever we know just how much we need each other. And that need extends across the artificial boundaries that humans have etched out on the planet. As Leslie and I sadly see the likelihood of our planned October week on Iona recede, we appeal to the Iona Community to consider virtual worship and other ways we can come together as a community. Can we find a way to worship and share our lives together virtually?

Meanwhile, do stay safe, and know that we are all in this together.

With love,


Photo of Leslie Withers and Mark Reeve ©

News from associate member Ran Nisbett in Fairhope, Alabama, USA

During this time (as I did for the West African Ebola outbreak in 2013-14), I have prepared materials for the global Methodists Information about Covid-19, regarding symptoms, risks, prevention, household hygiene, community control in the 50 or so developing countries in which they have a presence. The materials are disseminated on various platforms but targeted at pastors, educators and administrators, who translate the information into local formats, languages and idioms for their end-users at the grassroots (where distrust of the government is often high). This work encapsulates my professional career, living and working on the frontlines trying to understand how zoonotic diseases cycle naturally in their animal hosts, how they jump the species-barrier into humans, and how we can control human-to-human transmission in resource-scarce developing world settings.

Richard (‘Ran’) Nisbett, now retired, has studied and taught at the interface of biology, culture and environment, i.e., ‘transdisciplinary’ global health; during his academic career he sought to advance social-justice medicine. Ran has worked intensively in several countries, most notably Jamaica, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Uganda and Liberia. He is a Board member of Friends of Liberia.

Photo of Ran Nisbett ©

Tributes to associate member Paul Nicolson

The Reverend Paul Nicolson, founder of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and Taxpayers Against Poverty, died on 5th March, 2020, at the age of 87. Some of the many tributes to this hugely inspiring man:

‘Remembering Rev. Paul Nicolson’, from ATD Fourth World

‘The Rev. Paul Nicolson: Obituary’, from The Guardian

‘The ministry of Rev. Paul (1932-2020)’, from The Tablet


If it be your holy will, tell them how we love them,
and how we miss them,
and how we long for the day
when we shall meet with them again.

George MacLeod, from The Whole Earth Shall Cry Glory: Iona Prayers

Photo of Paul Nicolson ©

The Movement

A closer connection to the Iona Community: Response to ‘Moving Forward’, from associate member Helen Weavers of the Wellspring Community in Australia

Coinciding with the article ‘Moving Forward’, by David Osborne in Coracle 3/2019, the Wellspring Community in Australia has been conducting a review. The review was prompted by a desire to move forward, alongside a search to rediscover Wellspring’s sense of identity and purpose. The idea of a closer connection with the Iona Community in a more formal way has been canvassed.

Several people, following the Coracle article and the current review, have been urging another look at connecting more closely with the Iona Community. The ideas put forward, including the new system of governance, emphasis on stronger regions and formation of Common Concern Networks, pose an exciting challenge and opportunity. With the backing of the Wellspring Council and the Leader, Rev Alex Scutt, I have been asked to take these ideas further.

Areas of Concern within the Wellspring Community mirror those put forward by David Osborne in ‘Moving Forward’; and there is a daily prayer diary, a quarterly magazine and biannual National Gatherings. As well, we have put emphasis on a sense of Australian spirituality. It is felt that established contacts with our first peoples and their unique spirituality would be of value to the wider Iona Community.

At the beginning of the Wellspring Community in Australia in 1991, attempts were made to link with the Iona Community. A request to take the name of the Iona Community in Australia was declined at the time. So the Wellspring Community came into being, promoting itself as ‘inspired by the Iona Community’ but with an attempt to forge an Australian identity.

Given that there are now groups bearing the name of Iona in Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden, we would seek to learn more about how these groups operate. In particular, their formal/informal connections, governance and programmes.

I am an associate member of the Iona Community and was a volunteer on Iona in 2000, working in the front office. My husband Keith’s connections go back to 1952 during the rebuilding of the Abbey and his association with Tom Colvin. There is much interest in Australia in the Iona Community, particularly since John Bell’s recent visit. Members of the Community have and do visit Australia, but given the distance, not as easily as those countries and folk closer to the UK. With the far reach of the Internet, ties can be strengthened and friendships renewed.

