Our ongoing journey: Update on the Iona Community Young Adults’ Group (YAG), by YAG members Laura Gisbourne and Laura Murray 

29th August, 2020:

Firstly, we in the Young Adults’ Group would like to congratulate Ruth Harvey on her new position as the Leader of the Iona Community. We are all very much encouraged by Ruth’s confidence in and commitment to all the youth and young adults groups that are developing around the Iona Community. With Ruth leading the Iona Community, YAG is in the best position to grow and flourish within the Community, thus allowing the Community as a whole to grow, and have a future for the younger generation as well as for all other members. 

The encouragement our group has received in the past few months has been incredible. With unerring support from Ruth, and other members, we have become more certain of our aims and intentions as a group, and also more confident in our role and identity within the wider Iona Community. We have a section on the membership page of the website, our own e-mail address and recently received our own copies of the Prayer Books, with hopes that we will be included in the next edition of these. A strong connection between the Young Adults’ Group and the Iona Community promises to develop much further.

One recent focus has been a review of our group structure. Initially, we were keen to have small clusters of three or four people, loosely organised by geography, within the wider group. However, we currently number seven, and so, for the time being, we have suspended these clusters and are communicating and working together in one group.

We have monthly meetings via Zoom where we check in with each other, discuss our individual work for justice and peace, reflect together, and plan how we can develop the Young Adults’ Group during the month ahead. We still talk almost daily on Facebook, where each of us has an allocated day of the week to share some personal thoughts, general news or a positive thing we have experienced or come across. This prompt, started during lockdown, has helped us to share our joys as well as our troubles and remain connected as a group.

Several of us attended the AGM Re-Act event looking at food poverty and were impressed, inspired and energised by the discussions that took place. This session was the first in a series hosted by the Iona Youth Planning Group, a network of young people motivated by individual connections to Iona and focused on working for justice and peace. Our own Young Adults’ Group is supported by them, and they us, and some people are members of both groups. The thing that sets YAG apart, however, is our Commitment, which is our version of our engagement with the Rule of the Community.

As part of our ongoing journey in defining ourselves as a group, we asked each member to think of several words that they associate with being a part of YAG. Many words were repeated by different people and that is illustrated in the image below; the bigger the word, the more it was repeated by different members. The result is a beautiful visual depiction of the feelings and ideas we have about YAG.

In August we were given the opportunity to lead another of the weekly Iona Community members’ services. With the current pandemic, and following on from the Community AGM, our themes were ‘change’ and ‘looking forward’. We were led through a wonderful prayer shaped by words from the hymn ‘For everyone born, a place at the table’. At the end of each section we all responded in unison: ‘God, inspire and disturb us, that we might become creators of justice and joy’. We also shared poems, including ‘Hilda of Whitby’, by Malcolm Guite, and ‘What if this road?’, by Sheenagh Pugh, which encourage us to embrace the difficulties and the unknowns that come with change. Change can be exhausting, exhilarating and crucial, all at the same time.

– Laura Gisbourne and Laura Murray

YAG meeting photo, and word cloud ©

Interview with Leader of the Iona Community, Ruth Harvey, and Co-Leader of the Iona Community Young Adults’ Group, Annie Sharples, from St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh

Something you might not have seen yet (Ed.).

From St Peter’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh:

In recent months, St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh has arranged interviews with various faith leaders across Scotland. The aim of these interviews has been to find common ground and to build cross-cultural, interfaith friendships by exploring the ways in which one’s faith motivates community work and actions around peace, sustainability and social justice …

Iona Community Common Concern Networks

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 seven Common Concern Networks. If you are interested in getting involved in the groups, please contact the Moderator.

Disarmament, Arms trade, Reconciliation, Peacemaking:

Moderator: Margery Toller

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]

LGBTQ+:

Moderator: Alex Clare-Young

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

Update from the CCN on the Environment, from Moderator Ran Nisbett, in Fairhope, Alabama, USA

2nd September, 2020:

CCN Enviro, one of the Iona Community’s Common Concern Networks, is now launched. We have about 15-20 pilgrims with a vast array of lived experiences, expertise and commitment to environmental education, putting faith into action, and re-enchanting the Whole Creation.

Among Iona members and associates from several countries, are retired priests and ministers, academics, leaders in civil society organisations, advocates for environmental justice movements, writers and researchers, and inspirational role models for lessening our individual and collective footprints.

A few salient themes raised by pilgrims include: interest in and role of gardening/sustainable food production, empowering local churches as eco-hubs to model the change we wish to see, and mobilising faith communities around climate and creation justice initiatives.

We had our initial ‘face-to-face’ gathering via Zoom on Sunday, 13th September. Because several of us wanted to read Iona Community associate Alastair McIntosh’s book Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being, we agreed to use a book discussion on 13 September as a forum and platform to discern the way forward in building a proactive, inclusive justice-oriented network.

We anticipate meeting monthly, or perhaps every other month. All are welcome to join the CCN – the more the merrier.

E-mail: [email protected]

Ran Nisbett photo ©

The new LGBTQ+ Common Concern Network, from group Moderator, Alex Clare-Young

I am very happy to introduce the new LGBTQ+ Common Concern Network. This network will enable us to encourage, inform and challenge each other, our Community and the world with regard to justice and peace, wholeness and reconciliation, for those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning and all others who identify with the LGBTQ+ umbrella. If you are interested in LGBTQ+ social justice, please join us. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can move forward together. May we find ‘new ways to touch the lives of all’.

E-mail: [email protected]

Members, associates and friends

Making a personal difference for Palestine – St Andrews Education for Palestinian Students (STEPS), by member Iain Whyte in Scotland

9th August, 2020:

‘Educational opportunities are of course very limited in the Israeli occupied territories, particularly in Gaza, where the repression is severe. Young Palestinians have made courageous and dedicated efforts to overcome these obstacles, with quite remarkable success …’

– Noam Chomsky

‘STEPS speaks to the Palestinians in the language of hope and humanity.’

– Yasir Suleiman

These two distinguished world academics, the one an American Jew and the other a Palestinian Muslim, are both enthusiastic supporters of STEPS (St Andrews Education for Palestinian Students). Since 2011 a voluntary group of Trustees have raised £30,000 per year to support two Palestinian students from the West Bank, Gaza or the refugee camps in surrounding countries, to undertake a year’s Master’s Course at St Andrews University. The university waives the considerable fees and the costs remain for travel, accommodation, food and a modest living allowance.

As Chomsky implies, Palestinian students need a huge amount of courage and persistence to gain an education. In the four years that I have been a trustee of STEPS it’s been a joy and a privilege to get to know some remarkable folk. What difference does the STEPS Master’s programme make to them?

Manar from Ramallah graduated from the Arts Faculty with such high grades that she was immediately offered a fully funded scholarship to undertake a Ph.D., which she is now close to completing before she returns home.

Mohammed from Gaza graduated in December 2018 as the top Master’s student in a complex field of Photonics and Optoelectronics (Laser Science). His professor, after the graduation, told me that he had never had a more brilliant student and that it was a privilege to teach him. Mohammed is now on a fully funded scholarship for a Ph.D. at Heriot Watt University.

Aya, who grew up in Lebanon, studied for an MSc in Sustainable Development, and is now back in Lebanon working for a UN agency and has been providing information on ecology to Arab Governments with regard to water resources and climate change.

Nour, from a small town on the West Bank, in 2018 faced the challenge of awareness-raising of her fellow MSc students in International Relations, and is now working for the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem, focusing on the economic empowerment of women.

