Iona, Camas, Glasgow
‘Gathered and scattered’ – emerging together in community, from Ruth Harvey, Leader of the Iona Community, and Sarah Metcalfe, Iona Community Executive Director
15th October, 2020:
In 1938, one year into the rebuilding project at Iona Abbey, tools were put down and the embryonic community was scattered as the horror of World War II unfolded. The pandemic is not a world war, but there are echoes of that cataclysm today.
More than a million people have already died. Millions more are bereaved and grieving. People are locked down and suffering – whether in abusive relationships, in poverty, in loneliness, in anxiety and despair. All this in a context of global disruption and disintegration. People displaced by war and climate change. Democracy under attack. Political discourse taking us to questions of belonging and integration, in the UK, Europe and the U.S. Our beautiful world under threat on an unimaginable scale.
Millions are looking for sustenance and support, patterns and rhythms, in order to lean into life. What lessons can we bring, as a dispersed community, to a world where people need each other more than ever, but are kept physically apart?
We face tricky waters ahead as an organisation. The Abbey refurbishment is complete thanks to the hard work of so many and the generosity of many more. It stands ready to welcome people back but empty, because of tightened lockdown restrictions. As well as frustrating, this has financial implications and we must think in fresh ways about how we do what we do.
But this is a journey we have already begun. As a Community we have spent the last three years reflecting on the shape and direction of our movement; Covid simply spurs us on to the next stage of that process.
The Community’s purpose and concerns have never been more relevant. We offer a response to the world’s suffering from a place of compassion and faith rooted in a rhythm of reflection and action. Our Rule of Life reminds us that we begin with inner accountability in order to augment our collective voice seeking outward accountability and justice. Using new technologies and practical action to apply this to the world today will be our route through the challenges ahead.
November is Community Month, a re-imagining of Community Week on Iona which had to be cancelled because of Covid. We hope to see you at one of the wide variety of online events taking place, and in December we will launch ‘Advent, the Iona Way’, an opportunity to share in a pattern of daily prayer and reflection in the run-up to Christmas through e-mail and online worship.
We hope to continue ‘The Iona Way’ into the new year, to introduce the Community and the Rule in a way that supports people feeling isolated and alone during the dark months of lockdown. And we will work over the winter with partner organisations to find funding for ‘Unlocked’, a programme to bring those who have suffered most during lockdown to the islands to recuperate when (hopefully) we reopen in the spring.
We are a movement in transition living through a time of change, but our strength has always sprung from adversity. In the words of George MacLeod:
God our challenger and disturber,
help us to confront all that makes for death and despair
in our lives, our communities and the world.
May we never lose sight of the possibility of transformation
and be continually surprised by the power of people who believe in one another.
– Ruth Harvey and Sarah Metcalfe
Iona Abbey Capital Appeal reaches target!
From the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal Team:
Thanks to your commitment and generosity, the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal has reached the £3.7 million final target! We are overwhelmed, immensely grateful and slightly lost for words!
We want to thank you for investing in this journey of transformation. We are so deeply grateful for your generosity!
This has been a remarkable journey of hope, a journey which continues as we move towards Advent and into 2021.
Photo from Iona Abbey Capital Appeal ©
Joy Coppell, new Member Engagement Administrator for the Iona Community
The Iona Community is delighted to welcome Joy Coppell ([email protected]) to the new role of Member Engagement Administrator. Joy’s role will include supporting the Capital Appeal team to the conclusion of this ground-breaking Appeal, as well as supporting members, associate members and Friends and the groups that they belong to (Family Groups, Regional Groups, Common Concern Networks, the Young Adults’ Group …). This new post will also reach out to all supporters, donors and interested groups, ensuring that our communications are excellent, informative and inspiring.
Photo of Joy Coppell ©
A place to rest and reset after lockdown: A reflection from Camas, from Cat Muckart, Camas Activity Worker
1 October, 2020:
Here at Camas we have said goodbye to the last of our guests for the year, and are now spending our days sorting and scrubbing and generally preparing the Centre for winter. We have felt very lucky to have been able to open for a short period, and to offer a limited number of people a place to rest and reset after lockdown. We kayaked, went on walks, shared (socially distanced) mealtimes and had lots of tea and chats. It was especially lovely to have some friends of Rowan and Douglas’ up to stay, and to see them playing with other children. Having both a couple of volunteers as well as guests gave us a renewed sense of purpose and energy and it was wonderful to see both familiar and new faces. The only downside of our new situation was having to do all the dishes! Some guests mentioned how strange it was being at Camas but not being able to help with the usual daily tasks. While this aspect of common life did look very different, we were lucky that much of our daily routine remained the same. This familiarity helped to balance out the strangeness in our new ways of being in community together – for example not being able to sit with other ‘bubbles’ at mealtimes initially felt jarring and odd, but for the most part we could still all eat in the same big (naturally well-ventilated) room. We have also been extremely blessed with the weather over these last few weeks and this has helped enormously. It has been a joy to see people take such pleasure in their surroundings during their stay and to have fresh perspectives on this beautiful place.
