Founding of the Iona Community

The Iona Community was founded in Glasgow and Iona in 1938 by George MacLeod, minister, visionary and prophetic witness for peace, in the context of the poverty and despair of the Depression.  From a dockland parish in Govan, Glasgow, he took unemployed skilled craftsmen and young trainee clergy to Iona to rebuild both the monastic quarters of the mediaeval abbey and the common life by working and living together, sharing skills and effort as well as joys and achievement. That original task became a sign of hopeful rebuilding of community in Scotland and beyond. The experience shaped – and continues to shape – the practice and principles of the Iona Community.

Iona and St Columba

Iona is a tiny and beautiful Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland, cradle of Christianity in Scotland, where in 563AD the Irish monk Columba (Columkille) established a monastic settlement that evangelised large parts of Scotland and the north of England and became an important centre of European Christianity. In the Middle Ages it became the site of a Benedictine abbey, and over the centuries it has attracted many thousands of people on their own pilgrim journeys.

Iona Abbey – 3 May 2012

Iona remains a centre for pilgrimage and tourism; the daily services of the Iona Community in the Abbey church and worship elsewhere on the island are open to all; many visitors come again and again. There is a year-round population of over 100; long-established island families as well as more recent arrivals, including those who work for the Iona Community in its centres as staff or volunteers. The abbey is now managed by Historic Scotland; the Iona Community remains in residence as a living, worshipping presence. The islanders, the Iona Community and Historic Scotland work together to maintain Iona as a place of welcome.

An oral history of the Iona community

In 2004 Anne Muir an Oral Historian undertook, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a project recording stories from surviving Members, their families and those associated with the Community through the 40’s and 50’s. This collection is lodged in the Centre for Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and extracts have been made into a book. A report is attached summarising the process and findings from the project. read more