Nahil, who studied medicine in Gaza, and worked voluntarily for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), recently graduated with a Master’s in Community Medicine and has been gaining experience working in Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary throughout Covid-19. She hopes to return soon to serve vital healthcare needs at home.

In addition to studies, and where time allows, many students not only interact with their colleagues from other parts of the world but also with the wider community. In May 2017 Manar took part in the Kairos Palestine Conference on Iona, where she met many Iona Community members and associates. Nahil has spoken about Gaza’s health needs at events organised by MAP and the Balfour Project. Mohammed has shared informally with MSPs and in local meetings, raising awareness on Palestine.

There have been other moments. Manar struck up a friendship with several Iona ‘vollies’ from different countries on the Iona pilgrimage. Nahil visited Iona Community member Runa Mackay in her home shortly after coming to Scotland, and these two doctors, separated in age by nearly seventy years, but united in concerns, held an animated discussion in Arabic. Mohammed joined me to watch his first Scottish football match at Tynecastle close to his flat (but definitely as a St Mirren supporter!).

I hope that these snippets indicate how vital the work that STEPS facilitates in development is. At present our two students are completing their work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We hope that they will be able to return home and our two new ones will arrive in September. But all this is uncertain. Of course STEPS is just part of equipping a few young people in an area where the needs are vast. But it is a practical way in which we can all assist change in some corner of an area crying out for justice.

Iona Community Family Groups and individuals have been brilliant in responding to the tune of over £3,000 in the last year or two and all my fellow Trustees are hugely grateful. Continued support and any new contributions would be so much appreciated. Donations can be sent through the website www.stepspalestine.org.uk or to the STEPS Bank Account: 70035436, Sort Code 82-67-30.

– Iain Whyte, member of the Iona Community; Former Chair, Christian Aid Middle East Committee; and Trustee of STEPS

Gazan students with Iain and Isabel Whyte. Photo used with permission, ©

BP on the run, by associate member Rebecca Warren in London

29th August, 2020:

A huge exhibition space. An audience of more than a thousand. And I was challenging the Chairman and CEO of BP face-to-face, aiming to convince them that climate change was a human rights concern and they should incorporate it into their human rights policy. I gave them the rope, and they both made complete fools of themselves.

Needless to say, this meeting did not take place in 2020. It was in 2017. More later on what has happened since. But how did I get to the position where I was able to challenge the directors of a multinational company?

I first visited Iona in 1995. At that point I was a rather frustrated campaigner. I had been concerned about protecting the environment since I was at school, but was not part of any organised campaigns, and did not see how I could make much impact on my own. I was also concerned about human rights, and joined Amnesty International in 1991 when I was at university. Although I was a prolific letter writer, again I didn’t think I could make much impact as an individual campaigner.

So the Iona ethos on campaigning for justice and peace struck a chord, and I joined as an associate member immediately. It took time, but I had a springboard and inspiration [1]. Now I am a part of so many campaigns that I need to focus on a few of the most important so I don’t spread myself too thin, while recognising that synergy between different campaigns can increase their impact.

Human rights and the environment, particularly climate change, will always remain a focus, and I am now on the Board of Amnesty UK Section. Another key campaign organisation is ShareAction which utilises the potential of the investment system. Think what impact you can achieve by getting a global company to improve its behaviour, or by getting a £5 billion pension fund to slash its investment in fossil fuels. Global problems such as climate change need global solutions, and this is a way in which to have a global impact.

Some campaigners with whom I have worked think that big commercial companies are beyond redemption. I agree that some of them are, but many do, at some level, want to be good corporate citizens, and often need an incentive from their shareholders to make positive changes. My message to company directors is: if you are a responsible company who wants to improve your behaviour, we will hold your toes in the fire. If you are not, we will hold your heads in the fire!

This leads to the BP campaign. I first attended the AGM in 2015, when ShareAction signed up enough shareholders to submit a shareholder resolution, requiring BP to increase its annual reporting on climate change risks. As a result, I own one share, and can continue to attend the AGM.

But after the embarrassment of the 2017 AGM [2], BP appeared to go on the run. The 2018 AGM took place in Manchester. Not far enough – my father, who lives near to Manchester, attended the AGM in my place, and asked the same question about the human rights policy. The 2019 AGM was in Scotland. Where next – the Netherlands (where the Shell AGM takes place)? Australia? Or somewhere off the face of the earth …

That was exactly what happened. For most of us lockdown was an unwanted restriction, but the directors of BP (and other companies on which ShareAction and other campaigners were turning the screw [3]) might actually have been relieved that their shareholders would not be able to challenge them face-to-face.

The BP AGM was just a broadcast, but they did allow shareholders to submit questions by e-mail. So I duly submitted my question again – Amnesty considered it warranted a press release.

But it did seem as if the directors had finally had enough of this particular question. BP announced at the AGM that they had that week updated their human rights policy. It now states, on the first page: ‘We also recognise the importance of a just transition as envisaged by the Paris Agreement – one which delivers decent work, quality jobs and supports the livelihoods of local communities. We aim to actively advocate for policies that support net zero. This includes encouraging the use of finance and revenues from carbon pricing to support the just transition.’ [4]

The sentence ‘We aim to actively advocate for policies that support net zero’ isn’t in line with their current behaviour – if they really did support net zero, they would be winding up their fossil-fuel operations. I will be ready with a new question for next year – now I can challenge them on living up to their own policy.

This may seem far removed from the trip to Iona in 1995. But I am thankful to Iona for providing the springboard.

– Rebecca Warren

Notes:

1. And music! An extract from one of my favourite songs:

‘We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams …
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.’

– Arthur O’Shaughnessy

2. For articles about the 2017 BP AGM, at which I asked two questions, see the following links. The title of the second article does rather speak for itself:

‘An American class action lawyer’: the BP AGM 2017

‘Climate change is the ultimate human rights issue – and other things BP learned at AGM’

3. For example, Barclays, which was the target of a shareholder resolution this year:

Shareholder activism allows people to power change in the financial system

4. BP Human rights policy

 

Photo of Rebecca Warren, from the Amnesty UK website, photo ©

XR Grandparents and Elders: Reflection on the XR uprising, September 2020, from Iona Community member Margery Toller

11th September, 2020:

This year’s rebellion was very different to last year’s October uprising. The London stage of it inevitably involved far fewer people, because of coronavirus, though there had been a flowering of local actions in many, many places in the run-up to the centralised stage, which happened simultaneously in London, Manchester and Cardiff. (XR Scotland took the decision not to rebel at this point as it was not the opening day of the new parliamentary session in Scotland as it was in Westminster and Wales.)

Our central message for this rebellion was that the climate emergency has not gone away, despite coronavirus – in fact quite the opposite: there is almost certainly a connection between them. And there was a demand to the government to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, put forward by Caroline Lucas, which seeks to implement some meaningful action in response to the climate emergency the government themselves have already declared. If you haven’t already, please contact your MP to urge them to support it. For more information on the bill, go to: Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

The atmosphere of this year’s rebellion was much more subdued: most rebels refrained from singing (usually a very significant feature of XR gatherings – though there was still plenty of drumming!), were wearing masks and distanced as much as they could (though we were quite concerned about the health of hundreds of police officers who neither wore masks nor practised distancing!). They stood shoulder to shoulder in lines, or walked round amongst the rebels in pairs. At times, it felt like there were more of them than there were rebels, and a much higher percentage of rebels were arrested, including John Lynes, a 92-year-old rebel I had lunch with during the rally on the first day. And the police response was heavier and more assertive: it’s easier to arrest 50 rebels sitting and lying on a road than 500.

