Iona, Camas, Glasgow

‘On this journey of peace with justice’, from Leader of the Iona Community, Ruth Harvey, and Transition Manager, Caro Penney

30th July, 2020:

A young girl speaks of her experience of food poverty. She explains that she is a carer for her mother and brothers while also attending school. She has little experience as a cook, and manages to get by on cheap, easy to prepare food. She doesn’t know she is living in ‘food poverty’ until a Church Action on Poverty programme comes alongside and supports her. She finds confidence, courage and creativity through this programme – while also discovering a community of like-minded, supportive people.

As we turn towards the next months of ‘lockdown’ easing for some, it is vital to continue to support those who remain ‘locked in’ to poverty, and food poverty in particular. The Iona Community will, over the next weeks and months, be working to support our Common Concern Networks to be a focal point for both reflection and action around key concerns: poverty, peace, environment, refugees, faith and Israel/Palestine.

Members of the Iona Community will meet together on 8th August in our AGM to affirm governance patterns for the future and to set the direction of travel for our work as we ‘pursue justice and peace in and through community’. We welcome your prayer and support. We know the road ahead will be rocky. Finances are extremely tight and the impact of the pandemic remains unknown. Staff at our Centres on Iona, Mull and Glasgow along with volunteer Trustees and our Capital Appeal team are doing a tremendous job in focusing on the future. This e-Coracle gives you a glimpse of the many remarkable people and ventures associated with this Community.

In the face of so much uncertainty, we remain inspired and hopeful in this venture in Community through the faith we hold, the wisdom we share, the prayers we offer and the actions we take. We hold in the light of Christ all who are on this journey of peace with justice. We give thanks for the hard work of the many who are quietly supporting small charities to survive in such uncertain times. Our thanks to each of you who find new and creative ways to live out your commitment to peace with justice – and thanks also to all of you who continue to support the Iona Community.

– Ruth Harvey, Leader: [email protected]

– Caro Penney, Transition Manager: [email protected]

Wild geese on the wing © David Coleman

‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer’, from Bénédicte Scholefield, Operations Manager, Iona Community, Isle of Iona

30th July, 2020:

This verse from Romans 12:12 seems to epitomise the story of the last few months for the Iona Abbey build project. We were so so close to getting the refurbished premises finally back when lockdown came on 23rd March and the contractors were told to leave the site. We were four days away from completion – a mere four days after months and months of hard work! Can you imagine the frustration?

Even now that lockdown is easing and the contractors have been allowed back on site, our patience continues to be tested. The virus keeps disrupting the availability of the various specialists that need to return for the finishing touches, and what would have taken four days is turning into weeks. At the time of writing, there is no handover in immediate sight. We are now looking at ‘sometime in August’ – maybe, possibly, hopefully (!).

We are not downcast, however. The team now has permission to enter the premises to help with forward-planning, and we can vouch for the fact that the refurbished site looks magnificent – from the new paved entrance and the lift lobby to the raised refectory and the refurnished bedrooms and bathrooms. We know that the site will be handed over eventually – and we now know that it will have been well worth the wait.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, good wishes and encouragement. There are only 10 of us in the team on island at present, but we all feel part of a much bigger body of prayer and commitment from all over the world. It makes all the difference, and gives renewed meaning to the words of the prayer that we say together every Wednesday in our morning worship: ‘Further in all things the purpose of this community, that hidden things may be revealed to us and new ways found to touch the hearts of all.’

I leave you with a photograph that I am sure will make you smile: this is the sign displayed on the gates of one of the farms to remind people about social distancing. Keep smiling – and please keep praying!

– Bénédicte Scholefield

Sign by Mark Scholefield

Worship in the Abbey Church, from Iona Abbey Warden, Catriona Robertson

31 July, 2020:

Visitors are once again arriving on Iona and enjoying the natural beauty of the island.  

Although we will not be welcoming residential guests until slightly later in the season, we are receiving enquiries about worship in the Abbey Church and I’m aware of Members, Associate members and Friends who are planning to visit the island during the summer.

As you know, the Abbey is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). HES closed all its sites on 18 March, including the Abbey. The grounds of the Abbey are open, but the buildings are closed to the public. Although a few HES sites are now reopening, there are no plans at present to reopen the Abbey.

However, the Iona Community is working closely with HES in the hope that we can welcome visitors to daily services in the Abbey Church. The Abbey will remain closed as a visitor attraction, but people will be welcome to join us for worship each day as soon as we are able.

Services will be different because of Covid-19 regulations, but everyone will be made welcome. Please be in touch if you’re planning to visit – we’d be very happy to see you.

Please check the website for updates on dates and times.