At this time of the pandemic and worldwide loss of life we can sing with John Bell: ‘Don’t be afraid, my love is stronger, my love is stronger than your fear. Don’t be afraid, my love is stronger. And I have promised to be always near.’

Could those in a position to help with our request please contact me?

Helen Weavers: [email protected]

Photo of Helen Weavers ©

‘A network of Iona-inspired people across continents and oceans’: on the Iona Community Regions – an update from David Osborne, Coordinator of the Movement Working Group of the Iona Community

25 April, 2020:

Coronavirus is slowing us down. Iona Community associates, members and others are distracted by the needs of the moment from thinking about the Community’s structures. The necessary postponement of the AGM moved a significant target we had for getting things in place. And maybe the quietness and lack of interaction means we’ve all slowed down a bit.

But it’s also bringing us together. This isn’t just a little local problem. We’re all in lockdown, unless we’re crazy or have a stupid government. The problem is global, and many of us are communicating globally like we’ve never done before.

Next week, at different times, I will meet with the members of my local church development project, the Iona Community’s Transition Team, and with a board member of the New World Foundation. In all those meetings I’ll see everyone on a screen, whether they are a hundred metres away, four hundred miles away in central Scotland, or six time zones across the Atlantic. The distance will make no difference.

So, some of the momentum is lost but the idea is stronger. The picture is not of God’s energy radiating out from Iona, or Glasgow, but of a network of Iona-inspired people across continents and oceans.

While we think globally, when we are once again able to, we will meet locally. Small, local Family Groups, and gatherings of associates, friends and members. And, occasionally, regional or national gatherings.

Good as electronic communication is, we also want to actually meet up with people. To talk, sing, shake hands, or hug. We want the lockdown to be over, not just so we can go to the shops or the office, or to get the economy going again, but because we want to be really present with other people.

The regional structure that we are slowly developing will strengthen us both locally and as an international movement. In many places the structures are clear and developed. In others they are still a work in progress. But we’re getting there.

– David Osborne

Photo of David Osborne during a Community Week in Germany ©

Continentals Meeting 2021, 26-29 August, Geneva, Switzerland, from the Swiss Iona Group

Dear ‘Continentals’, Iona Community members, associates and friends,

This is to announce our next Continentals meeting – which will take place from Thursday, 26 August to Sunday, 29 August, 2021 at the Foyer John Knox, Geneva-Grand Saconnex. The Foyer is situated within walking distance to the Ecumenical Centre and the World Health Organisation.

Our theme will be ‘New Forms of Being Church Today’. In the Prayer of the Iona Community, we pray ‘that hidden things may be revealed to us and new ways found to touch the lives of all’. What does this mean for us in our relationship to the Iona Community – what are we (personally and as Continental groups) giving to and receiving from the Community and how do all of us work together to grow in and with the Community? …

As we are preparing this seventh Continental Meeting of the Iona Community, we are living through a particularly challenging moment of history. The corona crisis has affected our communal life in many aspects. It has sharpened many critical situations: the poverty gap, the refugee crisis, the continuing conflicts which ruin the lives of so many people all over the world. It has also initiated changes in the life of the churches. We want to share personal experiences and also to explore creative possibilities for change and solidarity.

We have made bookings for approximately 50 people. Please secure your place by registering early, and not later than September 30, 2020.

Registration: Christa Schüssler:[email protected]

We hope to see many of you in Geneva!

Iona Community gathering © Irene Stok

A call to Iona Community folk in the Cumberland coastal region of the USA, from associate Ran Nisbett in Fairhope, Alabama

In view of our Iona commitment to one another by meeting, communicating and being personally accountable, and with regard to the creation of Common Concern Networks partnering to work for justice, peace and the care of creation (see Issue 3/2019 of Coracle), I encourage associate members in the Cumberland coastal region of the southeastern USA (LA, MS, AL, TN, GA, NC, SC, FL) to contact me using the information below.