One action, organised by XR Grandparents and Elders, which I found very moving was a silent vigil, during which a few dozen of us held up a washing line on which were pegged a number of white babygros and other baby clothes, each with the word HELP stuck to them in big black capitals, with an explanatory introduction and banner saying that we were rebelling on behalf of the current and future children of the world, trying to secure a safe legacy for them. After a silence, a number of people read out poems, or things their grandchildren had written.

Other actions that went on seemed less appropriate, for example the blockades of Murdoch-owned newspapers, but since the nature of XR is to try to be as spontaneous, creative, unpredictable, imaginative, fluid and unexpected as possible – ‘We need to be like water’ is one of the movement’s mantras for rebellions – it is impossible for every action to be centrally monitored or controlled. There are clear guidelines that all XR actions are to be non-violent and, for this rebellion, that they shouldn’t have inconvenienced any members of the public, as they are already suffering enough inconveniences as a result of coronavirus.

Two of my favourite quotes heard and seen during the rebellion:

‘We do not have a single-issue movement because we do not live single-issue lives.’ (Audre Lorde)

‘Act fast. Live slow. Change now.’

The arrival of the Lightship Greta, which ‘sailed’ from Brighton to London, was a great conclusion to the rebellion.

– Margery Toller

The Iona Community is an affiliate member of XR Peace, which is a coalition of organisations for peace and justice joining Extinction Rebellion. Organisations who have joined XR Peace so far: Trident Ploughshares, CND, Scottish CND, CND Cymru, Stop the War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, War Resisters International, Nukewatch, Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre, Nipponzan Myohoji UK Peace Pagodas …

Photo from Extinction Rebellion © Used with permission

Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being – new book by associate member Alastair McIntosh, from Birlinn

Climate change is the greatest challenge to humankind today. While the coronavirus sheds a light on the vulnerability of our interconnected world, the effects of global warming will be permanent, indeed catastrophic, without a massive shift in human behaviour.

Writer, scholar and broadcaster Alastair McIntosh sums up the present knowledge and shows that conventional solutions are not enough. In rejecting the blind alleys of climate change denial, exaggeration and false optimism, he offers a scintillating discussion of ways forward. Weaving together science, politics, psychology and spirituality, this guide examines what it takes to make us riders on the storm.

Alastair McIntosh is an independent writer, broadcaster, speaker and activist who is involved in a wide range of contemporary issues, from land reform, globalisation and nonviolence to psychology, spirituality and ecology.

Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being

Outreach project in Glasgow for COP 26, from member Gerald Taylor Aitken in Luxembourg

I am presently organising a scholar-public outreach project, funded by the Rachel Carson Centre in Munich, of a series of daily events during the COP 26 conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

Using an exhibition space less than a kilometre from the venue for the COP, we will curate and profile work being done across the academic humanities (including theology) relevant to the COP. The contributions will be grouped around the themes of equity, emissions, media, politics, energy, and a special section on the impact of climate change in Scotland. The events within the space will be half-hour lectures or films.

We will use these links to host a variety of other events: short field trips for undergraduates and Master’s students; academic-activist dialogues around particular issues; and policy forums taking the heightened focus of COP into ‘what can be done’ lessons, collectively, institutionally and politically …

– Gerald Taylor Aitken

Gerald Taylor Aitken is a research associate at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research. He researches on how community is used to understand, value and relate to the environment.

Just Psalm 8, from member David Coleman, Environmental Chaplain of Eco-congregation Scotland

A simply beautiful little film by David Coleman, Environmental Chaplain of Eco-congregation Scotland:

‘We must stand firm against cruelty of the Tory immigration system’, by member Alison Phipps, from The National

From The National, 1st October, 2020:

‘The UK Government is locked into another race to the bottom to see what new and vastly expensive system of asylum detention it might “nightmare up”.

Over the last 24 hours we’ve seen leaks in competing news outlets speculating that 10 Downing Street has proposed processing asylum applications by placing those seeking asylum in Moldova, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, on Ascension Island or ‘somewhere closer to home’ – like a remote Scottish island.

The proposals get ever more outlandish: old ferries – maybe those Chris Grayling was trying to procure – and then oil rigs …’

More:

‘We must stand firm against cruelty of the Tory immigration system’, by Alison Phipps, from The National

Alison Swinfen (works as Alison Phipps)

Photo of Alison Phipps © Used by permission

The work goes on: An update on Mediterranean Hope, from associate member Fiona Kendall, European and Legal Affairs Advisor of Mediterranean Hope

‘Mediterranean Hope is a project conceived by the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy. The project began in early 2014 as a response to the challenging situations of Mediterranean migrants. Many refugees are arriving from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East to the Italian coasts, and in particular, the island of Lampedusa.’

29th September, 2020:

Despite the difficulties and restrictions triggered by Covid-19, people continue to migrate, and the work of Mediterranean Hope goes on. This summer, the clement weather and calm seas have beckoned even more than last summer across the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Those in our Lampedusa-based team are always on hand to provide a welcome to new arrivals, as well as to monitor and report on what is happening there. In a single August weekend when over 400 arrived, migrant numbers swelled to over 1,500. Capacity in the ‘hotspot’ detention centre is for 192. I spent some time on Lampedusa this month and witnessed some of these arrivals for myself, as well as the transfer of migrants from the hotspot to two ‘quarantine ships’ moored off the island’s shores. It was desperate. From afar, the white ferries, nestled in clear turquoise waters just a few hundred metres from bikini-clad holidaymakers, looked just like floating hotels. However, close-up, from a vantage point on rocks overlooking the discreet dock where they were moored, the picture was quite different. Minibuses packed with migrants pulled up, their occupants spilling out, each with a plastic bag of personal items. Under the hot sun, they waited, now socially distanced and masked, for too long, before being called, row by row, onto the ships under the watchful eyes of Frontex, the police, UNHCR and the Red Cross. All had already been tested for Covid. However, word has it that, although separated, those who test positive share the boats with those who test negative and that, on at least one boat, the number of positive cases swelled during the quarantine period.

Despite this, the numbers testing positive amongst the migrant population is said to be tiny, much lower than amongst the population at large. Regrettably, their exposure to overcrowded conditions on arrival increases the risk of contagion. From our team’s perspective, it would make more sense for these folk to be transferred directly from Lampedusa to Italy’s half-empty reception centres to be quarantined in reasonable conditions and begin the asylum process. Instead, they are stowed temporarily on ferries off Italy’s coasts at no small cost to the state. The politics of reception are, however, complex and the messaging associated with the presence of quarantine ships is very clear. For the migrants concerned, the limbo continues: from boat to detention to boat with little clarity as to what the end result will be.  

Our advocacy work to reform migration policy and institute the expansion of our humanitarian corridors programme continues. Our bold ambition is to see corridors open across Europe from all fifteen countries along the Central Mediterranean Route, including Libya. That the political obstacles are considerable has not dampened our determination. Meanwhile, our existing corridor from Lebanon to Italy has fallen victim to Covid travel restrictions. We hope that the temporary suspension can be lifted within the next couple of months.