– Catriona Robertson

Iona Abbey window photo © David Coleman

Life in community on Iona, by Iona Abbey Warden, Catriona Robertson

12th July, 2020:

Tall grasses and wildflowers have surrounded the Abbey this summer; the Street of the Dead has come to life.

For the Resident Group, it’s been an intense experience of living in community: tough and testing, costly and precious. Our daily worship together in the Mac, joined by goldfinches and corncrakes outside, has sustained us through tears and laughter, frustration and anxiety, joy and sorrow.

The patience, generosity, courage and small acts of kindness shown each day by our small team has been an inspiration.

Lockdown is easing, the months of isolation over. The ferry is now permitted to carry us off the island and the first visitors have been spotted, with rucksacks and sunhats, making Iona feel a bit more like seasons past.

In time we’ll be sharing our worship and community life with the first guests to join us in the beautifully refurbished Abbey. We’ll hear about their lockdowns, too, how they are rebuilding community, their justice and peace activities and their plans for renewed worship.

It may be a sober time to be looking to the future, but a glance at the Psalms – which Columba loved so much – tells us that we are not the first to be facing uncertainty nor the first to be heard by a loving God.

We’ll be learning, making links, strengthening bonds, encouraging and challenging one another. Our guests will leave with a lived experience of, and a live connection to, the dispersed Iona Community.

Yet by day God’s love assures me;
come night, a song leaves my lips,
a prayer to the God of my life.

From Psalm 42

‘Iona Abbey with butterflies’, by David Bond, Iona Abbey Sacristan © David Bond

‘Iona Easter 2021’, an artwork by Iona Abbey Sacristan, David Bond

Another life-in-all-its-fullness, and hopefully prophetic, artwork by Resident Group member David Bond, who is Iona Abbey Sacristan. Thanks so much for your vision, David. (Ed.)

‘Iona Easter 2021’ © David Bond

Camas bookings availability

Although our usual programme at Camas has been suspended due to Covid-19, Camas is open for bookings to small groups of individuals and families to experience a week of closeness to nature, outdoor recreation, community- building and reflection. Spaces are available for the following weeks:

24th-29th August

August 31st-5th September

7th-12th September

14th-19th September

Please contact Camas Coordinator Tom Wardle at [email protected]

Camas

Camas garden photo © Rachel Daniels (a former Camas volunteer)

From Camas Coordinator, Tom Wardle

June, 2020:

Hi, I’m Tom Wardle, the Camas Coordinator.

Camas isn’t entirely new for me. I was a volunteer here in 2010 after visiting as a group leader with Cre8 Youth & Community Programme in 2009. This is when I met my partner, Rachel, so Camas is a special place for us. After volunteering at Camas, I returned to Cre8 as a Youth Worker and Project Manager for another 10 years, bringing groups of disadvantaged young people and adults to Camas at every opportunity. During this time Rachel and I married, and had two wonderful children, Rowan and Douglas, who are now three and one.

Rachel and I love this place for its community spirit, closeness to nature and passion for caring and bringing out the best in people. To bring our family here was such a wonderful opportunity, and we felt we’re at a point in our lives where we have something to offer back to Camas, which has given so much to us.

Camas

Photo © Tom and Rachel Wardle. Used with permission

A treasure to behold: The wildflowers of the Camas woodland, from Camas Gardener, Alan Kane

May 2020:

In the woodland of the walled garden, celandines’ (Ranunculus ficaria) yellow blobs of colour came through on the first flower day of April, as did the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) in the pond at the bottom of the garden. Then came the purple of the dog violet (Viola riviniana), as well as the star-white of the leaf garlic ramsons (Allium ursinum).

In the wider surround and the newly planted woodland, the pale yellow and white of the primrose (primula vulgaris) appeared in abundance; around and about, there are wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) with white heads of sepals, and the rising bowed heads of water avens (Geum rivale) push up here and there, as do small but bold louseworts (Pedicularis sylvatica) with their almost moss-like leaves around reddish-pink labiate-like flowers.

And now, as the full moon of May wanes, the bluebells (hyacinthoides) are opening. Soon also the foxgloves (Digitalis) will show a great display – thanks to the efforts of many dedicated bracken-bashers over the past years.

At the most moist parts of the hillside are the highly defined, starlike leaves of the butterwort (pinguicula), along with many small sedges, rushes and cotton grass. The hillside is abundant with interesting and beautiful flowers and this all within the herb layer.

Above all this array are the flowering naturalised willows, with warblers picking their way through them and the new-planted woodland pushing up beyond their supports, which will, in only a few years, be contributing flowers and pollen to the wildlife and surrounding environment.

This woodland is for sure a treasure to behold for all who take an interest.

Foxgloves, by Alan Kane ©

Vacancy with the Iona Community in Glasgow – Member Engagement Administrator

We are looking to recruit a Member Engagement Administrator based in our Glasgow office. 