My hope is that we can discern ways to communicate more regularly (perhaps a private social media group?), to engage, and to gather occasionally in solidarity. For example, perhaps it might be possible to ‘meet’ through technology annually, if not in person, to renew our vow to keep the Rule and to support one another.

E-mail: [email protected]

Grace, peace and joy,


Cumberland coastal region photo © Ran Nisbett

XR Peace, from member Margery Toller, Iona Community representative on the XR Peace Council

The Iona Community is one of the supporters of XR Peace, the part of the Extinction Rebellion movement which focuses particularly on the contribution of the military to climate change. About 6% of the global carbon footprint results from military-related activity and, of course, if the current generation of nuclear weapons were ever to be used, their effect on the environment would be devastating. What XR Peace is hoping is that the Iona Community, like other supporting organisations (CND, Scottish CND, CND Cymru, Nuke Watch, Trident Ploughshares, War Resisters International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, UK Peace Pagodas, etc.), could produce enough people to form an affinity group (or several…!) who would take part in direct actions either nationally or locally. In the XR Peace group at the Autumn Uprising there were active participants who were 75 and 92 – so please don’t feel excluded on account of your age!

During lockdown, XR Peace is actively recruiting for affinity groups and hoping to start training them, so that when we are able to go out onto the streets to take part in direct actions again, we will be ready to go straight away.

If you would be interested in exploring this, please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks:

[email protected]

Photo from the XR Peace website ©

Iona, Camas, Glasgow

Iona Abbey Capital Appeal

Iona Abbey Capital Appeal

Map of Iona, by Iona Abbey Sacristan, David Bond

This amazing map of Iona is by Iona Resident Group member David Bond, who is a well-established artist who has had several exhibitions in Tunis, where he used to live.

David says about his maps: ‘In my maps … I seek to be attentive to smaller, more complex wildernesses in which one can lose and find oneself.’

David gives a fascinating and detailed description of the ideas behind the Iona map here:


Map of Iona, by David Bond ©

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses: Saint Columba and George MacLeod on Iona, a story by associate member Barbara Sowood

For many years Barbara and her late husband, Robert, visited the Centres on Iona regularly, bringing with them a tribe of children and grandchildren, and engaging fully in the work and worship, learning and laughter of each week. Barbara wrote this story on a Storytelling Week on the island led by member Jan Sutch Pickard in 2014. Barbara lives in Wales – and celebrates her 100th birthday this September! …

Up in the celestial mountains, Columba was somewhat – restless … He went to see his friend Peter at the Pearly Gates.

‘I think I’ll pop down to Iona and see how they are getting on,’ he said.

‘Funny you should say that,’ said Peter. ‘Someone else has just gone there – George MacLeod.’

‘I better catch up with him then,’ said Columba. ‘Don’t know what he might get up to – you know what he’s like!’

‘I do indeed,’ chortled Peter.

George MacLeod welcomed Columba’s companionship warmly. ‘It should be interesting in the Abbey this week,’ he said. ‘The sessions are about sharing our stories – I love storytelling.’

‘We all know that,’ replied Columba, somewhat ironically.

The two found themselves in Fionnphort and joined the crowd embarking on the Iona ferry. It was Saturday afternoon and they mingled, unseen and unheard, with the guests who were going to the Abbey or the MacLeod Centre.

‘Coracles were good enough for us,’ remarked Columba.

‘Got to move with the times, Col, old boy,’ said George. ‘Steamboats and buses and trains and planes are much quicker – I liked flying – going abroad.’

They disembarked and walked with others to the Abbey, and overheard two ladies talking. ‘What a wonderful place!’ said one. ‘I can almost feel the presence of the great Dr MacLeod.’

‘Not surprising, seeing that you are treading on her heels,’ muttered Columba to George.

‘Oh, but it’s that holy man Saint Columba that I feel is here!’ gushed the other lady.

‘Not so holy, old chap!’ said George to Columba. ‘Didn’t you get involved in a copyright dispute and then organise a battle in Ireland?’

‘Well, you fought in World War One!’ retorted Columba.