Covid disrupts – but disruption is not always negative. Within the past six months, Italy has been forced to recognise more explicitly the contribution that undocumented seasonal migrant workers make to its economy, and legal reform has extended some limited rights to those in sectors such as agriculture. Within recent days, the government has published its proposals to overturn the notorious ‘security decree’ spearheaded by Matteo Salvini during his tenure as Minister of the Interior. I suspect that neither of these changes would have been possible within this time-frame had we not all been forced to see things from a very different perspective. There is still much to do but, as I said at the outset, the work goes on …

– Fiona Kendall

Mediterranean Hope

Photo from the Mediterranean Hope website ©

After Grenfell – shocking institutional injustice but positive faith presence, from member Ann Leonard of the Solent Family Group

Ann Leonard and John Preston, from the Solent Family Group, responded to an invitation from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) to the Iona Community to take part in a webinar on the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy. The contributors were Bevan Powell, a former North Kensington councillor and police officer, now Advisor on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for the Methodist Church; and Revd Mike Long, Superintendent Minister, Notting Hill Methodist Church, one of the churches closest to the fire. The webinar was chaired by Revd Dr Kevin Snyman, Programme Officer for Global and Intercultural Ministries, United Reformed Church, and was hosted by CTBI and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

The official death toll on the night of 14th June, 2017 was 72, the worst British residential fire since WWII. Many who lost their lives, or were otherwise affected, were from minority ethnic communities. It is estimated that up to 1,000 people were immediately impacted by the fire, and thousands more are still traumatised.

Grenfell Tower is in the relatively deprived area of North Kensington, yet part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the richest in Europe. As the two contributors talked, it became apparent that councillors representing this poorer area were always likely to be heavily outnumbered by those representing the very affluent parts of the borough. The needs of the people in this neglected area will never be treated on a par with those of their rich neighbours. Prior to the fire it was recognised that the cladding was a fire-risk, but nothing was done.

Immediately after the disaster, it was the buildings of the many faith communities – churches, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras – that provided shelter. Local organisations and individuals rallied round and made many contributions to help those who had lost everything. It was Ramadan and many Muslims were awake at prayer and their quick response saved lives. The Anglican church was open by 2.30am and many who escaped the fire flocked to it.

Many people were initially housed in hotels but when summer sporting events such as Wimbledon began, they were moved to other accommodation to make way for those who could pay prime rates. Imagine this further disruption for people who did not even have suitcases in which to carry the few clothes and belongings they had been given – an emotive symbol of the way that marginalised people were treated.

Although help was offered to the survivors and the bereaved by the NHS, people resented being treated by psychiatric services. They said their distress was the normal response to life-threatening and terrifying events: ‘We’re not mad, we’re traumatised!’

There are signs of institutional injustice both before and after the fire. Our society sees the poor stay poor, while the wealthy progress. Racial injustice is part of this, but the victims here included many ‘white British’ as well as descendants of the Windrush generation and other ethnic communities who all felt they were not listened to by the powers that be. Residents did not trust the local council, but they do trust the faith groups and charities, whose care and support continue.

Revd Mike Long was thankful for the already strong friendships with other local faith communities and these are continuing to develop. He also said the churches needed to be both pastoral and prophetic – this is a challenge for the Iona Community too. So, how can we take it up and find new ways to empower the poor and reduce institutional injustice? How can we make a difference for good?

– Ann Leonard

The ‘Theos’ report, After Grenfell: The Faith Groups’ Response, Amy Plender

New PeaceBuilders video resource for primary schools, from friend of the Community Brian Larkin, Coordinator of Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre

Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre is releasing a series of short interactive videos for primary schools. The video sessions are based on the Cooperative Games and Conflict Resolution course PeaceBuilders have run in 25 Edinburgh primary schools since 2015. The PeaceBuilders programme helps children to develop skills in managing emotions, respect and empathy, and conflict resolution. 

The eight short films will consist of cooperative games, circle-time conversations and other activities. A detailed companion manual will allow teachers to facilitate along with the films. 

As Covid guidelines restrict outside visitors it may be difficult for our facilitators to work with classes in schools to help them process the experiences they’ve had during the pandemic. Instead, teachers across Scotland will be able to use these films to help children talk about their experience of the pandemic and lockdown, as well as providing a full PeaceBuilders course that can be accessed at any time, and into the future. 

A follow-on course called ‘Collaborative Classrooms’ will provide deeper training for teachers and pupils in nonviolent communication, restorative practice and peer mediation. 

To request a copy of the video series, please contact Fiona Oliver-Larkin, PeaceBuilders Coordinator: [email protected]

For more information

Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

A number of Iona Community folk volunteer with the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre.

Photo from Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre ©. Used with permission

The Journey of Hope: Iona Community partnering with Reconcilers Together to deliver ground-breaking training programme for faith-based reconcilers

From Reconcilers Together:

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our personal and collective response in times of crisis are crucial. As Covid-19, racial injustice and the climate crisis continue to deeply impact our society, we are inviting you to join a community of committed peacemakers on a journey of hope: not the kind of hope that simply wishes for change optimistically, but the kind of hope that faces reality, stands in solidarity, and takes radically compassionate action.

This community will be an anchor point as we explore together how to creatively and courageously respond to conflict, cultivating a more relational and resilient society.

If you believe a new, more peaceful way of being is not only possible but paramount and want to be inspired by transformative leadership and innovative practices, this training is for you.

The Journey of Hope

Photo from the Reconcilers Together website ©

Churches must take responsibility: From Trans. Christian. Human, the website of Alex Clare-Young, a member of the Community in England

From Alex Clare-Young:

… It’s time for churches to speak out; to take responsibility and to play our part in uncovering, holding back and ultimately eradicating the avalanche of violence against trans people. This requires a public apology for, and recanting of, theologies that have harmed trans people, and the active promotion of new public theologies of human being.

This is why I have created a series of memes for you to share. It’s a small start, but it’s a start.

See:

Churches must take responsibility

Alex Clare-Young is the author of Transgender. Christian. Human, Wild Goose Publications, 2019

See also Transgender Day of Remembrance and extra resources’, by Alex Clare-Young, Wild Goose

Meme from Trans. Christian. Human.

More reason to be hopeful, from member Don Stubbings in Birmingham

Someone recently described pessimism as an intellectual activity, and hope as a spiritual one which can often lead action within community.

During lockdown I listened to several BBC World Service and Radio 4 programmes which gave me more reason to be hopeful.

Here are the details, taken from the BBC websites, and links:

Regrowing the rainforest:

‘Meet the man who has spent the past 40 years turning a patch of exhausted farmland in the Amazon back into rainforest.’

Regrowing the rainforest, from the BBC News World Service

The ancient technology getting a second wind:

‘Old sailing ships are moving cargo around the world again to help cut pollution, and new sails are being designed to get monster-sized modern cargo ships using the wind as well.’

The ancient technology getting a second wind, from the BBC News World Service

Financing the forests:

‘Protecting the rainforest could make people millions of dollars under a pioneering new scheme. Bankers and conservationists have teamed up to regrow a large area of Indonesia’s jungle where endangered orangutans and tigers live.’

Financing the forests, from the BBC News World Service

Smartphones saving the rainforest:

‘Old mobile phones are being used to catch illegal loggers in the rainforest.’

Smartphones saving the rainforest, from the BBC News World Service

Fantastic plastic:

‘Plastic waste is the scourge of developing countries. Many have poor waste collection and no recycling. But there may be ways in which local people can put the waste to good use.’

(This particular programme might not be available to folk outside the UK. If so, sorry about that. Ed.)

