Iona Community Continentals

Meeting as a global Community

What do a passionate talk on being a multi-language community, a story of two men walking to Jerusalem and a communion under the stars have in common?

The obvious answer is that they were all part of the continental meeting at Höchst im Odenwald in Germany in September. We were from different countries eg Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands.

Using the ‘open space method’, we asked ourselves how to live the rule. This method prepares the process but not the content of the meetings. People could offer on the spot to host a group on a topic. All could join a group and discuss for about 20-30 minutes. Other topics included: giving voice to nature, how to stand for peace in times of war, biblereading, stories of transformation, how to stand for those who can’t, how to connect with non-religious people. I was amazed at the relevance of the subjects that emerged and the quality of the exchange in the groups.

Experiencing God’s love

The answer to my opening question about what those three things have in common is that these were ways I experienced God’s love during this meeting. It was a hands-on experience of the joys and complexities of being an inclusive community. With the goal of including people whose English was not sufficient, practical solutions like simultaneous translation to German were tested. We experienced that what was helpful for some, sometimes was complicating things for others. I was touched by the love in the effort of trying to include all and the love in the honesty that this is still work-in-progress.

The worship services were prepared by groups from different countries, and a some of the groups used the story of Emmaus. It is a story that can be seen as a reflection of the shared human experience as a continuous process: losing hope, feeling your heart burn and recognizing in hindsight the presence of Jesus. I think the common ground for the profound connections I experienced that weekend was the openness of others on their experiences of all elements of this process.

In the service of communion under the stars, love was abundant: in the familiar ritual, in a hug as a sign of peace and in the beautiful night sky. What these three things have in common for me is the love in trying to include all and the longing to make this Community work.
This has touched me deeply.

Fenneke van Hasselt
Images: M van de Kamp

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