‘I became a pacifist after that,’ said George rather smugly. ‘Well – a militant pacifist – and I should hope that you are too.’

The two spirits wandered round the Abbey, and observed the washrooms and the showers with great interest.

‘People are soft nowadays,’ said Columba. ‘My monks had to stand up to their necks in the sea and recite the psalms.’

‘We had no washing facilities when we first came here either,’ said George. ‘My community had to swim in the sea every morning.’

‘I know,’ chuckled Columba. ‘We used to watch you – you’d fling off your kilt and rush into the sea with the cry “Stink or swim!”‘

‘Hush – there might be ladies present,’ said George primly.

When the two spirits attended the Sharing Stories sessions, George was bursting to join in and Columba had great difficulty in restraining him. ‘The Heavenly Code of Practice says we are not allowed to break the sound barrier, except in exceptional circumstances.’

‘I love telling stories,’ muttered George rebelliously.

‘You must make that sacrifice,’ said Columba. ‘Offer it to God – you know what your community say in Morning Worship: “We will not offer to God offerings that cost us nothing.”‘

They attended the Wednesday evening concert, and at the end two little girls from Africa went on the stage to sing. They sang a song from their native Zimbabwe: ‘If you believe and I believe and we together pray, the Holy Spirit will come down and set God’s people free.’

They sang so sweetly that the audience called for an encore and everyone joined in … and another voice could be heard … the voice that could be heard right over the sea to Mull … the high sweet voice of Columba.

In the silence that followed came another voice, a stentorian shout, the voice of George MacLeod:


There was an awed silence – and then a gale of laughter.

Columba nudged George, ‘Come on, lad – time to go.’

And they slipped through the veil, the veil that is as thin as gossamer on Iona.

– Barbara Sowood

Photo: Still from the film ‘Courage, Faith and Cheerfulness: George MacLeod Meets Columba‘, by David Coleman ©

The spirituality of the Book of Kells, by member Rosemary Power, from The Church Times

The Book of Kells was made in about the year 800, most likely on the Isle of Iona, in honour of God and Saint Columba.

Some reflections on the Book of Kells by Rosemary Power, from her upcoming book to be published by Veritas in 2020:

‘The Gospel within: the Crucifixion’, from The Church Times, by Rosemary Power

‘Arrest, and the moment of fraction’, from The Church Times, by Rosemary Power

Book of Kells image courtesy of the Board of Trustees of Trinity College Dublin ©

We are all one flock: a reflection during lockdown, by Ann Thacker

Ann Thacker, who over the years has been a regular guest at the Abbey, sent this beautiful reflection to Carol Dougall, Booking Secretary on Iona, saying: ‘Thank you for so many hospitable stays during which I have learned so much about God, people and myself .’ …

Last week, when I was out for exercise, a pair of geese flew over really low as I was trying to warm myself a little in the bright sun. They were honking happily, oblivious to the crisis, and still doing their thing, still keeping their hours – strong and vigorous and free.

It was a little bit of normality, as a van patrolled up and down, presumably checking that people were keeping social distance. This and a sprinkling of masks on fellow exercisers showed how much had changed so quickly, but the geese didn’t know, and so were above it somehow, not just literally, but in a different ‘space’. Their passing felt like a blessing, as though God were letting me know He was ‘on the case’.

This week I haven’t been out except to the bin and the letterbox, but this morning I was in the kitchen, having just fetched in the mail, when once more I heard the happy honking of geese, right overhead. Again it felt as though God was saying: ‘I’m still here. I haven’t forgotten you.’

Geese have always been inspiring to me. Every time I saw a skein high up, wings straining, but looking beautiful at a distance, my heart would lift. They were always together, like a family united in a combined effort, belonging to something bigger than any one individual.

Later I discovered that they have a unique strategy for keeping the flock strong. The lead goose is not just one goose: they take turns leading, and then drop back as they tire, and another takes their place. Also, if a goose tires too much to carry on with the flock, they do not abandon it. A companion goose stays with them until they are ready to fly again.

