Sounds of Iona – May 2023

Protest banners

Following my reflections in last month’s Sounds of Iona, I’m keen to share with you here news of developments in the life of our movement and community. 

Ours is an intentional, Christian, ecumenical, dispersed community. We choose those adjectives with great care, naming the heart of our being. 

Intentional: I reflected on how we keep the Rule in April’s Sounds of Iona. Right now, Members in Family Groups are actively engaging in a recommitment process which we call “With Us”, when Members set their intention to remain ‘with’ the Iona Community for another year.  

We are also intentional in our commitment to Creation. Last weekend, many of us were in London for The Big One, the series of marches and events coordinated by Extinction Rebellion, and drawing together over 200 charities, to protest at the climate catastrophe. You can read about our experiences of this remarkable, inspiring event on the website. Our actions spring from our intentions. Our commitment to Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation is long-standing. This commitment, however, along with our awareness of the climate chaos, has evolved. We’re now updating this covenant to reflect the greater urgency and deeper connection these times demand. Our CCN focusing on Israel-Palestine is working hard on updating our position statement about the situation there. These are intentional, focused, demanding common tasks.   

This commitment to justice for all is echoed in our renovation of the MacLeod Centre into an eco-friendly hostel for young people and pilgrims. This year, we’re working closely with partner organisations and pilgrim groups to ‘test out’ our vision for the Mac. If you are a Member or an Associate Member, we would love you to take part in this experimental phase during Community Week, or Associates Week. We’ll also be inviting you to a ‘Mac Engagement Day’ in Penrith on Saturday 9th September.  

Christian, ecumenical: The experience of Easter on Iona this year, where staff, guests and programme leaders worked creatively and tirelessly to bring the story of lament, of waiting, and of resurrection hope to life, reminds us that the particularity of the story of Jesus is one for us to open up and lean into: as a hospitable Christian community “we take our bearings from the stories about, and told by, Jesus of Nazareth” (Tim Gorringe). I continue to encourage us to take our questions of faith and doubt, longing and love to our Family Groups. If you are not in a Family Group, consider joining us as an Associate Member so that we can link you up with a supportive network. 

Our membership is growing globally, and so therefore is our denominational reach. Expressions of Christian faith vary across continents and within denominations. Our ecumenical identity is not limited to mainstream Christian denominations. The Iona Community has always been a space for those who find themselves on the edge of institutional faith for whatever reason. Our gathered and scattered community is global and multi-denominational. We welcome those who have a seat at the table, and those who are excluded. We welcome the sinners and the saints, the believers and doubters, those who are hurting and healing, the lonely and well-connected, the cherished and the forgotten. We welcome all. That’s who we are. 

Dispersed: We are always delighted to welcome New Members to the Community and in the process, all are changed and challenged. In April, New Members met online and on site. With a clutch of New Members now located outside Europe, the newly formed Iona Community North America Advisory Group (previously the New World Foundation) is actively working to develop our regional and family group structures in the USA and Canada, and how to support our New Members in North America.  

Meanwhile, in Australia, our relationship with the Wellspring Community is deepening. In preparation for and reflection on the ‘Care for Creation’ pilgrimage with the Wellspring Community in October, I’m hosting a series of online conversations called The Celtic Connection. You can find out more and register for these online events here.

The New Members that have joined in the last two years are actively helping us to shape how the programme will look in the future. We are experimenting in real time about how to run hybrid sessions effectively; how to manage multiple time zones; the gift and challenge of varying abilities, access needs, languages and cultures within one group – all that it means to be an intentional, Christian, ecumenical, disperses community.  

So wherever you are, from Zimbabwe to New Zealand, from Nova Scotia to Scotland, we’re glad that you are on this intentional journey in community with us.  

With love, solidarity and peace, 

Ruth Harvey 

Image: The Iona Community at The Big One, climate change protests in London, April 2023. Credit: Iona Community / t.b.c.

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