This is a vital supporter-facing role, providing an excellent level of administrative service to the Iona Community’s members (all formally affiliated full Members, Associate Members, Friends and Groups) and non-affiliated supporters and donors.

The post-holder will play a key role in ensuring that all communications with members and supporters are handled efficiently and effectively and that the Iona Community’s database accurately reflects the details and wishes of our members and supporters. They will also process and capture all financial data relating to donations and gifts.

Deadline for applications: Tuesday, 18th August 2020

For more information and application forms

Iona gate, by David Coleman ©

Voices out of lockdown – new book from Wild Goose Publications, edited by member Jan Sutch Pickard

During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in spring 2020, many people turned to writing: diaries, letters, cards, poems. Human words, sent out across the void of our isolation, shouted into the storm over which we had no control. What we could do was communicate with each other, raise our voices against the silence of separation, argue with our own doubts, call out to God, express our fragile hope.

Here are the voices of just a few – members and associates of the Iona Community – with poems, psalms, songs, affirmations of faith and prayers written during a full and fraught ten weeks.

Contributors: John L. Bell, Ruth Burgess, Liz Delafield, Elaine Gisbourne, Joy Mead, Peter Millar, Hans-Olav Moerk, Jan Sutch Pickard, Chris Polhill, Rosemary Power, Bob Rhodes, Thom M Shuman, Desirée van der Hijden and Martin Wroe

We offer these human words believing that when the darkness seems overwhelming, light dawns; that into the silence of our worst fears God speaks a living Word.

Jan Sutch Pickard is a member of the Iona Community, a former Warden of Iona Abbey, a storyteller, liturgist and Methodist lay preacher. Her other books include Out of Iona, A Pocket Full of Crumbs, Walking through Advent and Sing But Keep On Walking (Wild Goose Publications).

Voices out of lockdown, Wild Goose Publications

Wild Goose Publications

The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion – new book with a contribution by John L. Bell

From the book blurb:

Is it possible to believe in God and be gay? How does it feel to be excluded from a religious community because of your sexuality? Why do some people still believe being LGBT is a sin?

The Book of Queer Prophets contains modern-day epistles from some of our most important thinkers, writers and activists: Jeanette Winterson tackles religious dogma, Amrou Al-Kadhi writes about trying to make it as a Muslim drag queen in London, John Bell writes about his decision to come out later in life, Tamsin Omond remembers getting married in the middle of a protest, and Kate Bottley explains her journey to becoming an LGBT ally.

Essays from: Jeanette Winterson, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Padraig O Tuama, Garrard Conley, Juno Dawson, Rev. Winnie Varghese, Keith Jarrett, Jay Hulme, Lucy Knight, Tamsin Omond, Erin Clark, Michael Segalov, Jarel Robinson-Brown, John L. Bell, Mpho Tutu van Furth, Karl Rutlidge, Garry Rutter, Rev Rachel Mann, Jack Guiness, Dustin Lance Black, Ric Stott. Book curated by Ruth Hunt.

The Book of Queer Prophets, HarperCollins

Common Concern Networks

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 Nisbett

E-mail: [email protected] 

Faith and Spirituality:

Moderator: Tony Phelan

E-mail: [email protected]

Migration, Refugees and Asylum seekers:

Moderator: Robert Swinfen

E-mail: [email protected] 

Palestine and Israel:

Moderator: Mike Mineter

E-mail: [email protected] 

Poverty and Inequality:

Moderator: Alison Jackson

E-mail: [email protected]

‘Iona Community on Glasgow Climate March’, © Pat Bennett

From the ‘Palestine and Israel Common Concern Network’, from Iona Community member Eurig Scandrett

There is increased campaigning activity on the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Originally formed in 1901 in Britain to raise funds for Zionist colonisation and the establishment of the ‘Jewish Nation’ in Palestine, the organisation has pursued an agenda of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians for more than 100 years. It now has parastatal recognition in Israel and offices in countries throughout the world, including separately in the UK and in Scotland, both of which are registered charities. Following complaints to the Charities Commission, the campaign is now focusing on lobbying the Fundraising Regulator and the Attorney General on the grounds that the JNF raises funds for activities that are clearly not charitable. 

On 30th June, the JNF was in the Israeli High Court to pursue the eviction of the eighteen members of the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. A broad coalition of groups, including Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and Stop the JNF UK, is campaigning to stop the eviction, and an Early Day Motion 529 sponsored by the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard is gathering signatures in support (write to your MP if they haven’t already signed it). The family is attempting to appeal the High Court decision and pressure on the JNF can help – please sign the letter to the JNF urgently.

Stop the JNF, made up of the UK and Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaigns and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, have been running monthly webinars to increase knowledge of the organisation.