This seems to me a beautiful picture of how we need to be at the moment. Prayers need to be upholding those in the frontline and vulnerable people; the practical people have their task before them, not chosen but accepted, as a sense of vocation kicks in. We may not be in physical sight or sound of each other but we are part of the flock, every bit as much as the lead goose, the tail-ender, or the goose on the ground with their faithful companion.

We are all one flock. More so now than ever.

Celtic Christians, as many of you will know, call the Holy Spirit the Wild Goose, and I pray that for all of us the Holy Spirit becomes our companion, guardian, Wild Goose in the days ahead.

– Ann Thacker

Wild geese on the wing © David Coleman

‘Young Adults Pilgrimage to Iona’ rescheduled for 2021, from member Richard Sharples and Annie Sharples

This pilgrimage is an opportunity to engage with the founding story and contemporary reality of the Iona Community. It is particularly aimed at, but not exclusive to, young adults. Our route is deliberately chosen to enable us to engage with some of the key places in our story as a Community (Govan, Faslane, Camas), and we will also be travelling in the footsteps of the saints, such as Columba and Conan. We will be joined by Iona 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 pilgrimage will begin in Govan on Wednesday, June 9th, St Columba’s Day. Over the course of 11 days we will walk via Faslane, Dalmally, Oban, Camas, arriving at Fionnphort on Saturday, June 20th. We will spend the Sunday on the island, before leaving on Monday the 22nd. Pilgrims are welcome for all or part of the journey. Mileage will vary from 8-14 miles. Accommodation with be varied, but will essentially be camping – inside or outside. Tents and luggage will be carried by a support vehicle.

For more information please contact:

Richard Sharples: [email protected]

Annie Sharples: [email protected]

Richard Sharples is a former Iona Abbey Warden.

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

Iona Abbey with pilgrim, by David Bond, Iona Abbey Sacristan, ©

Little Guy: Journey of Hope, by member Emma Major – new downloadable book from Wild Goose Publications

An inspiring, heart-filled little book for these times, and all times. Something really special and different. (Ed.)

Little Guy is a series of 25 images and poems that emerged over a period of two weeks, with a sense of urgency. Then, less than a month later, coronavirus appeared in the UK. We had to distance from each other; isolate, alone at home in a situation none of us has ever faced before. The rush to get Little Guy onto paper started to make sense.

Many people battle with anxiety even in the best of circumstances; it is part of being a sensitive, fragile human being in a world that can be both frightening and full of wonder.

Little Guy starts off anxious and depressed, before moving through hope and trust to a point where he is able to relate to the world and thrive again.

Little Guy journeys with us.

Emma Major is a mum, wife, friend, pioneer lay minister, blind wheelchair user and poet.

Little Guy: Journey of Hope

Wild Goose Publications

An invitation to grow in love, compassion and kindness: A reflection during lockdown, by Iona Prayer Circle Coordinator, Chris Polhill

An extract from a longer reflection, which is available to download from the link below:

… We are a society good at being busy, and there were plenty of suggestions to distract us in the first few days of the lockdown: learn a language, read books, watch TV, get creative … I am left wondering, however, if this enforced isolation and distancing holds an invitation to us. Perhaps we are being invited to slow down, to go deeper into being, to befriend ourselves in the deeper places of life.

The Hermit’s Cell on Iona belongs to a tradition still followed today: taking time on your own to be, and to be with God. Monks and nuns have followed this practice for centuries, and some still do. It can be hard to be with yourself: you can no longer hide from your inadequacies, your smallness, your fears. Being on your own, God invites you to love yourself, to be kind and compassionate to yourself, and to receive God’s love: just receive it as a child receives love from a parent. How can you love others if you cannot love yourself? Have compassion for others if you beat yourself up, judge yourself harshly and expect perfection?

Isolation invites us to this very real journey of the soul: to grow in love, compassion and kindness …



Iona Prayer Circle

Prayer Circle photo, from the Iona Community website ©

Living with the Psalms – new book by member John L. Bell, from SPCK

From the book blurb:

This luminous book on texts Jesus knew and quoted is the fruit of the author’s lifelong engagement with the Psalms. As a broadcaster and writer, John is loved for being entirely genuine and, in the words of Archbishop Justin Welby, ‘his cogent and penetrating contributions reach an audience well beyond the churches’.