As the days get shorter we are going to spend some time reflecting on the last few months and looking forward, to winter and the possibilities for next year. I will soon be going from one family to another and heading back to the mainland for the first time since March to spend the winter in Sutherland on an opposite coastline. I’m feeling grateful that I am still going to be near water and have lofty intentions to continue regular swims throughout the darker months, navigating change and uncertainty with the help of the sea.
– Cat Muckart, Camas Activity Worker
Camas photo by Imogen Reeves, ©
Welcome as usual: A reflection from the Iona Community Shop, from Lyn Meier, Shop Manager
30 September, 2020:
The Iona Community’s Shop on Iona reopened in its new Covid-19 outfit on Wednesday 5th August, after a lot of preparation, including mountains of risk assessments and changes in layout and displays.
Other shops on the island opened their doors around the same time, all of us with reduced hours and a degree of apprehension and uncertainty – how many visitors and holidaymakers would there be? Will it be enough to warrant opening? What if all our risk minimisation measures aren’t enough …?
And particularly for our little shop and its warm-as-toast-welcoming-vibe, the big question was how to make visitors to the shop feel as welcome as usual, without a space to sit and talk, and with the intermediation of masks and screens and social distances in all our interactions?
Well, I am pleased to report that the lure of beautiful Hebridean islands, and this one in particular, has lured many more folk out of their lockdown caves than we all thought would be the case, so it has definitely been worthwhile opening the doors.
Of course, we haven’t had the international visitors we would normally be welcoming, with nearly all being from various parts of the UK – and with many making their first trip to Iona.
All the Covid regulations do make our usual operations more challenging – and tiring. Wearing a mask for eight hours is not easy, and as we have all discovered, it seems most of us do quite a bit of lip- and face-reading to assist our hearing! And with Sarah, our Assistant Shop Manager, on furlough for one of her three days each week, our shop has been staffed in the main by one (mighty) volunteer and me. I have to give a very big thank you to first Sheena, then Sue (and soon Judith), for their hard work, tireless patience and good humour, and dedication to making everyone’s visit to the shop warmly welcomed. And also to Sarah for her continued support and patient sharing of all-the-things-I-don’t-know in her role of Assistant Shop Manager and Font of All Shop Knowledge.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the shop with visits, mail orders, prayers and words of encouragement and kindness. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected] with any mail orders or queries about anything shop-related.
– Lyn Meier, Shop Manager
‘Lyn at the till’, photo ©
Entirely liberating: A reflection from Jane Bentley, volunteer musician at Iona Abbey
1 October, 2020:
It’s almost 20 years to the day since I left Iona’s Resident group. Appropriately, I’m back on the island as musician at the Abbey for two weeks, so things have come wonderfully full circle – a personal journey which began on Iona has brought me back once more – to a very unique set of circumstances in a quite extraordinary time.
I first came to Iona in 1997 as a volunteer for six weeks, and it entirely changed my life. I had been looking for voluntary work because of a strong desire to connect with a wider world. I had narrowed down the options – one of the alternatives was working in a Cornish monkey sanctuary! Life could have turned out so differently …
At the time, I had no idea at all about the Iona Community, but I was interested in living in community, living on an island, and in the history of early Christianity in the UK. I wasn’t even a Christian at that point – part of what had previously put me off was a series of encounters with groups of believers who appeared more interested in offering a set of answers and beliefs that, if adhered to, would secure God’s favour. There seemed to be little room for diversity, doubt, discussion or divergence. Part of me was a little worried that I was heading for one such cult on Iona – but I was curious enough to believe that I could survive six weeks of anything.
