Sounds of Iona – May 2024

New members leave the Abbey

New Members Week 2023. Photo credit: William Gibson/Iona Community

In May’s Sounds, Ruth Harvey reflects on brokenness, peace and recommitting to Membership year after year.

There’s a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. This is the art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with urushi lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The imagery is powerful – that which was broken has been mended. And in the mending, beauty and treasure is woven into the cracks making the fissure integral to the whole. 

This theme of brokenness has woven its way through three events I’ve been privileged to attend in this last month on behalf of our Community. 

At one of many regional Iona Community gatherings in this season, 40 members of the Mid England Region gathered in Coventry to reflect on ‘Speaking of Peace in a Time of War.’ Through exploring our own sense of agency in the face of despair, we discovered room for peace, and hope – traces of gold in the midst of so much that is broken.  

Mary Gregory, Canon for Reconciliation and the Arts, led us on a pilgrimage through the ruins of the bombed cathedral to the grandeur of the new. In the face of despair that can so easily overcome a glimmer of hope, this poem by Gideon Heugh, shared by Mary, brought balm.

Do not be afraid— 
to complete the repair of the world 
is not why you were made.  

You were created to play 
only your part;  
whatever is within your hands; 
whatever is the now of your heart. 

Switch to the gathering of Diocesan Spirituality Advisers who met in Leicestershire, and you’ll discover these 30, mostly volunteer, quietly prophetic spiritual leaders exploring similar themes of beauty in the midst of brokenness. Many are supporting clergy and other church leaders who cling on with their fingernails to the rollercoaster that is currently church life for so many. They reflected on the core ministry of renewal and re-creation, weaving paths of healing and wholeness through the vulnerability of our human institutions.

Then thirdly, to a week spent on Iona. One of the joys of spending time at Iona Abbey is the surprising mix of guests we meet. So it was that the gathering of 15 New Members in mid-April coincided with the visit of Stewart Smith, a Member in Glasgow. Stewart was on Iona celebrating the 60th anniversary of his membership of the Community. Stewart’s delight about considering himself once again a new member, was a reminder of the provisionality of our belonging in this community.

This is the time of year when our Members renew our commitment. In the process of reaffirming our membership, many questions emerge. This year in particular I’m noticing one familiar question. Many of us continue to explore the challenges of Rule 1. What do we think happens when we pray? What place does Scripture have in our lives? How much of a Christian do I need to be, to belong? We’re working on building in opportunities through this year to explore these questions together in Family Groups, in plenary, in community gatherings.

As we explore these, and other questions about belonging in our community, I close now with a prayer written in the south aisle chapel. This is the place where hundreds of candles each week are lit as votives of prayer for named and unnamed people and places; this is the corner where the beauty of gold, seared into our brokenness is made visible. 

Collect from the South Aisle Chapel, Iona Abbey 

God of the Quiet Corner,
God of unbearable grief and
overwhelming sadness,
weld our souls together in
the forge of community. 

Bind us to one another
so that our lives meld and
our hearts are strengthened
in fierce friendships,
bringing balm to torn identity
and calm to broken hearts. 

In the name of the God
of the gentle dove, 


Skip to content