Here John explores the Psalms as they relate to daily life, drawing on stories and personal testimonies to help us to rejoice, grieve or draw encouragement from this most extraordinary and fascinating collection of sacred poems and songs.

The Revd Dr John L. Bell is a member of the Iona Community, an ordained minister and a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. Over many years, he has consistently been one of the biggest draws at the Greenbelt Festival, and his work as a teacher and speaker takes him frequently into Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America.

In 2018 he received, from Justin Welby, The Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship, for his outstanding Christian witness, through hymn-writing, broadcasting and social action.

Living with the Psalms, from SPCK

News and campaigns

Beatitudes for a global pandemic: a video in support of the Trussell Trust

From the Trussell Trust:

We support a nationwide network of food banks and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.

Trussell Trust

From Christian Aid:

Our local neighbours are feeling the devastating effects of a virus that impacts us all.

As the pandemic spreads into the poorest countries in the world, our neighbours around the world will face these impacts, often without the same safety nets we’ve seen at home.

The most vulnerable are falling ill and the economic impacts are leaving people, who were already struggling, without a way to feed their families and survive this crisis.

Right now, you can help prevent people from suffering and dying due to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic by supporting calls for a debt ‘jubilee’ – requested by governments of poor and vulnerable countries. This would mean debt repayments of poor countries are cancelled during this crisis.

Will you call on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to broker a debt relief deal for the poorest countries?

Debt Jubilee petition

Iona Community associate Sally Foster-Fulton is the Head of Christian Aid Scotland.

Photo from the Christian Aid website ©

‘You clap for me now: the coronavirus poem on racism and immigration in Britain’, from The Guardian

From The Guardian:

‘A video featuring UK residents and people of foreign heritage reciting an anti-racist poem has highlighted the crucial role immigrant workers are playing in the Covid-19 outbreak. ‘You clap for me now’, penned by Darren James Smith, features Britons with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who are key workers during the global pandemic – including doctors, nurses, teachers, shopkeepers and delivery drivers, many of whom have previously experienced discrimination. The video, which was produced by Sachini Imbuldeniya, begins with the message: ‘What the UK is most afraid of has come from overseas, taking our jobs and making it unsafe to walk the streets …’

‘Another life lost to an asylum system predicated on injustice’, by member Alison Phipps (Swinfen), from The National, 17th May, 2020

From The National:

… A man has died. The world changed and the hostility was ramped up to protect the profits of the rich, by increasing the suffering of the most vulnerable amongst us. And to every one single person who says ‘we must look after our own’’: even if you cannot strip those poisoned words from your tongue you must know, must know by now, that we are – and always were – connected by webs of microbes in the very air we breathe; that your health is my health; and that what is coming to visit you in your terrified speech is what has visited those who have sought help amongst us. You must know that when you need help yourself that the words which pronounce a death sentence are the very words you are speaking …


‘Another life lost to an asylum system predicated on injustice’, by Alison Phipps, from The National, 17th May, 2020

Alison Phipps (Swinfen) is UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow, and ambassador for the Scottish Refugee Council.

Photo from Alison Phipps ©

Right to Remain

From Right to Remain:

Right to Remain’s vision is a world in which everyone can exercise their right to remain with dignity and humanity, where they need to be.

People leave their homes and come to the UK for many reasons. People are fleeing war, persecution and poverty; are coming to join family in the UK; are coming here to work or study. It’s not easy to make it here, and when people arrive the struggle isn’t over. People are faced with a Hostile Environment denying them basic rights, and major obstacles to establishing their legal rights to stay.

Right to Remain works with communities, groups and organisations across the UK. We provide information, resources, training and assistance to help people to establish their right to remain. We challenge injustice in the immigration and asylum system.

Right to Remain

Iona Community members Robert Swinfen and Katherine Rennie are on the Management Committee of Right to Remain.