The JNF, bizarrely, claims to be an environmental NGO, running environmental projects in Israel, encouraging international supporters to plant trees (often on land from which Palestinians have been evicted) and investing in water-saving technologies. It is currently involved in a major project to establish forests and Jewish-only communities in the Negev in Southern Israel. The Negev is a desert, inhabited by Bedouin, so the JNF’s project involves displacing the Bedouin population, demolishing homes, mosques and public buildings, and relying on water diverted from the River Jordan – a social and ecological catastrophe. Nonetheless, the JNF’s greenwash means that it has observer status at the annual conferences of parties (COP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The campaign to prevent JNF Israel from attending COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 has been endorsed by Friends of the Earth Scotland.

– Eurig Scandrett

Eurig Scandrett is an academic, educator and activist in peace and social and environmental justice. He is a senior lecturer in public sociology at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He convened the Iona Community’s ad hoc working group on Israel/Palestine 2015-18. He is currently chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and active in Stop the JNF.

Photo © Mike Mineter

From the ‘Poverty and Inequality Common Concern Network’, from Iona Community member Alison Jackson

This network was originally called ‘Poverty and Justice’, but we came to the conclusion that justice covered a very wide area – including all the other CCNs! We thought that the intention was probably to look at fairness, so decided to call ourselves ‘Poverty and Inequality’. This still leaves a very wide area of concern. As Chair of Church Action on Poverty, my main focus is on poverty and inequality in the UK. Issues here include: 

The level of benefits It is welcome that the government increased the amount of Universal Credit during the restrictions arising from Covid-19, but there is still a 5-week delay before it is paid and the repayments for the loans to tide people over significantly reduce the payments once they do start. 

Benefit sanctions With the current employment situation and social distancing still in place, it is far too early for the government to reintroduce sanctions – i.e. withhold benefit – if people are unable to demonstrate that they are looking for work, but they have done so from 1 July.

Zero hours contracts While a few people welcome the flexibility, those who also receive benefits often find that the retrospective reduction in benefits when they have worked more hours comes in a month when they have worked far fewer hours, with the result that they struggle to pay rent and other bills.

Poverty and inequality also relates to the international situation. I rely on other members of the group for expertise in this area, but even the most superficial reading of the press raises issues around the sharing of resources to combat the pandemic. It is also a matter of serious concern that in abolishing the Department for International Development, the government is planning to use development funds not for the relief of poverty but to further the UK’s foreign policy objectives. There was some strong criticism at the time this was announced which was covered in the media, but it has gone quiet now. It seems that a pandemic is indeed a good time to bury bad news.

New members are very welcome. Email me at [email protected] and we’ll take it from there.

– Alison Jackson

Alison Jackson is the Chair of Church Action on Poverty’s Council of Management.

Photo of Alison Jackson ©

Members, associates and friends

When will black lives matter?, by member Iain Whyte, in Fife, Scotland

13th June, 2020:

I was at a party in Montgomery, Alabama, after the 50th anniversary march in 2015, when a white guest declared that he thought that ‘justice had been done’, with the exoneration of the Ferguson, Missouri policeman who had shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. Attorney James Wilson, whose grandfather had been a role model for Dr Martin Luther King, leaned forward. ‘Give me,’ he said, as if addressing a jury, ‘one single example of justice being done to African Americans in the last 150 years.’

In the light of Ferguson, we carried placards on the Selma march: ‘Black Lives Matter’. But we also carried those proclaiming ‘Stop Voting Oppression’, and I was made aware by my companions how many of the gains, made at such human cost in 1965, had been rolled back in recent years in America.

George Floyd’s brother Philonese made a heartfelt appeal to Congress: ‘Stop the pain.’ Those of us who are white, cannot ever fully enter into the pain of racism felt even by our closest friends, and so our feelings have to be provisional, even in solidarity. The marches, protests, action and calls for a more visible witness to the legacy of slavery in public places in Britain have challenged us all. Once again the media has ‘discovered’ Scotland’s shameful and extensive involvement in slavery. Three decades ago any history of Scotland (or Bristol) had no reference to the ‘s’ word. That has changed, but far more education is needed in schools and on statues. Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Minister of Justice, recently paid tribute to the many unsung heroes of the abolition movement, who should have monuments recognising them.

Language is an important tool for establishing respectful and dignified relationships. We know it well in the fields of gender, sexuality and different abilities. We may not use the old demeaning descriptive words, but we need to go further and respect how BAME folk define their identity. In my writing I have learnt from African American friends to refer wherever possible to ‘enslaved people’ and ‘self-liberated’ rather than ‘slaves’ or ‘runaways’.

We need to celebrate the heroes of their past struggles. In Glasgow there is a tribute at Hampden Park to Andrew Watson, the first black Scottish international footballer in the 1880s, and Glasgow University’s new James McCune Smith building honours an African American medical student in the 1830s, who became a key figure in his country’s abolition movement.

