The Iona Community: 75 years of inspiration

By Simon Barrow
June 10, 2013

The Iona Community is a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working simultaneously for peace and social justice, the rebuilding of human bonds of collaboration locally and globally, and the renewal of worship. This past weekend it has been celebrating its 75th anniversary.

The Community is known and supported the world over these days. Its liturgical and hymnody resources are historic in inspiration and modern in realisation, demonstrating what a lively, traditional, yet ever-new Christian faith means in practice, and illustrating the indivisibility of spirituality and action for social and personal change at the heart of transformative, reflective faith.

The rebuilding of the ancient Abbey on the Isle of Iona, site of the arrival of Columba and Christianity 1,450 years ago, was a labour of love that also created work and hope for young people from some of the most deprived areas of Glasgow.

The Abbey and its environs continue to offer a place of retreat, renewal, recreation and re-energisation for thousands of people. It roots and connects a dispersed community in both time and space. It is also a collaboration with Historic Scotland, showing that heritage and preservation can be forward looking, too.

Iona Community members commit themselves both to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and biblical reflection, and to the economic discipline of accounting for and sharing resources.

Associates, of whom I am one, seek to support the venture of the community in Scotland, in these islands and worldwide, plus the work of the Abbey and new developments in Glasgow.

On Friday 7th June, the 75th anniversary celebrations started in Govan, where George McLeod and his early associates began.

Sometimes, when people ask me what Ekklesia is about, especially in Scotland, I am tempted to say, "we're trying to be the kind of think-tank the Iona Community would be pleased to have" -- such is the congruence of values, convictions and outlook we seem to share.

It is about taking the best of authentic, historic Christianity and seeking to take that into a post-Christendom setting where the church is challenged to live out the Gospel afresh through ground-up good example rather than top-down religious or political control.

This sense of shared outlook and engagement is something that the Rev Peter MacDonald, the leader of the Community, and I have been talking about informally in recent months. We happen to have known each other for a number of years, and we are hoping that Ekklesia and the Iona Community can work together more, and for mutual benefit and learning, in the future. That would be an honour and a privilege from Ekklesia's point of view. It's something we have been intending for some time, as part of a growing network of partnerships.

So, we wish a very happy 75th anniversary to all our Iona friends, near and far!

* Find out more about the Iona Community and its work here:

* Iona Community on facebook: And on Twitter: @ionacommunity


(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He and his wife, Carla J Roth, are associates of the Iona Community and have just joined the Leith Family Group.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.