Scotland 2015 #2 – to Iona, settling into life in community

Being on Iona, this isolated Inner Hebridean island is like being removed from so much of the demand of life. That’s been my experience in the blessing of two previous visits. It’s shaping up the same way this time too; just heightened by living in community (spoken by an introvert here) and the inspirational leadership of John Bell, Graham Maule and Jo Love from the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community. An amazing team of volunteers, drawn from across the globe works alongside. 

It’s so lovely, taking a slow walk along the quiet road that stretches from the north to near the south of the Island, looking out across brilliant green fields where geese are grazing (yes, you read this correctly) to the Ross of Mull and it’s calm northern Atlantic waters. It’s lovely just sitting, let alone worshiping together amid the beauty of the historic abbey. I could stay here a long, long time.
Anyhow, back a few days …

On Saturday morning we departed around 6 pm from our Airbnb and after confusion with directions from the trusty Garmin, we headed somewhat northwest to Oban on the west coast,Oban being a key departure point for travelers to the Hebridean isles. We passed through some truly lovely country, past many a beautiful loch, through many a glen, making it to Oban in good time to get our car in line for the huge vehicular ferry that would take us to Craignure at Mull.

Driving across Mull (about an hour) was an interesting experience – single lane road for an hour, frequently pulling over to let vehicles by, sheep also having right of way.

Getting to Fionnphort, we park the car and catch the ferry across, receiving a warm welcome from Iona Community folk on the Iona jetty. The rest of the day is spent settling in, enjoying the beauty of the place, doing some community- building before finishing the day at 9 pm in the Abbey, with a Service of Welcome. Dale and I, awake thanks to delayed jet lag since 3 pm decide to get some sleep, Dale in her quarters downstairs in the Macleod Centre ( the “Mac”) and me upstairs. That’s how it’s done here. We both manage 8 1/2 hours sleep. So, so good! 

 Sunday morning after breakfast, we begin our daily “tasks”- the cleaning duties we are all part of – work and worship as one. I offer to do the daily upstairs vacuuming. I’m part of the “Seals” group – responsible also for evening meal setup, serving, cleanup and wash up.

 Then it’s down to the Abbey for Sunday morning communion (most worship is lay-led), for which I had offered to be a communion server. John Bell was the preacher and he preached – so topically as it proved – on the Matthew 2 Massacre of the Innocents (as church history records it) by King Herod. Bell is world-renowned for his immense contribution over almost three decades to church music. He is just as inspiring as a preacher. Challenging too, as he spoke out about the treatment by countries around the world (and I think regrettably of my own when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers). Would we welcome a 16 year old mother with her infant child … Jesus? So Bell provocatively asked.  

Lunch is this wonderful lamb curry, with lovely vegetables on the side. Meals wth the Iona Community are mainly vegetarian, so this was a real treat. Miriam, the young chief cook from NW England joined us at our table for main course. Many wonderful compliments came her way.
 A bit of shut-eye, an email/Facebook check at the St Columba Hotel and it’s time for a truly wonderful Big Sing led by our three Wild Goose leaders. No guitars. No piano. No percussion. We, all 60 of us are it, and what a marvelous ” it” we are. Song after song, acapella in beautiful 4 part harmony – a great many of these songs borne out of struggles toward justice and freedom. Many from the world church. Powerful. Powerful.

excuse this one, it snuck in from Royal Mile, Edinburgh

One of the God’s great gifts through the Iona Community is not only its ecumenical outlook; it’s also its international complexion. There are people here from Uganda, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Canada, USA, New Zealand and a few like us from Australia.   



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