Football has seen a mixture of progress and lack of it. ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ has gone some way to mitigate the foul racial abuse. Often fans regulate it. At a Scottish Premier League match that my team were playing some years ago, our popular black French goalkeeper was subjected to grunts and obscene noises by an opposition supporter. One of our young fans leaned over the barrier. ‘That’s f—ing racism,’ he proclaimed, ‘that’s f—ing illegal.’ It shut the racist up. Raising our voices to challenge racist remarks everywhere is always important. Yet, as Raheem Sterling, the English international, pointed out recently, it is still incredibly hard for those of his race with qualifications to break into the structures of coaching and management.

If ever something demonstrated institutional racism in Britain it was the recent play Sitting in Limbo on BBC1, the true story of Anthony Bryan from Jamaica, one of 850 who came to Britain from Jamaica in the 1950s, and between 2012 and 2017 faced what was effectively ethnic cleansing. Home Office officials had destroyed (or lost?) documents. It could have come straight from Kafka. Our late Iona colleague Stanley Hope constantly highlighted our racist immigration policy decades ago. Here in Fife the family of Sheku Bayoh, who died in police custody in 2015, are still awaiting answers. We must heed the recent call by Anas Sarwar MSP to change the culture, by addressing the all but total absence of BAME representation at the highest level across Scottish public life.

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Jamaican-born scientist and community activist, told me that he sees hope in recent events and even the spirit of God active in the ‘take the knee’ symbolic gestures of protesters, witnessing to crucifixion and resurrection, and in the challenge of young people throughout the world to structural racism. He believes that gains are possible, as in a scheme in which he was involved that challenged the NHS in Scotland on Senior Management. In one area, he said, BAME appointments, after training, jumped in two years from 4 to 24.

Attorney James Wilson also sees hope. In a recent e-mail he wrote:

‘The struggle continues … A system based in the exploitation of others is immoral and will eventually fail. “Great” civilisations in the past rooted in the exploitation of others have demonstrated this. Can the American system survive without drastic changes? No. Thanks to African Americans, persons of color, and those of all races who have joined the struggle for human rights for oppressed people all over the world. The battle is truly the Lord’s.’

– Iain Whyte

Iain Whyte is a retired minister and university chaplain who has been a member of the Iona Community since 1966. He is the author of Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756-1838 (Edinburgh University Press), and the editor of Football’s Faithful Fans (Siglum).

Photo of Iain Whyte ©

A reflection from America, by associate member Katharine Preston in Essex, New York

23 June, 2020:

The bright-yellow goldfinches – little bursts of sunlight with black wings and foreheads, flitting around our bird feeder – know nothing about Covid-19 nor about kairos moments.

As far as I know.

This is the kind of assumption, though, that gets us into trouble. Just because I recognise a happening, an event, a time, as a ‘propitious moment for a decision or action’, others may not see it the same way.

So, when Neil (Editor of e-Coracle) asks me for a reflection from America, and suggests that he was thinking ‘Black Lives Matter, Trump, Covid, climate, future, election, in about 700 words’, I say to myself: Right. Here I am in my lily-white, isolated rurality of practically no Covid cases, my personal climate-related worry being whether there will be enough rain for my vegetable garden this summer. Reflection for me on the ‘future’ has a hard time getting beyond next weekend. And November? In my fearful moments I wonder how my well-armed, staunchly-conservative-neighbours-who-fly-a-confederate-flag-from-their-trucks-or-paint-one-on-their-garage-door (and believe me – there are plenty of arms) will react if (when?) Trump doesn’t win the election. And I wonder if they will see the irony if Trump decides to call out federal troops against the general populace if he doesn’t like the results. And I cringe reading about states passing voting rules and regulations specifically designed to disenfranchise groups of voters who might vote the way I do.  

Our perspective is gravely constrained by our genetics, our heritage, our education, our address, our privilege. This is what the BLM movement wants us to understand.

Amen. So: this is one very limited reflection from America.

I feel fear and despair that can be countered only by hoping and praying that the Spirit is collecting all the disparate injustices together and presenting us with an existential opportunity to change into something new and, God-willing, a lot better.

Is this a kairos moment? I hope so.

We hear a lot about ‘intersectionality’ these days. Injustices are felt by people due to a combination of factors. ‘I can’t breathe’: not only because of entrenched racism, but because of how that plays out in inadequate healthcare, poor schools, pay inequality, food deserts. Covid-19 has unmasked (how ironic) the privilege and inequality in this country, as black and brown people are dying, at a minimum, twice the rate of white people from the disease. Find climate injustice – homes near fossil-fuel-related facilities surrounded by toxic air and polluted water – and you will find high rates of infection and death.