Fantastic plastic, from BBC Radio 4

Photo of Don Stubbings ©

Expanding meaning and action through my Iona Community membership, from Jean Belgrove in England

I have been fleetingly pondering why my life seems to be dancing through troubles instead of approaching them with doom and gloom.

Result! Even more appreciation for our Community. To have regularly met by Zoom with both my Solent Family Group and the wider Iona Community has kept me alert to praise, meaning and others’ perspectives, which has led to a great feeling of balance and gratitude.

Through the opportunities given by the CCN Environmental group, I am reading Alastair McIntosh’s book Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being, and have joined the Zoom Book Club to discuss groups of chapters. Our church is in the process of recommissioning a church in an area of much need, and so I have also joined the Iona Community’s Poverty and Inequality CCN to gain more insight.

Additionally, last weekend I joined in with the Gulf Coast Creation Care talk by Dr Robert Gottfried on ‘Transforming faith, Transforming earth’. A talk with much common sense and teaching. One example that struck me: When we love somebody/something, we take care, protect and so …… encourage people into nature to learn to enjoy and learn to love – result – they will take care, protect, etc.

Together with this, YMCA chaplaincy has kept me aware of so many youngsters. At present I bake in my kitchen and deliver off goods (masked up) to the staff and youngsters outside the building.

The family allotment, improving the earth and caring for wildlife and produce, and being able to meet with others outside on a decking my son has made from recycled planks, is also a blessing.

Wishing you all love,

Jean Belgrove

Photo of Jean Belgrove ©

Helen crosses the finishline

Iona Community member Helen Wass-O’Donnell has completed a remarkable journey to raise funds for a ground-breaking MS therapy Centre.

See the full story here:

‘Helen crosses the finishline’, from the Edinburgh Reporter

And you can still donate at Helen’s Justgiving page.

Amazing, Helen! Thank you. (Love, Ed.)

Photo of Helen Wass-O’Donnell ©

‘A new way of living’: Powerful and moving reflection by member Jean Williams, from the Faith in Older People website

From Jean Williams:

‘My husband had a stroke seven years ago which destroyed speech, all of the use of his right hand, and some of the power of his right leg. Fortunately, his cognitive ability was unimpaired. We were forced together to find ways in which we could understand each other, and new ways in which to express our love …’

‘A new way of living’, by Jean Williams, from Faith in Older People

Photo of Jean Williams, from associate Isobel Booth-Clibborn, ©

Greetings from friend of the Community Iain Gow in New Zealand

28 September, 2020:

Greetings from that wee country at the bottom of the globe – yes, the one who has the fantastic young prime minister, Jacinda, as we all call her.

My name is Iain, an Anglican priest now semi-retired, as I still do work in a hospice.

My wife and I came to Iona two years ago, and I know this sounds cliché, but the thinness of the place, once again, bamboozled us. We both left having had deep encounters, some which just could not have happened. But they did. Maybe a story for another time, if Neil lets me back on!

2020 is a strange year, and I am sorry to hear that the virus continues to trouble you. We had thought we were doing all right after 100 days of no new infections, and then, the landscape changed, and somehow we had it back again. It looks like it’s on the wane again, but life now has uncertainty to it, doesn’t it?

Neil very kindly asked me to write about my second book that has been published. It’s called Tembo’s Roar – A Spiritual Journey. It’s about love, hope, redemption and the call of heaven one day. It’s illustrated, so can be used by children, but also adults. It comes hardcover or softcover and makes a great Christmas stocker filler. You can order it here.

The reason I had to write a second book was because my first book, Be Still, sold over 3000 copies – but I lost all my friends as they had to buy 50 copies each! It’s a book of prayers and blessings that we used in a monastic community here in NZ.

Enough about me. We send you blessings from NZ. If and when we are allowed to travel again, and if you decide to go on the longest trip ever by plane, please let Linda and I know, as we would love to show you around! There are many deep connections between Maori and Celtic spirituality!

And … before I finally leave, I love your Highland cattle, so if any of you have a few spare, please send them over.

Many blessings, and much love,

Iain (and Linda) Gow

Photo of Linda and Iain Gow ©

A tribute to David Lawton (1942-2020), associate member, Pennine Family Group, by associate member Judith Rack                        

David was proud of both his Lancashire and his Yorkshire heritage; he was born in Macclesfield, but spent most of his life in Lancashire and a good part of it in Leigh. David and Peg, his wife, a lively and fun-loving personality, were much involved in the worship and work of the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, where David served as sacristan from being a young man (‘In every role but vicar!’, says his son). Sadly, Peg died in 2013. In the last period of his life, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, David found comfort and joy in his sons and their families and in the company of his friend Graham.

David spent his working life as a gardener for the Wigan Metropolitan Council. He took great pride in his work, especially the many trees he planted in the local park and cemetery; his last few hours were spent walking with his friend and talking about these trees, seeing in them his share in God’s ongoing work of creation.

He first became interested and then involved in the restoration of Iona’s abbey and in the early days of the Community, when he was a young man. He was influenced by an honorary curate at St Mary’s, the then Chair of the Anglican Board of Social Responsibility. Travelling quite widely on his motorbike, David landed up on Iona, where he helped to build one of the Abbey walls and to do some planting there. Life’s pace increased: he met and married Peg; parental responsibilities followed. However, he never forgot Iona and soon rejoined the Pennine Family Group, founded by Community members Geoffrey Mitchell and Stanley Hope. David became an associate, with a love of the Community’s liturgy, its discipline of prayer, its practical commitment, especially its social and political awareness and, not least, its international dimension. Locally, he worked very hard (as in everything he undertook) with the Wigan Samaritans and with LASAR (Leigh Asylum Seekers and Refugees). His overall contribution to the Iona Community was quiet, thoughtful and dedicated. At his funeral the vicar brought David to life with a few striking phrases: ‘He was small in stature, but great in faith and love … no plaster saint, but a real person (cantankerous old so-and-so at times!) … mature in faith, but with a childlike sense of wonder … He loved children and they loved him.’ During the recent lockdown, St Mary’s arranged a drop-in for the children of the local church schools; when it finished, they presented a gift to David, much to his embarrassment! Two of the greatest loves of his life were reflected in the donations requested at the funeral: Leigh Parish Church and the Iona Community.

David used the lockdown to rethink his Christian commitment. He listened to Radio 4’s Sunday Worship from Iona Abbey and was inspired by John Bell’s vision, hopeful despite the uncertainties currently facing the world. After discussion with his vicar he made several decisions: to step back from his numerous roles in the church; to be more practical; to work with the homeless; to reconnect with the Iona Community and its outreach; perhaps to visit Iona again and rekindle his original passion. ‘I know things will be different. I want to be there and ready to face it.’ What an inspiration – to be open to a new challenge, in his late seventies!

I, personally, want to honour David’s goodness, the ‘salt of the earth’, ‘leaven of the lump’ variety! Herein lies his legacy: his kindness and pastoral skills; his quiet passion; his generous giving of himself, with no thought of return; his ’ministry’ to hundreds of people, lay and clergy, young and old, local and from countries far away. He had plans for his remaining years, prompted by his convictions and ideals. Were they thwarted by his sudden death? No! They will live on, through family, friends and the people he met and influenced, and for himself, in realms unimaginable to us.

Two hymns (chosen by him) were ‘listened to’ (thanks to the coronavirus) at the unusual but moving Requiem Mass at St Mary’s: ‘The Servant King’ and ‘Lord of the Years’. A verse from each is a fitting end to a rounded and loving life.

