19 May 2013
1,450th of the arrival of St Columba on Iona
75th Anniversary of Iona Abbey and Community
25th Anniversary of the opening of the McCloud Centre.
17th May: Pilgrims Eleanor Duff, Mary Magennis, Kathy and Inderjit Bhogal set off from Belfast in the footsteps of St Columba towards Iona.
The long journey was used to share our life stories with each other. From this emerged a deep conversation on Creation which informed our visit to an area of outstanding natural beauty.
On arrival, almost the first sound we heard was the now rarely heard but distinctive call of the corncrake. We were welcomed on Iona with a meal by Peter Macdonald (leader of Iona) and his wife Lesley, in a local restaurant.
On our first night on the Island we stayed in a B & B and then were guests of the Iona Community in the Abbey.
18th May: Eleanor, Mary and Kathy used some spare time to undertake a personal pilgrimage on the Saturday, and visited St Columba’s Bay thus preparing to share in the 1450th Anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on the island.
Inderjit was able to connect and hold conversations with staff and volunteers in order to share ideas and best practice and to learn from each other.
Sunday 19th May was the Anniversary Day – Iona Community was founded by the Rev George MacLeod. It was Pentecost Sunday and the day started with the commissioning and blessing of the Peace and Justice Pilgrimage. The pilgrims will walk to London via Faslane and follow the route of the Olympic 2012 torch. This pilgrimage will highlight the fact the UK government is committing £100million on the renewing of the Trident system while cutting back on the social budget affecting the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK.
This was followed by Mass in the St Michael’s Chapel of the Abbey where the celebrant was Bishop Joseph Toal of Oban. After this was a service of Holy Communion led by the Rev Joanna Watson (Scottish Episcopal Church) and representatives of all the denominations on Iona. Following this was a buffet hosted by the Argyll and Bute Council. This was for specially invited guests. We met many friends of Corrymeela including Bishop David Chillingworth and his wife Alison.The highlight of the day was a service in the Abbey to commemorate the arrival of St Columba on Iona (at Pentecost 563 A.D.). The MSP for Argyll and the Islands Mr Michael Russell gave a keynote address and the Very Rev Finlay Macdonald, Chair of the Iona Cathedral Trustees gave the sermon. Other participants included the Mull Gaelic Choir and the children of the Iona Primary School. Distinguished guests included the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, Susan Conlon the Irish Consul from Edinburgh, members of the MacLeod family, and of course an honourable representation from Corrymeela (Mary Magennis, Eleanor Duff, Maureen and Colin Foxall, Kathy and Inderjit Bhogal).
The key message to us all was that work, faith and justice are interlinked. We have to connect with people on the margins and the poor and address the gap between the rich and the poor. We have to challenge injustice fearlessly and prophetically.
We managed to complete our own private pilgrimage by visiting the North of the island and climbing Dun–i, the highest point of Iona.
In the evening, there was a performance of a specially commissioned play on the life of George MacLeod, written Alistair Rutherford. This highlighted the prophetic leap of faith MacLeod took to rebuild the ruins of the Abbey. Out of this emerged the Iona Community. MacLeod described Iona as a thin place, tissue thin between heaven and earth, where lay and ordained people were challenged to live in community and to make a practical application of their faith and the gospel.
It was a good performance and we enjoyed meeting the actors who captured the essence of George MacLeod and his key message in the play. As we left Iona the following day, we were given a hearty wave and a fond farewell.
This expression of solidarity has deepened and enriched our relationships and connections with our sister community. It was privilege and a treat to meet the founding and current members of the Iona Community such as Ian Fraser and Murdoch McKenzie, who send their good wishes to the Corrymeela Community.We left Iona Community with an open invitation to visit us, and certainly to come and share with us our 50th Anniversary in 2015.We came away with a thought. If you were to meet St Columba now, what would your question be to him?
Inderjit and Kathy BhogalMary MagennisEleanor Duff