The murder of George Floyd was like a lightning strike on the tinder-dry ground of systemic racism in America, racism grounded in white violence against the earth, against the indigenous people of this country, against the slaves that provided the engine for the growth of a capitalist system that puts profits over the people and then securely institutionalises it by conservative judicial interpretations of our Constitution. Increasingly, a small minority, almost exclusively white, seems to be favoured instead of ‘we the people’.

However, since the murder of George Floyd, I have seen a surprisingly broad and rapid attempt on the part of white people in this country to listen, learn and act in response to our white privilege. What gives me the most hope is that young folks are out front and very determined.

This (below) is a photo of Aida DeWeese-Boyd. Aida, 17, along with her brother, Jesse, 19, are members of our northern New England Iona Family Group. I do not know how intimately children in Family Groups in the UK are involved, but these two have been alongside us since the beginning of our meetings eight years ago. They were never shielded from the tough, emotional and deep discussions we have had.

Aida organised a Black Lives Matter protest in her small town in Massachusetts. They expected a couple of dozen people. A couple of hundred showed up. Her mother, Margie DeWeese-Boyd, reports: ‘Aida personally invited the Georgetown police – the entire force showed up, including a few state troopers, who joined in and took a knee with the crowd for a silent 8 minutes and 46 seconds.’

These acts of solidarity and justice have been repeated in thousands of small towns across America over the past few weeks. Violence has been rare. Time and time again, the pictures show young people out front. The protests, along with countless statements of support for Black Lives Matter (unheard of even six months ago) by large and small businesses, other non-profit groups, academia, the media, make me feel as if the people of America are beginning to hear and listen.

But then, I just don’t know. Will it continue? Covid-19 has taught us what it is like to live in an ‘I just don’t know’ time. We strive for foresight and understanding, but the ground under us shifts. A virus crosses the animal/human barrier. A life is snuffed out by a knee on a neck. And the reverberations cross the entire world. But will systemic change occur?

I just don’t know.

Rev. William Barber II, one of our country’s best-known progressive clergy, calls for a ‘moral reconstruction’ that pulls in people of all backgrounds and races and forces sweeping policy changes rather than moderate tweaks. ‘The streets aren’t calling for moderate change,’ Barber said in an interview. ‘God help us if we don’t.’

I guess kairos moments are like this: uncertain, exciting, hopeful, frightening.

The alongside-support of the Iona Community has been a blessing to me: e-mail correspondence with our Family Group; sharing thoughts, fears and prayers in a recent Zoom gathering of our Northeast USA region; and in particular, the weekly service for the Community via Zoom from Somewhere in Scotland.

The sharing with Community members and associates reminds me that I am not crazy working for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. They inspire me.

And I am reminded to always be ready to celebrate the signs of the dawning of God’s community on earth. I see that in the faces of the young, determined to work for a more perfect day.

Margie DeWeese-Boyd is generous with her credit: ‘Aida and Jesse have been watching, listening and admiring you all [the Family Group] for a good portion of their young lives. They watch as you think, act and live with courage and conviction. Thank you for speaking into their lives – your voices seem to have landed!’

Praise be to God.

And thanks for the extra words, Neil.

– Katharine Preston

Thank you, Katharine. (Love, Ed.)

Photo of Aida DeWeese-Boyd, by Bett Keenan © Used with permission

The feeling of communion: On the St Columba’s Day Recommitment Service, June 9th, 2020, from associate member Michael Caldwell in Walcott, Vermont, USA

The highlight of our Feast Day of St Columba, June 9, here in Vermont, was the feeling of communion with almost 400 Iona members and associates via Zoom. To share the recommitment litany for associates whilst visibly watching other associates – priceless and powerful.

Meeting other Iona folks in the breakout groups showed one silver lining of the pandemic: we got to meet people we’ve prayed with for decades! …

Photo of Michael Caldwell ©

Reflection on the Iona NE USA Regional Group Plenary, 12-13th June, 2020, from associate member Katharine Preston in Essex, New York

There was no long and lovely sandy beach to walk on, no pink and white roses to smell, and no wonderful, welcoming sisters, but members of the Iona NE USA Regional Group had an insightful Zoom meeting in June, replacing our regular gathering at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford, Maine.

We met for about two hours late Friday afternoon, and two hours on Saturday morning.

It is a challenge when organisers are asked to pivot from a tried and true agenda to something quite new, but Rosemarie Buxton did a terrific job. On Friday, we shared in the Act of Prayer for use ‘When Community Gathers’, led by various people, and including thoughtful ‘Words of Wisdom’ from Michael Caldwell (which can be downloaded below).