‘So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him;
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving.’  …

‘Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us –
self on the Cross and Christ upon the throne,
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.’

– Judith Rack, associate member (with contributions from fellow associates Rachel Hockey, Catriona & John Roussel, member Margaret Hart, and from James Lawton, Graham Chard and Kevin Crinks)

        

Photo of John David Lawton © Used with permission

A tribute to member Beryl Skinner

Beryl Skinner, a long-time member of the Iona Community in the South England Family Group, passed away on 17th September, 2020.

We hold Beryl’s family and friends in love and light.

And we pray: ‘tell her we love her, and we miss her.’

A full tribute to Beryl will follow.

Prayer for travelling companions

We recall them with prayers of gratitude –
travelling companions.

Those who walked with us,
sharing song and laughter
and tears and passion,
and faith and doubt and dreams.
Together we built community,
and tried to change the world,
praying, ‘Your kingdom come.’

And those who walked ahead,
dreaming dreams, taking risks,
breaking new ground.

We recall them all.
They all walk ahead of us now,
on the next stage of the journey,
on a road still hidden to us.
They give us reason to keep going,
to honour them, keep faith with them.
They invite us to face what will be,
to embrace mystery
and be unafraid of that which we cannot know.

We recall them with prayers of gratitude:
they are not our past, but our future.

– Brian Woodcock, from In the Gift of This New Day, Wild Goose Publications

Iona Abbey © David Coleman

Prayer, meditation and contemplation

The four questions, from member Stephen Wright at the Sacred Space Foundation in Cumbria

As always, a very helpful offering here from member Stephen Wright, of the Sacred Space Foundation.

(Thank you, Stephen. Ed.)

Iona Community Office via Zoom

Join us each month in prayer and conversation

On the first Tuesday of the month, Iona Community members and associates are invited to join us on Zoom to pray the Office together and afterwards for conversation and chat in breakout rooms. It’s a very informal and friendly gathering!

Next dates are:

2020: November 3rd, December 1st

* For all the information about joining in, go to the Members section of the Iona Community website.

Prayer

Gathered and scattered: God is with us.
In suffering and hope: God is with us.
Now and always: God is with us.

– From the Iona Community’s daily ‘Office’

Photo of Iona Community online gathering ©

On being an international community in the era of Covid-19, from associate member Mark Reeve in Decatur, Georgia, USA

One of the ironies of the Pandemic of 2020 is that out of lockdown we sometimes have been set free. As associate members in the U.S. state of Georgia, up until now a visit to Iona and a chance to interact with other Iona Community folks was a rare treat and always too brief. A journey to the island is an expensive endeavour, and we are painfully conscious of the enormous carbon footprint of international flights. Between trips, the Coracle and occasional e-mails are nice ways to stay in touch, but Leslie and I have been left wanting more.

Suddenly, in the middle of the lockdown, we find ourselves blessed with more! For the past couple of months, we have been joining the Tuesday worship services held via Zoom. The experience is more than simply the worship service.

A little background is in order. A year or so ago, Oakhurst Baptist Church here in Decatur decided to reorganise our ministry for the environment in response to the growing threats of climate change. I read about a new book, Field with a View (Wild Goose Publications), by Iona associate Katharine Preston. The subtitle, ‘Science and faith in a time of climate change’, lead me to believe it would resonate well with many of our members. I bought a copy and enjoyed it myself, but never carried through with organising a reading group for our ‘Green Team’.

I was pleasantly surprised at an Iona Tuesday worship to realise that Katharine Preston was one of the names in the Zoom gallery. We struck up an e-mail conversation, and I asked if she would be willing to meet with an adult Sunday School class at Oakhurst Baptist. After we worked out a mutually convenient date, I realised it was the weekend in August that in years past our church had gone on retreat to the mountains. The retreats were always a spirit-sustaining combination of time in a natural setting and sessions of spiritual renewal with an outside resource person. When I mentioned to our pastors that Katharine was going to be with the class that weekend, they quickly asked if she could do a retreat-like presentation on Saturday morning. Thus, an Iona associate member and Wild Goose author from upstate New York became a retreat leader for a Georgia congregation more than a thousand miles from her home.

Katharine led a session on how we choose to live in the midst of the three pandemics of racism, climate change and Covid-19. She invited us to become more aware of God’s ever-becoming creation, and of how the three pandemics intersect. In breakout groups, we had a chance to appreciate the creation we love, express grief over what we have lost, and fear for what we might soon lose. Then we sought to discern how to act for environmental justice, while not losing our joy. Together, we asked ourselves how we can share the joy we feel in God’s evolving creation by becoming creators of justice and joy in the face of climate change, racism and Covid-19.

In the midst of lockdown and teleconferenced congregational events, our retreat spanned thousands of miles to be a high point in our church year. We want other Iona folks to know the Community’s impact is truly global.

– Mark Reeve

Field with a View: Science and faith in a time of climate change, Wild Goose Publications

News

24.10.2020: The day the world banned the bomb, from Scottish CND

From SCND:

On 24.10.2020, Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The 50th ratification triggers irreversible entry into force.

Each state has 90 days to make arrangements to fully comply with the Treaty’s terms – to outlaw all nuclear weapons and nuclear tests, and to repair, as far as possible, the damage which our terrible nuclear history has done to survivors and to our planet. It also binds its member states to urge all other governments to join.

Since they have not yet acceded to the Treaty the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries (and the other countries which host nuclear weapons) are not yet bound by it, but we know that treaties change behaviour, even among the countries that don’t ratify them …

More

Yemen War – e-mail your MP, from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT)

From CAAT (21/09/2020):

The UK government is once again allowing the sale of weapons for use in the bombing of Yemen.

Right now, Saudi forces are flying UK-made fighter jets to fire UK-made missiles and drop UK-made bombs. Attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have destroyed schools and hospitals, food supplies, weddings and funerals.

The government has justified providing arms by claiming that war crimes committed in the attacks on Yemen are only ‘isolated incidents’.

Yet a new UN report highlights the ‘documented patterns of serious violations of International Humanitarian Law’. It says that the continued supply of weapons ‘is only perpetuating the conflict and prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people’.

Please act now to make sure your MP is aware of this report and urge the government to stop all arms sales and military support for the coalition:

Yemen War – e-mail your MP

Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Photo from the CAAT website ©

Scottish Churches COP 26 Pledge: Divestment and a just and green recovery

From Eco-Congregation Scotland:

We wish to demonstrate the support of the Scottish Churches for urgent action in response to the climate crisis and to support a just and green recovery from Covid-19 as Scotland prepares to host the UN climate talks, COP 26 (1-12 November, 2021).

Please consider signing this pledge, whether you represent a church or organisation [the Iona Community has signed the pledge], or as an individual.

Scottish Churches COP 26 Pledge

Reset the Debt: A fresh start for families in Britain swept into debt by Covid-19, from Church Action on Poverty (CAP)

From CAP:

An estimated six million people in the UK have fallen behind on one or more household bill as a result of Covid-19, with the biggest increases in debt amongst the poorest households.

People who were previously able to keep their head above water are now in severe difficulty. Others, who had been just staying afloat, now face being overwhelmed by circumstances entirely beyond their control.

This is an urgent problem that demands a solution. It is not right that those with the fewest resources should bear the heaviest burden of the lockdown, potentially for years to come.

Now is the time for a solution to be found.

We believe people swept into debt by Covid-19 now need a Jubilee. It’s time to Reset the Debt.