Global ceasefire: Tell Dominic Raab to end UK arms sales, from Campaign Against the Arms Trade

From CAAT:

Campaign Against Arms Trade are petitioning the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to back up his verbal support for a global ceasefire by ending UK arms sales, which divert vital funds from supporting human needs.

The UN Secretary General has called for an historic global ceasefire, to allow war-torn countries the chance to focus on responding to the Covid-19 crisis. A ceasefire could allow vital humanitarian aid to people in need, alleviate already stretched healthcare workers, and offer a crucial window to build lasting political solutions.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has backed the call for a global ceasefire. Now he must turn these words into action.

Call on the Foreign Secretary to take a lead at the UN Security Council in building a unified backing for a global ceasefire; and turn these words into action by ending UK arms sales, which only fuel and exacerbate tensions and divert spending away from critical human needs.

Global ceasefire: Tell Dominic Raab to end UK arms sales

There will be a future: Poetry during a time of pandemic

Just a handful of the many poems e-Coracle has received over this time from members, associates and friends. Thank you, all. (Ed.) …

May we always remember, by associate Liz Delafield

Nobody saw it coming.
It changed everything.
All those things that seemed important yesterday,
Ofsted, SATs, spreadsheets of
data, observations,
suddenly wasn’t.
We began to realise what was.
keeping safe,
being happy,
little things like soap.

May we always remember
how it felt,
when the unimportant
important things came
crashing down.
Yet with them important
important things.

Like …
a child’s hand held in safety,
laughter of a game played
together with friends,
a trip to the zoo,
lining up for school dinners,
storytime and reading books (in
real life, not online),
walking with you and helping
you grow,
saying goodbye with hugs and

And when we emerge once
instead of going back to normal,
may we go ahead, remembering
what we missed, and what we

– Liz Delafield, from the Church Action on Poverty website

During the pandemic, Church Action on Poverty’s poet in digital residence, Matt Sowerby, has been running weekly online workshops to help CAP’s partners and supporters respond creatively to the impact of the virus and lockdown. The first line of this poem was a starting-off line given by Matt.

Hazel twigs, by member Jan Sutch Pickard

‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Julian of Norwich

Delivered to the doorstep – a surprise posy with some daffodils,
to lighten the lockdown –
this budding branch of hazel catkins,
powdered with pollen, latent with life,
quivering in the spring wind.
They gladden my gaze.

Then I glimpse, amid frisky lambs’ tails,
a complex flower-shape
carved in wood: brown cups, bracts
that clasped the fruit that swelled
from the spring revels in the hazelwood.

That was then, when –
with the safe pattern of a year ahead –
hazelnuts grew sweet, full of promise.
All was in hand.

But now we need to begin again:
and who can tell, this time,
if all shall be well?

– Jan Sutch Pickard

In the time of Covid-19, by member Rosemary Power

The urban friend of friend who wished,
though skilled in academe and Internet,
to be when outside less
outside recovered knowledge
said, yearning to learn again:

‘I can’t join in enjoying
the weeds between the cracks
of walls and pavements and
our enforced time to look.’

But did you never
blow a dandelion
to tell the time;
chew honey from clover;
make a daisy chain;
yellow the chin with buttercup
to gauge your preference;
have a brush with a nettle;
prick yourself with thistles;
scratch yourself on brambles –
and eat the fruit the birds left;

see bindweed and buddleia
along the railway lines
or ivy creep
up boarded windows?

Did you never bus through hills
heathered and brackened;
see may spring white
beside the motorway?

Did you harvest conkers in the park,
see red of rowan, elder’s purple;
or watch the slender silver
of a wind-swayed birch?

Is it now so vast a task
to trust forgotten knowledge,
one foot in Eden, name
the vetch or celandine,
and columbine, cuckoo-pint,
groundsel and creeping gold?

Do we need to stoop again
with the close eyes of childhood,
lest we close our minds against
both neighbouring death
and greening earth;

with bees feeding through flowers,
the beetles below them,
the birds above them;
and the stars above us all?