What I found was a community that was more interested in walking together and asking the questions, than providing answers – something that both encouraged me and challenged my own prejudices! This, combined with the commitment to the environment, peace and justice, opened me up to a whole new world – one which changed me forever. Something which is perhaps less mentioned in relation to the work on Iona, but which is just as radical, was the deep acceptance I found as a volunteer. I am, even now, moved to tears by the difference it made to me – and it wasn’t just acceptance – but a deep joy that people found in each other, just for being who they were. Trust was another key element – we were trusted to lead worship, to welcome guests. To care for this incredible setting. To care for each other.
It was entirely liberating.
The following year, I joined the Resident group and the transformation continued – growth in confidence, in responsibility and in weathering the storms and stresses of life in community, as well as the joys. With 20 years of hindsight, I recognise it as an experience which has gifted me enormous reserves of resilience, skills in cooperation, tolerance and community-building that have woven their way through everything I have encountered since.
It also deeply shaped my subsequent life path – I had previously been a performer; happy but in a relatively narrow, comfortable world. On Iona I found much greater joy in doing music with, rather than for, people – and witnessed the transformative power of music in community: skilfully enabled so that all can participate, not just the chosen few.
This, and my exposure to the peace and justice activities of the Community, has strongly influenced where I have worked ever since, and I’ve ended up working with music in mental health settings to encourage social inclusion; in prisons to strengthen family interactions; in hospitals with people with dementia; with displaced people – places where both music and community are sorely needed.
Now it’s my last night on the island again, having been here as musician for two weeks. Initially, we were going to welcome our first guests back to the Abbey, but instead Covid’s ongoing influence has meant that it was no longer practical to receive guests for the rest of this year. For staff members who have been here for months, it’s been a colossal adjustment – just four days before we were due to open up, everyone’s future became uncertain once more.
Public worship has continued in the Abbey however, and once again we are in the position of seeking ‘new ways to touch the hearts of all’ in response to offering socially distanced, safe worship. This has been particularly exploratory when it comes to music, as we’re not allowed to sing! I’ve had the joy of helping to figure out the musical component – we’ve listened to recorded music; danced; shared eye contact; used sign language, and musical plastic tubes; created soundscapes; explored the rhythm of the spoken word; framed silence with sound; and sanitised EVERYTHING. That capacity and willingness to trust, to try, to ask questions and experiment means that particularly now, at this time, in this place, ‘this building continues to be justified’ – and remains as relevant as ever.
– Jane Bentley
Anyone curious about Jane’s work, and/or the potential of musical plastic tubes, might like to watch the video below – ‘The Art of Following’, on YouTube.
And for Jane’s wonderful website, go to: https://artbeatmusic.org
‘Iona Abbey with puffin’, by artist and Resident group member David Bond
Another brilliant image here from Iona Abbey Sacristan, David Bond. (Thank you, David.)
David (originally from Glasgow) studied Arabic and Persian at the Universities of Tunis and Oxford. He subsequently studied theology at the Institut Catholique in Toulouse and spent two years in Gao (Mali). After an initial sojourn in Algiers (1993-95), he joined the Institut des Belles-Lettres Arabes in Tunis, where he stayed until 2010 before doctoral studies in Ohio. His work has been based on first-hand examination of the streetscape in cities such as Algiers, Catania, Tangiers, Aden and Alexandria, leaving space for quirky detail and fleeting perspectives which evoke the evanescence of shifting urban space and perceptions. He has been Sacristan on Iona since February 2020.
‘Iona Abbey with puffin’ © David Bond
Hope and optimism for the future: Update on the new Iona Village Hall, from Joanne MacInnes, Trustee of the Iona Village Hall
16th September, 2020:
There was a huge sigh of relief when CorraMore reopened the Village Hall building site at the end of June after 14 weeks of closure, and before visitors and holidaymakers would also return. There was understandable nervousness around increasing movement on and off of Iona after months of feeling protected by the stretches of water between us and the mainland, so significant preparations went into ensuring this was as safe as possible. The three construction projects on the island: Iona Community, Iona Renewables and Iona Village Hall, worked together over a number of weeks to consult with local residents, accommodation providers, health and government representatives and transport providers to ensure a consistent, acceptable approach. This collaborative approach is one we hope to continue as we look towards 2021 and beyond.
Since the return to site, great progress has been made with visible developments such as the zinc and sedum roofs – so exhilarating to see! The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on programme and budget – we now expect completion in January 2021 and have around £75k in additional costs still to cover. With a global pandemic, sandwiched between two Hebridean winters, never has our shared community space been more needed. Now, seeing the building taking shape before our eyes, we can dare to grasp hope and optimism for the future.