Reset the Debt

The COVID-19 Pandemic, Financial Inequality and Mental Health, from the Mental Health Foundation

From the Mental Health Foundation:

The Mental Health Foundation is leading this ongoing, UK-wide, long-term study of how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health, working with the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, the University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.

The Covid-19 Pandemic, Financial Inequality and Mental Health

As If Expendable: The UK Government’s Failure to Protect Older People in Care Homes during the Covid-19 Pandemic, a report from Amnesty International

From Amnesty International:

As lockdown began, thousands of patients were sent from hospitals into care homes. In three months 18,562 people living in care homes died with Covid-19. Our report As if Expendable highlights the UK Government’s failure to protect older people in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cases of coronavirus are rising again in the build-up to winter, the government must learn lessons from its disastrous decisions and not repeat the same mistakes …

We’re calling for a full independent public inquiry without further delay … This inquiry must involve people in care homes and their families, including bereaved families.

Care homes report

Other Amnesty International campaigns

Photo from cover of As If Expendable, from the Amnesty International website, ©

Some recent articles about Facebook and Zoom

‘Facebook staffer sends “blood on my hands” memo’, by Jane Wakefield, from BBC News

‘Rebels within: the Facebook staff openly challenging Zuckerberg’, by Emma Graham-Harrison, from The Guardian

‘Zoom admits cutting off activists’ accounts in obedience to China’, by Helen Davidson and Lily Kuo, from The Guardian

Photo © NP

Book reviews

Surely Goodness and Mercy: A Journey into Illness and Solidarity, by Murphy Davis; review by member Norman Shanks

Norman Shanks reviews a challenging and inspiring memoir from one of the founders of the Open Door Community, originally in Atlanta, Georgia, now in Baltimore, Maryland. Open Door is one of the Iona Community’s sister communities …

21 August, 2020:

This is a remarkable book by a remarkable woman. It is a memoir of her coping with cancer and other illnesses over 25 years (in 1995 she was given only months to live), woven together with an account of the life of the Open Door Community, for which, along with other intentional communities listed on page 75 in the Iona Community’s Prayer Book 2020, we are encouraged to pray on the twenty-eighth day of each month.

In September 2000, as part of a ‘sabbatical’ during my time working for the Iona Community, I spent a month as a resident volunteer at the Open Door, close to downtown Atlanta, where for 36 years it carried out a ministry of hospitality and political campaigning. Having done a little ‘homework’, I had some idea of what to expect but the actual experience, still vividly etched in my memory for the spiritual and emotional challenge it involved, was eye-opening, lasting and profound.

The values and history of the Open Door permeate Murphy Davis’s book. It is a thoroughly gripping roller-coaster of a read. Almost blow by blow, incident by incident, diagnosis by treatment, it charts her unenviable journey, which she describes as both miracle and mystery. As she puts it, ‘I have no formula to share. There is no way to explain why I have lived through the impossible: a quarter of a century of intensive medical treatment, nine major surgeries, five regimens of chemotherapy and two of radiation, lymphoma, breast and squamous cell cancers, and a nearly fatal case of fungal pneumonia. I have often straddled the thin and precarious line between life and death.’

Murphy’s perspective is, if maybe not quite unique, one that we do not hear from often. For years she has lived ‘on the edge’ – not only in coping for so long with most serious illness, but also in the radical commitment and solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged that have characterised her life and ministry. She pays fulsome tribute to the invaluable support she has had: ‘I have been buoyed by the prayers of the faithful and the hopes of agnostics, by the persistent petitions of family and the determined conviction of poor neighbours and death-row prisoners. What an inestimable gift – to be saved by the prayers of the poor!’

In 2002 Murphy, along with her husband Ed Loring (a larger-than-life prophetic figure whose gifts as pastor and preacher complement perfectly her gentler, but equally steadfast, personality and strength of purpose), led an Iona programme week, and her memorable Sunday morning sermon in the Abbey was both a wake-up call to commitment to justice and a reflection on her own experience – as long-time advocate and pastor for prisoners on death-row and in the Open Door Community’s ministry among homeless and poor people in Atlanta – much more than a depersonalised soup-kitchen or night shelter, but rather grounded in pastoral and hospitable relationships, providing accommodation for a few on a continuing basis, offering to people ‘on the street’ daily meals (for up to 150 people each day), shower and toilet facilities, a weekly foot clinic, medical advice and clothing.

In 2007, shortly after retiring, I was back in Atlanta, along with my wife Ruth, for three months at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur. We visited the Open Door several times each week – to help with the daily meals and the foot clinic, and to share in the weekly Sunday evening communion. The key to the life of the Open Door and to its indelible influence for good on the lives of so many lies in the rooting of all its activities in prayer and worship: we felt and experienced there (perhaps even more than in and around the Iona Community!) the integration of work and worship, prayer and politics. Here a committed group of people were living out their faith to the full, walking the ever-risky way of the cross, challenging the culture of our times which tends to give priority to the pursuit of comfort, acquisition and an illusory form of security.

In 2017 the Open Door had to move from its premises in Atlanta to Baltimore where it is still active, on a smaller scale, and, despite the limitations of her health condition, Murphy’s commitment to justice, solidarity and death-row ministry remains undimmed and unabated. The Community’s story undergirds and is threaded through this powerful and inspiring book, giving context to the account of huge medical ups and downs, interspersed with Murphy’s own challenging personal insights and theological reflections, which culminate in the unforgettable final chapter ‘Remember you are dust …’

Surely Goodness and Mercy is an immensely readable and strikingly incarnational book. It is incarnational in its down-to earth style and approach, with detailed descriptions of medical procedures and drug prescriptions and graphic accounts of, for example, the Imperial Hotel occupation, seeking housing for homeless and marginalised people, and of the demanding Grady Hospital campaign for the improvement of public health provision for those without adequate health insurance. And it is thoroughly incarnational in its theology: in their pursuit of justice and solidarity, Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, since the very start of their life together, through their commitment to the Open Door, have sought to be true to Gospel values, to embody and share God’s loving purpose and grace, made human in Jesus Christ, and in so doing have consistently put their lives and bodies ‘on the line’.

This is truly a tale of ‘courage, faith and cheerfulness’, a challenge and inspiration to us all. And it is clear that, above all, what has sustained Murphy through all her tribulations is not only much attentive medical skill, the prayers of her many friends and of her dear family, the unfailing companionship of her husband Ed and the love and professionalism of her daughter Hannah, but also her own vision of ‘the Beloved Community’, her continuing gratitude for the gift of life, her remarkable resilience and unquenchable faith and hope.

– Norman Shanks

October 22, 2020 Hospice Update #3:

Murphy Davis (March 5, 1948-Oct 22, 2020) died this morning.
Family surrounded her in fierce calm and peace.
A long-haul, hard and beautiful journey is complete.
We send thanksgiving to you and love beyond measure.

The Family

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance, by Rashid Khalidi, Profile Books, 2020; review by member Warren Bardsley

It can be said with a reasonable amount of confidence, I think, that few books written today will be relevant in twenty years’ time. I believe the same cannot be said of this survey of this particular period in Middle Eastern history, which began in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration. Rashid Khalidi’s magisterial account of the subsequent century is likely to be a source of reference for decades to come. As soon as I came to the last page, I wanted to begin reading again, which isn’t too common in my experience!