– Rosemary Power

From within the dark times, by member Joy Mead

I sense the intensity of each moment
and reach for the present hope
in words and poetry.
Why write poems? Why read?
Might the words extend the space,
create a place where sorrow and pain
are shared and everyday joy lived fully.
Might poems express the chaos within
necessary to give birth to the dancing star.

The world’s best arguments
won’t change a mind.
Only poetry, or a good story,
will do that.

So my poem strives not to belittle
your power of thought
but expand your spirit
and show the depth, variety
and richness of life.
It reaches for the inexpressible
unique human being that is you.

The fragile hope of survival
lies in how we see,
how we live one with another,
how we recognise the unknowable,
and live with uncertainties,
how we honour the earth,
our mother and sustainer.

As we struggle
in bewilderment
new leaves open
on birch and hawthorn,
bluebells carpet our woodlands
and birds sing to the dawn

and we know
that there will be a future.

How we see it,
what we hope for, is,
and can only ever be,
in our own hands.
It’s in our love.
It’s in our poetry.
For now, in this place
to be here is all,
like the cellist I heard once
at Skail Bay, Orkney
rejoicing in the place
and the moment,
playing into the birdsong
and sea sounds.

Or remembering the wonder
of hearing that gentle scraping
uncovering 3000 years of history
in a particular place.
Watch, hear, absorb,
hold each sacred moment.
Here, now.

More than human wisdom,
looking is the poet’s charge:
to mark and mourn
death and loss;
to not let things go by
unnoticed; to respond
to the daily miracles, the music
of wind in the trees,
across stones, in the grass,
the shimmer of the willow –

how I see your face
in the darkness of absence.

– Joy Mead

Good Friday 2020, by associate Bob Rhodes

The pain of having to mark Good Friday and celebrate Easter under lockdown caused me to write this poem …

In touch but not touching,
acting together by staying apart,
being close by social distancing.
Keep your distance. I don’t know where you’ve been.
The paradox of locked churches,
communion in fragmentation,
many grains gathered in one bread
broken, received in gloved hands,
gathered grapes trodden to blood
swallowed by masked mouths.

Behold the Man!
the public display of powerlessness
digitised on isolated screens.
Hands washed for personal protection
from the contagion of the unknown stranger,
the outcast, the refugee, the scandal, the crucified God,
publicly humiliated
mocked yet mocking our privileged devotions.
No tests, no ventilator, no intensive care, no air
for our sister in the homeless shelter,
our brother trafficked into servitude,
our child in squalid camp,
our Jesus, our Christ, our Saviour.

Will he rise again to drive away our fear
of the virus entombed by our feeble faith,
sealed with the rock of government instructions
our civic duty of conformity?
Will the hope of the crucified
for a banquet of rich fare
for his downtrodden sisters, brothers and children
bring our release?

What hope for locked-down privilege?
Who will roll away the stone
of former ways of vincible ignorance,
comfort in the deadly wealth
of private property and housing ladders
denying climate crisis
in Caribbean cruises, second homes and SUVs?
Or can the fear virus be vanquished, hearts changed
by suffering uncontrolling love?

– Bob Rhodes

Photo © David Coleman


Resurrection will come.

This year it may not come for us
on Easter Sunday,
but we can
wait …

You are locked down with us, Jesus,
on this strange journey.

Help us to trust you to bring us
safe home.

– Ruth Burgess, April 2020

‘St Martin’s Cross, Abbey and rainbow’ © David Coleman


May the God of hope, by associate member Philip Fox

A lovely blessing here, based on Romans 15:13, composed, played and sung by Philip Fox.

Philip has been Iona Abbey musician more than a dozen times, filling in for the resident musician when they have been on holiday. Since 1970, he has been a Church of Scotland organist and choirmaster; he is also the founder/conductor of the Lanark & Carluke Choral Union, which in 2015 was one of the choirs chosen to sing at New York’s Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King Day. On that occasion, he and his choir were also invited by Donald Trump to sing for him at Trump Tower. About the experience, Philip says: ‘We didn’t take any money for this: I just wanted to show him that there are things which go beyond materialism. It was a witness.’



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