– Joanne MacInnes
Iona Village Hall construction photo © Anja Jardine
2021 Iona calendar sold in aid of the Iona Village Hall Community Trust: Help to finish the new hall!
From the Iona Village Hall Committee:
Following the success of last year’s calendar, we’ve created a new calendar for 2021 which again features 12 stunning photographs by Iona photographers to raise funds for our new hall.
The calendar is A4 in size and consists of 28 pages in total. Each month features a full-page image, together with days of the month in a grid, and lots of room to add important appointments. It’s printed in full colour throughout, has a drilled hole for hanging, and will be sent in an all-board envelope. Calendars are priced at £7 each. We think they’d also make a great gift for someone who loves Iona – especially if travel restrictions have made a planned visit impossible!
All profits will go towards the construction of the new Iona Village Hall. Your purchase will help us build a vital new community asset.
Journeys in Community: Father-daughter conversations about faith, love, doubt and hope – new book by Leader of the Iona Community, Ruth Harvey, and John Harvey, from Wild Goose Publications
This book began as a birthday gift. For her 50th birthday Ruth asked her family not for material presents, but for gifts of time and experiences. What followed included long talks with her father about the deep stories of their shared spiritual journey.
John and Ruth write: ‘It has been a privilege to spend time in each other’s company around the kitchen table and in a chilly Glasgow study. For us it has been a profound experience. We hope that in sharing a part of this story, it may encourage others on a similar journey of shared gifts and faith.’
John Harvey is a retired minister of the Church of Scotland who was part of the experimental Gorbals Group Ministry. He has been a member of the Iona Community since 1964, and has served as Warden of Iona Abbey and as Leader of the Community.
Ruth Harvey is the Leader of the Iona Community. Previously she was Director of Place for Hope, a Scottish charity accompanying churches and faith communities through times of challenge, change and conflict. She is a minister in the Church of Scotland and a Quaker.
‘This book will welcome you home, with justice, courage, humour and delight.’
– Pádraig Ó Tuama, former Leader of the Corrymeela Community
Free Voices out of lockdown e-postcard, from Wild Goose Publications
Looking for something hopeful to send friends and family at this time?
This Is God’s World: Songs of Praise and Possibility – new CD dedicated to Graham Maule (1958-2019), by John L Bell and the Wild Goose Collective
From the Wild Goose Resource Group:
This Is God’s World is the long-awaited CD which was the last project our late colleague Graham Maule worked on. He was project manager and his distinctly earth-born voice is heard on one of the tracks.
The Wild Goose Collective, an assortment of singers and musicians, were rehearsed and conducted by Iain McLarty, an associate of the Community and a choral conductor in his own right. Nearly all the words and music are by John Bell, who was very glad to pass the baton to a more capable musician.
Iain recruited and arranged for eleven skilled instrumentalists, some of whom have recorded with us before and others with us for the first time, the latter including Richard Michael, a stunning jazz pianist.
The songs have all been sung before, but few have been published. They include a text based on the words of Oscar Romero; two songs, from South Sudan and Sierra Leone, which Iain discovered in his work with the World Council of Churches; the lament for the young men who lost their lives in the boating disaster when crossing the Sound of Mull in 1998; and the title track ‘This Is God’s World’. Graham was keen that this should be the name of the collection in view of the Climate Conference originally scheduled to be held in Glasgow this November. If it happens, as is hoped, next year, people will have plenty of time to learn the tune.
Photo of Graham Maule ©
The Iona Prayer Circle, from Prayer Circle Coordinator, Chris Polhill
A third of the encounters with Jesus involve healing, so for those of us who follow Jesus, the prayer for healing is part of discipleship, and the Iona Prayer Circle is one way of expressing this.
There are three ways of being involved with the Prayer Circle. One is that you are being prayed for. Not everyone knows that they are being prayed for, so another way of being involved is that you sponsor someone for prayer. A sponsor contacts me, usually by e-mail, and then lets me know how the person being prayed for is getting on every two months. They receive a bimonthly newsletter which reminds them of the date for these updates. Then there are the very important intercessors who pray for those on the lists. A quiet, dedicated ministry. Along with the newsletter, they also receive the lists of those in need of prayer. There are seven groups on these lists, and most people pray for one group, some for all of them. The people on the lists are also prayed for at the healing service on Iona.
The Prayer Circle always needs more intercessors, so please consider whether this is something you can offer.
in these strange times
where touch is denied
and smiles are hidden,
may we know your touch
on our lives.