We did some check-ins and sharing as a whole group (there were 23 of us) as breakout sessions did not prove to be possible. Most of us found ourselves responding to Rosemarie’s question: ‘How has our connection with the Iona prayer and Rule kept our lives in balance during this time of pandemic and societal crisis?’ …

Saturday morning included a report on the New World Foundation, the Capital Appeal and improving communications with Glasgow. It is clear to us that the new Leader, Ruth Harvey, wants to continue Peter Macdonald’s encouragement toward a structure that will work in America. But there are so many changes happening at the administration level in Scotland, it is hard to get them to focus on some of our suggestions, such as more realistic division of regions.

We then focused back on the Rule. Rosemarie challenged us to think about the micro level (how has the Iona prayer and Rule kept our lives in balance, in harmony at a personal level?); the meso level (how has the Rule informed our ministries, community and institutional work, church, government, volunteering?); and the macro, global/cosmic level (how is the Rule challenging, and is challenged by, what is happening in our contemporary culture?).

The discussion was sincere, sometimes challenging, as most of our minds were reeling with the issues surrounding Black Lives Matter and white privilege, which dominated the conversation. Prayer was a given; we struggled more with trying to figure out the best actions to take, particularly during a continued lockdown. But the sharing was good.   

We talked about next year. Bridget Buck offered to search for a Black-owned establishment convenient to us all for 2022. (We will for sure return to Biddeford next year, as some people have rolled over their payments.)

 – Katharine Preston

Word-and-Wisdom-Michael-Caldwell-1.pdf

Iona NE USA Regional Group plenary photo ©

Morning and evening prayer, from associate member Thom M Shuman in Columbus, Ohio, USA

Recently Thom, who is well-known in the Community, and beyond, for his challenging and very original prayers and reflections, has started to offer Morning and Evening prayer on YouTube. A link to Thom’s YouTube channel here:

Morning and Evening prayer, from Thom Shuman

And a service from Thom below to give you the idea:

Giving God space, from a letter from associate member John McCall in Taiwan

Dear Friends,

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the concept of space recently. Living in Asia for over 20 years has transformed the way I look at space. Taiwan has almost the population of Australia living on an island the size of Maryland and Delaware combined. Most of Taiwan’s landmass is made up of sparsely populated high mountains, so the bulk of the population lives in tightly packed cities along the west coast. When walking on a sidewalk in Taiwan, it is hard to practise social distancing. In spite of the close quarters, the government here has done an excellent job of containing the spread of the virus, and schools and businesses have remained open.

While I live in the teeming city of Taipei, just 20 minutes up the mountain is a beautiful national park called Yang Ming Mountain. This open space so close to the city is amazing. Many of Taiwan’s aboriginals, with whom I have enjoyed serving over many years, live in high mountains. One of our former seminary students from a high mountain village never quite adapted to the population density of Taipei. Occasionally, he just had to return to the mountains to breathe the air and walk on isolated mountain trails. His identity was shaped by the space surrounding his village.

The first of four books which I have written, published here in Mandarin, is called Giving God Space. Now obviously, this title is somewhat misleading, for we do not first give God space. Space is always a gift from God. Space for beauty. Space for relationship. Space for growth. But in the dramatic changes we have seen and experienced around the world this year, space has been closed in lockdown. Parks, movie theaters and churches have closed their spaces. Folks have been limited to the space in and around their homes. But space has also been opened up. Friends, who have not talked for years, suddenly find space and time to nurture relationship. The space in our backyards suddenly seems filled with the beauty of nature. For some, the quiet has led to space for God.

In art there is a term called negative space. In a painting often the space surrounding the main focus of the painting is empty. If all the space in a painting or a room is full, it is hard to appreciate the beauty. 

So much of my work here over the years in spiritual formation with churches, seminary students and pastors has been to allow God to open up space for us to see with new eyes. One of my best friends here is an aboriginal school principal. The three schools he has served, including his current school, have largely non-aboriginal students. They are students who come from the majority Han population. And my friend, Libunu, using his aboriginal vision, seeks to create space. Taiwanese work hard under great pressure. The students are focused on getting into a good university even in primary school. Libunu, as he arrives at a new school, looks at the buildings and the campus. He seeks to use local art related to the setting of that school. His first school was near the ocean and he commissioned an artist to create wooden flying fish on the walls of the school. But even more important than the art, is the way he gives the teachers and students space. He is a Christian and his faith shapes the way he creates a culture of acceptance at the school. Many of the students come from challenging backgrounds, and Libunu wants to create space where all are accepted and affirmed.

Space is where we meet God and where we meet one another. Space is where we come to know ourselves as God’s children. May God give you such space in these challenging days.

Warmest blessings,

John McCall

John McCall has been teaching at seminaries in Taiwan for over twenty years. He also mentors, accompanies and learns from pastors throughout Asia.