Rashid Khalidi is a Palestinian/American historian and the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York. He has written several books on Palestine/Israel, including The Iron Cage and Brokers of Deceit. Although a Palestinian of the Diaspora, there are few better-qualified than Khalidi to expound this history. His family roots in Jerusalem go back through many generations and he has relatives alive in Palestine today. He lived in Lebanon with his family for a number of years and was a member of the Palestinian delegation involved in peace talks with the Israeli government in Madrid and Washington during the early 1990s, which led to the framing of the Oslo accords. One of the book’s striking features is its combination of autobiography and history.

The author’s underlying thesis is that in order to understand the story of Palestine/Israel during the past century, it is essential to recognise its true nature: not a conflict in the generally accepted meaning of that word and therefore not primarily about conflict resolution, but, as the subtitle suggests, a history of colonial conquest and resistance. Khalidi identifies six periods during which the Zionist state ‘declared’ war on the Palestinians between 1917 and the present day: beginning with Balfour and the British Mandate, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; to the Nakba (catastrophe) which involved the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948; the Six-Day War, of 1967; two intifadas and successive attacks on the Gaza strip. From its beginnings, the Zionist project was colonial.

Throughout these historic phases there are common themes: the complicity of the great Powers, notably the United States and Great Britain in the continuing Occupation and oppression of the Palestinians, and the failure of successive U.S. administrations to act as honest broker. But Khalidi doesn’t exempt the Palestinian leadership from blame over the past fifty years, during which numerous strategic mistakes were made. He is especially critical of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) which (he maintains) during its exile in Lebanon failed to give vital support to the two intifadas within Palestine itself; the divided leadership; the consistent failure of Palestinian negotiators to ‘understand the American mind, their politics and society’ so that they were consistently outmanoeuvred in talks with their U.S. and Israeli counterparts. In the final chapter, he goes so far as to say that, in recent years, ‘the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and student activism have done more to further the Palestinian cause than either Fatah and Hamas have achieved’.

Khalidi offers no quick fixes, no easy way out in the immediate future, and maintains that it is more important than ever for all elements in Palestinian society ‘to adopt a considered long-term strategy which means re-thinking much that has been done in the past … and cultivating all possible allies in the struggle’. He believes the influence of America will wane in the future, allowing new possibilities to emerge.

This is a beautifully written, accessible read. By all human calculations the Palestinians should have disappeared by now. This book accepts at its core, the refusal of this resilient people to accept their own defeat and their desire to live as equals with Israelis in a land they are destined to share, which is the very least they deserve. As the second century begins they need our active support now more than ever before.

– Warren Bardsley

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance

Warren Bardsley is a Methodist minister who first went to Palestine/Israel in 2005 with the Amos Trust, and later served as an Ecumenical Accompanier in East Jerusalem. He is a founder member of the Kairos Britain movement and co-author of Time for Action: A British Christian Response to A Moment of Truth, the Kairos Palestine Document. He is a member of the CCN on Palestine and Israel.

Poetry

Some offerings from Iona Community folk …

‘Who touched me?’, by associate member Peter Phillips

Introduction, from Peter Phillips:

OK, yes, my health has deteriorated over the last 18 months or so, but what has been more remarkable, my life has completely changed … for the better.

The ‘new’ people I have met and worshipped among, as well as being able to reconnect with old friends, have been a real blessing. But, my gift didn’t stop there … No.

I began to compose a collection of  ‘poetry’ about all sorts of things, for the first time in my life.

Friends were surprised that some of my poems spoke to them on a very deep and spiritual level … and this is why I truly believe, my motor neurone disease is a ‘gift from God’.

I believe that, through each one of us, God is working and calling us to ‘get out there’ and proclaim His Kingdom here on earth.

When we come across wrongdoing, injustice and human suffering, such as climate change, poverty, 70 million refugees, Christians must not be afraid to speak out and act. Having a terminal illness has not changed that. For me, it will remain a gift, and I pray others will discover the gifts of their own mortality one day too. After all: to live in Christ, and to die … would be a real gain. Don’t you think? …

‘Who touched me?’

‘I did, Lord, I touched you.
In a moment of desperation …
… I touched you.
It has taken me a lifetime …
to get close to you.
It has taken all my courage …
… to come this close to you.
I have been hesitant;
I have felt downtrodden by my own
unworthiness and guilt.
Unable to approach you,
I have stood on the brink of a precipice …
… but, I was too much of a coward …
… to step off into the unknown.
So, I crawled back.
Back to my life of fear …
… resentment and selfishness.

Yes, I touched you, Lord Jesus.
I touched you, when I was in isolation.
I touched you, when I was …
… holding the hand of a dying companion.
I touched you in a prison cell.
I touched you as I waited for essential food …
… at the foodbank.
I touched you in …
… the mist of terminal illness.
I touched you, Lord, as …
… I watched Alan Kurdi drown in front of me.
I touched you, Jesus, as a nameless child …
… died of starvation in the Yemen.
Jesus, simply by touching you …
the whole world becomes aware of your healing grace.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.’

– Peter Phillips, August 2020

Photo © NP

Gifts are in the feet, by member Alison Phipps and friend of the Community Tawona Sitholé

Abbey Church in lockdown, by member Jan Sutch Pickard

The tower stood in its sleep
like a beast in a field. Earthfast.
While the winds of March
buffeted the walls, the tower stood,
had endured centuries, steadfast
while the world was shaken.

When the kind rains of April fell
and Easter came and went, still
the tower would not waken.
Time passed; May days grew longer,
stretching in the sun like a cat.

In June its stones were caressed
by warmth and light but, creeping,
the haar came in from the sea, cold mist
pulling the covers over its head.

July, the island still had its long lie;
the tower stood, soundly asleep,
on holy ground, which was no less
for lack of bells or voices, human sounds.
The calls of migrating birds echoed
across a great quietness.

But see, from the beginning,
unbidden, this place was being blessed:
by a meadow that sprang up all around:
nourished by rain, encouraged by the sun,
moving like the sea as the wind blew, a million
grasses of every hue, jewelled with mist.

It was right there, day by day.
God’s hair just kept on growing,
unkempt and beautiful,
round the tower that stood like a beast in a field,
for now, asleep.

– Jan Sutch Pickard, 28/7/20                         

Photo © Anja Jardine

Song

‘We are sisters not strangers’, from friend of the Community Penny Stone, from Penny’s website ‘Sing Louder than Guns’

Take action against asylum evictions to keep vulnerable women safe during the pandemic, from Sisters Not Strangers

Sing Louder Than Guns

About Penny Stone:

‘I’m a songleader, teacher, singer and composer … I am committed to working for peace and social and environmental justice, helping to free people’s voices through listening, singing, campaigning and writing …’

Prayer

For all we have received from them, by Ruth Burgess

Thank you, God,
for all who contribute
to the life of the Iona Community.

Thank you for people of all ages,
for travellers from around the world,
for pilgrims and friends and strangers.

Thank you for those who ask questions,
for those who listen to us and respect our stories,
for those who challenge conventions,
for those who draw us deep into justice and truth.

Meet us in each other, God.
Help us to be loving,
today and all the days of our lives.

– Ruth Burgess, from In the Gift of This New Day: Praying with the Iona Community, Wild Goose Publications

E-Coracle is the online magazine of the Iona Community (a charity registered in Scotland No: SC003794, Company No: SC096243). Views expressed in eCoracle are not necessarily the policy of the Iona Community but the Community seeks the exchange of thoughts and ideas as a basis for finding common ground. Editor: Neil Paynter