Sounds of Iona – February 2024

Road to the Abbey covered in ice and snow.

The walk to the Abbey on icy roads. Credit: R. Harvey

The walk from the ferry to the Abbey on Iona last week was more treacherous than usual. Snow was settling on the sand. Raw ice was on the roads. The dazzle and the shimmer was spectacular. It even managed, for glorious moments, to divert attention from the need for hot water bottles and extra heaters in the Abbey! There’s something delightful about being on Iona in the winter – the hunkering down, the small groups gathered for daily worship in the Michael Chapel, the short days and long nights determining priorities.  

I’ve also been receiving messages and photos from friends in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia with stories of heatwaves and dry, dry scorched earth, of flash flooding and endangered wildlife. 

As I look at the political landscape, in this year of elections in the UK and the USA, I wonder what that landscape is offering you by way of inspiration, solace, pain, questions? And then there’s the aching landscape of Israel/Palestine and Sudan, of Ukraine and Yemen filling our screens and our airwaves. How does the heat and the scorched earth, the trauma and the tragedy of God’s creation in those lands impact our priorities?  

In the horror of war and violence, the despair of climate chaos and greed, there are no doubt more questions and anxieties than solace and inspiration. And yet, as a Community of hope, rooted in the Gospel story, a story ultimately of potential in the midst of despair, I ask: what is the shape of hope for the world now? 

This isn’t simply a call to optimism in the face of despair, or a naive assent to the ‘credible hope’ that Keir Starmer and politicians like him regularly lay in front of us. Rather it is a call to dig deep into the art of conversation as we listen with one another, with creation, with our adversaries.  

The art of conversation will not alone solve the scandal of war. But as we continue to ‘Learn, Pray, Act’ for peace with justice, as we protest on the streets, pray in our homes, and call for an end to violence on all sides, let us continue to practice the art of hosting tough conversations ‘in the cool of the moment.’  

As I left Iona the snow and ice was mostly gone. What remains is the beauty of God’s creation which continues to delight and inspire:  

God of the stormy nights and the snowy days;
God who dusts creation with sparkle and shimmer,
and brings blessing in the drizzle and the dreich,
so bless us in the days ahead.
Bless us with grace through conversation,
with compassion as we listen,
with focus as we work,
and with joy as we ease into rest. 

When we get bogged down in detail,
draw our hearts to a wider horizon.
When we get overwhelmed by vastness,
draw our hearts to the detail –
reminding us of the dazzle in the dreich,
the sparkle in the snow.
So we praise and worship you,
dear companion, Christ of our hearts,


(The CCN Environment invite Members, Associate Members and Friends to complete this short survey on carbon accounting it will help them set their priorities for 2024).

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