Associate Minister's July 2015 Letter

Holiday in Scotland

First an update on the Palestine Rebuild Project in April:  The family moved into the house on 12th May!  The wiring hasn’t been finished but they were so desperate to get out of their tiny flat in the refugee camp.

At the end of May Joanna wanted to attend a wedding up in St Andrews, so we decided to take our annual holiday in Scotland even though it was so soon after our Palestine trip.  The highlight was three nights on the Island of Iona with the parents of the bride.  The tiny little dot on the map off the coast of Scotland has become a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world.

St Columba first went to Iona in AD563 and founded a monastery which became a renowned centre of learning.  Hard to imagine how a remote island could support a large monastic community but in those days the seas were the highways and the most important asset Iona had was a safe harbour.

Iona is not simply a place to brush up on history.  In 1938 George Macleod founded the Iona Community.  He was a minster in Glasgow who was deeply aware how the church, even then, was losing touch with the ordinary working people.  George wanted to start afresh with the earthiness of the Celtic tradition and build a community passionate for justice, reconciliation, worship and care of the environment.

With no official backing he gave up his clergy income and set out to rebuild the ruins of  Iona Abbey.  He wrote to all the wealthy people he could think of and most of them regarded it as a ridiculous idea.  James Lithlow who built battleships on the Clyde met George and said:  ‘If I give you £5000 will you give up your pacifism?’ ‘Not on your life!’ George replied. ‘Then I will give you £5000.’  A huge sum in today’s money.  George employed local workmen and used trainee ministers to do the labouring work and the result is a timeless masterpiece.

The Iona Community is still flourishing and people come from all over the world to experience this special place where the distance between earth and heaven seems so thin. We met a girl who had travelled all the way from the Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean to Iona for the feast day of St Columba – June 9th. She had spent just two nights on the Island and then set off back home.

As we did the pilgrimage around the island, reading the meditations that go with it, several times losing our way and missing the actual spots we were to visit, we sensed too the special spiritual quality of the place and the joy of being with friends.

Christopher Cant

 


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