May your healing and peace
renew us, body, mind and spirit,
keeping a deep smile in our hearts.
– Chris Polhill, [email protected]
Iona Abbey south aisle photo ©
Iona Community youth
Re-Act: A reflection from Iona Youth Planning Group member Thomas Bunting (writing from Camas)
26th August, 2020:
Having spent my teenage years making the commute across Scotland to spend summers at Camas or at Youth Fest, a question remained throughout – how can we enable newfound connections to continue to grow amongst a dispersed group of young people? As we’ve grown older as a group, we still question how young adults with a connection to the Iona Community can connect with one another as we are spread out around the UK, or even abroad.
In February this year, the ‘Iona Youth Planning Group’ grew from a desire to restart youth weeks on Iona and to act for social justice. After a couple of meetings in Stirling and Glasgow, a plan was made to fulfil those aims: the Glasgow offices were to be used as a meeting point for young people to protest at the COP 26 Climate Conference that was meant to take place in Glasgow in November of this year. The aim was to work alongside organisations such as Christian Aid, Extinction Rebellion and different university groups to create an inclusive hub for action, empowering young voices. Alongside this, a focus group was set up to create a programme for a youth week this summer and to plan something similar to Youth Fest for 2021. It was the first time in my experience with the Iona Community where I had engaged in the process of shaping events rather than just being an active participant, working to instill the Community’s commitment to raising the voices of young people and speaking truth to power.
Alas, as February progressed into March it became clear this plan was no longer possible due to Covid-19, and we were left to figure out how to carry this momentum through a time of physical isolation. Initially, we were stranded without a purpose as a group; the road that had started to be constructed had been washed away. Uncertainty filled my mind about whether this was a lost project or not.
However, in mid-June things started to change: we were given a slot as part of the Iona Community’s AGM to help create an online youth forum. The aim was to build a space for young adults to come together, where a symbiotic relationship between time listening to experts and time to converse with one another to consolidate and expand on the topics that the speakers were discussing was formed. We were enthusiastic about this idea as it helped create a space for discussion at a time when the world is in dire need of it, seen through Black Lives Matter protests, and lockdown working as a force to perpetuate inequalities; yet, because of lockdown, conversation and change was often stunted. And so, from a meeting that brought together young people, staff and members of the Community, the title ‘Re-Act’ was coined; a term with a double meaning as it is both about how we interact with issues of social justice in the ‘new normal’ world, and about creating a space for Reflection and igniting a desire for Action.
Re-Act implements newfound knowledge of video conferencing and online social skills to create a space for discussion on social justice. Thus, by engaging with technology as a tool to bring people who are distanced from one another together, Re-Act has worked to answer that question that has been on my mind for several years about how we can create continuity – by using online mediums as a space for collaboration and conversation.
The event was put together through a series of weekly meetings by a group of dedicated young adults with connections to either Camas or the Community, and finally as it came to the day of the event, we had a programme of four passionate speakers providing different angles on the issue of food poverty. Niall Cooper, from Church Action on Poverty, spoke to Tia from CAP about her experience of living in food poverty and her work in being a voice for change and elevating the voices of other young people; Ian MacGregor, a food bank volunteer from Glasgow South West Foodbank, discussed how, whilst food banks act as a necessary emergency support for those in poverty, radical change is needed to make them redundant (highlighting why foodbanks shouldn’t always just be seen as a good thing); and finally Jordan Mooney, a former president of Strathclyde University Foodbank Society, spoke to us about his experience of setting up this society supporting local foodbanks, and highlighted ways in which we as young adults can be proactive in fighting food poverty.
Speaking personally about the impact of the event, the use of breakout rooms between each talk to engage in the topic ensured that the call will have a lasting impact on me. Since then, I have had many conversations off the back of topics which were raised on the day. However, since the event (primarily due to currently volunteering at Camas) I have done very little to work for action and change. So, one thing we need to look at going forward is how we hold each other accountable for taking the momentum from these events into fighting for social justice.
The event itself as a solo experience was extremely insightful for all of those in attendance, and regardless of where the Youth Planning Group goes from here it has been a worthwhile process. However, the next stage for us is to consolidate what we see as our purpose as a group of young people, continuing to create online spaces for discussion, and finding ways to interlink discussion with a commitment to fighting for change.
– Thomas Bunting (writing from Camas, where he was volunteering)
Another Re-Act event, focusing on refugees, will take place during Community Month.