Photo of John McCall and friends ©

Refugees on the edge of Britain, by member Rosemary Power

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

… Most of my work was with the charity Care4Calais, which mainly provided phone-charging and hot drinks, along with donated clothing, sleeping bags and tents, the supply of which has almost dried up in a year without the festivals where such items are frequently abandoned. Among the other charities was the First Aid Support Team, which worked out of the back of a volunteer’s car, and the Refugee Kitchen, a mobile unit that provided 1500 hot meals a day … There were Kurds, Afghans, Syrians, Eritreans, Somalians, Iranians and others, from war-torn countries and oppressive regimes, seeking refuge, with a rosy vision of Britain. Family reunion was the commonest reason, while some are simply stuck where their traffickers left them. Some feel drawn because they speak some English, and having faced hostility elsewhere seek to gain entry, and then contribute …

We heard some of the stories. A widowed father struggled to raise four small children in their tent: a bomb has killed his wife. A professor with a wife dying in London was one of twenty-two rescued from a capsising dinghy, returned to France with hypothermia, and desperate to try again. One teenager, after four years of trying to reach his mother in London, said: ‘This is no life here. I’ll risk the sea, or try to get on a lorry. I want to be a doctor.’

Another said: ‘Why talk about the danger? We’ve crossed the Mediterranean, the Sahara. Now, some days we can see England.’ A young man, with sad eyes that came alight only when he spoke of his faith, had fled Boko Haram and now had no family to return to. ‘So many died. Why am I alive?’ Another sought treatment for suppurating legs caused by gunshot wounds. What is the response to a man whose right index finger has been sliced off, who says the single word: ‘Libya’? …

More:

Refugees-on-the-edge-of-Britain-by-Rosemary-Power.pdf

Care4Calais

Photo from the Care for Calais website ©

Miles for Refugees, from member Rachel McCann and the British Red Cross

From Rachel McCann and the British Red Cross:

I’m taking part in Miles for Refugees, and I’d love it if you could sponsor me. It’s a brilliant cause and together we can help the British Red Cross continue supporting refugees in the UK.

So far, 2020 has been full of challenges. We’ve had to adjust to life in lockdown, without seeing our friends and loved ones for a long time – perhaps the longest we’ve ever gone. Unfortunately, refugees and people seeking asylum know this pain all too well.

The British Red Cross stands for humanity, and believe that people who seek protection and safety in the UK should be treated fairly and humanely. That’s why Red Cross teams support refugees at every stage of their journey: from helping reunite families torn apart by war, to giving young refugees advice on careers and mental health support, to providing vital food and hygiene packs for families left vulnerable in the UK asylum system.

Through Miles for Refugees, every mile I clock up during September will help support some of the most vulnerable people in the UK.

Last year, the Red Cross supported over 39,000 refugees, people seeking asylum and migrants trying to settle into a new life in the UK. By sponsoring me, you could help change the lives of many more – thank you.

To sponsor Rachel:

Miles for Refugees

‘This is how Hiroshima started our nuclear addiction’, by member Brian Quail, from The National, 15 June, 2020

From The National, 15th June, 2020:

‘This lockdown year we have commemorated (virtually) historic anniversaries of VE Day and Dunkirk – as well we should – but a globally even more significant event will, I fear, pass without due attention. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the greatest single-act war crime in history – the use of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Being the last significant anniversary at which there will be living survivors to testify to the actualities of this atrocity, this disregard is particularly tragic …’

More:

‘This is how Hiroshima started our nuclear addiction’, by Brian Quail, from The National

Brian Quail is a veteran peace activist, campaigner, writer and long-time member of the Iona Community.

Photo © David Coleman (Brian in cap and yellow vest)

Hadeel: Fair Trade Palestinian Crafts

From the Hadeel website:

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.

Our work also helps to sustain infrastructures, as many of the producer groups also provide health, education and emergency services in their communities, which lack any form of local government which might do this.

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.)

For mail orders:

Hadeel

Photo from the Hadeel website ©

As the snow (Isaiah 55), from member David Coleman, Chaplain of Eco-Congregation Scotland

A simple, beautiful and inspiring video by Eco-Congregation Scotland Chaplain, David Coleman …

Climate Crisis: The Challenge to the Church, new book by associate member David Rhodes

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2 Responses to e-Coracle August 2020

  1. Pat Bryden says:

    Thank you again, Neil, and contributors, for an inspiring and rich offering, though with the reminder of the loss of Peter, Sibyl and Runa. There is a lot to ponder, raise hopes, support and let the little time we have on earth be worth it. Certainly, many from the Iona Community have helped me on every step of the way.

  2. Clare Sibley says:

    Thanks for the reminder about the DEC Coronavirus Appeal – worth noting that the UK government will match any donation pound for pound, so any donation is effectively doubled.

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