Iona Community

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The Iona Community, founded in 1938 by George MacLeod, is an ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions within Christianity.

It and its publishing house, Wild Goose Publications,[1] are headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, and its activities take place on the island of Iona, Mull, in Argyll and Bute and Glasgow.[2]


The community began as a project led by George MacLeod, a minister of the Church of Scotland in Govan, Glasgow, to close the gap which he perceived between the church and working people.[3] He took a group of ministers and working men to Iona to rebuild the ruined medieval Iona Abbey together.[4] The community which grew out of this was initially under the supervision of an Iona Community Board reporting to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but later the formal links with the Church of Scotland were loosened to allow the community more scope for ecumenical involvement.

The community appealed for funds to renovate the abbey leading to its re-opening, attended by Princess Anne, patron of the appeal, after a three-year closure in June 2021.[5] The project was blessed by the "Miracle in May", when fundraising in May obtained the £300,000 needed to keep contractors working.[6] The re-opening was featured in Songs of Praise.[7] 24 June 2021

Community life and activities[edit]

The Iona Community is a dispersed community. It has members who work and live throughout the world. There are 270 Full Members, around 1,800 Associate Members and 1,600 Friends of the Community.[8] Among them are Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Quakers, Roman Catholics and people of no denominational allegiance. The community has a strong commitment to ecumenism and to peace and justice issues.[2]

The Iona Community runs three residential centres: Iona Abbey and the MacLeod Centre on the island of Iona, and Camas Tuath on Mull.[2] Weeks at the centres often follow a programme related to the concerns of the Iona Community, and people are invited to come and share the life[citation needed]. A regular feature of a visit to Iona is a pilgrimage around the island which includes meditations on discipleship; when the pilgrims reach the disused marble quarry or the machair, the common ground where the crofters once grazed sheep, for example, they stop for reflection on work and faithfulness.[9]

The community has its own ecumenical liturgy which is used daily in the abbey and elsewhere.

Speaking about the visitor experience, Ruth Harvey, leader of the community, said: "This is not a hotel or a conference centre. People come for reflection and inspiration, and to explore issues of importance – the environment, poverty, migration, equality – in the context of a Christian community and in a beautiful, rugged landscape."[5]


Amongst the most widely known song and liturgical material from the Iona Community is the experimental worship developed by the Wild Goose Resource Group, based in Glasgow. The Group exists to enable and equip congregations and clergy in the shaping and creation of new forms of relevant and participative worship, particularly concerned with enabling John Bell, Graham Maule and Jo Love supported by a small administrative team led by Gail Ullrich.[10][11]

Bell and Maule, with their collaborators, the Wild Goose Worship Group and more recently, the Wild Goose Collective, have produced around 50 published books and CDs since the mid-1980s.[11] In the 1980s and 1990s, the Wild Goose Worship Group was influential in introducing songs from other cultures (particularly those from South Africa) to the repertoire of churches in the UK and elsewhere.

The approaches and practices of the Wild Goose Resource Group have been widely imitated and written about.[12][13][14][15][16][17] Collections of Wild Goose Resource Group songs and texts have been published internationally, including translations into Swedish,[18] Norwegian,[19] Finnish, Japanese, Dutch, West Frisian, Danish and German.

Leaders and notable members[edit]

The leader of the community is elected by the members. The leaders to date are:

  1. George MacLeod 1938-1967
  2. Ian Reid 1967-1974
  3. Graeme Brown 1974-1981
  4. Ron Ferguson 1982-1988
  5. John Harvey 1988-1995
  6. Norman Shanks 1995-2002
  7. Kathy Galloway 2002-2009
  8. Peter MacDonald 2009-2017[20][21]
  9. Michael Marten 2017[22][23]
  10. Kathy Galloway and Caro Smyth 2017-2018[24]
  11. Kathy Galloway and Christian MacLean 2018-2020[25]
  12. Ruth Harvey, since 2020[26][27][28]

Notable Members[edit]

Bruce Kenrick, the founder of housing organisation Shelter, was a member.[29]

Maxwell Craig, first general secretary of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), was a member.[30]

Douglas Haldane (1926-2012), child psychiatrist was a member of the community.

Helen Steven, was Justice and Peace Worker for the Iona Community from 1979 to 1985.[31]

John Bell, hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister, is a member of the Iona Community.[32][33]

Graham Maule (1958-2019), youth leader and founder member of the Wild Goose Resource Group, was a member.[34][35]

Non-binary minister Alex Clare-Young is a member and the moderator of the Community's LGBTQ+ Common Concern Network.[36]

Alison Phipps, first UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts and at Glasgow University is a member.[37][38]

Miles Christi[edit]

Miles Christi was a name given to the members of the Iona Community by its founder George MacLeod. The origin of this image of being a Soldier for Christ may have its roots in Martin of Tours who as a former Roman soldier applied similar discipline to Christian life and was a great inspiration to the early Church in Scotland. St Martin's Cross, a high Celtic Cross carved in stone, stands to this day outside the entrance to the Church of Iona Abbey. The image also reflects a tradition of someone remaining on watch. The early Christian Community on Iona founded by St Columba sent members out to evangelise mainland Scotland and beyond, with some members remaining behind. George MacLeod had been a decorated soldier in the First World War. He founded the Iona Community just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Publishing activities[edit]

The community's publishing group, Wild Goose Publications, produces books on social justice, political and peace issues, holistic spirituality, healing, and innovative approaches to worship, including music (books, tapes, CDs), short drama scripts and material for personal reflection and group discussion. Many of these are the work of John L. Bell and the Wild Goose Resource Group.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wild Goose Publications - Publisher for the Iona Community".
  2. ^ a b c "About the Iona Community". The Iona Community. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  3. ^ Ferguson, Ron (2001). George MacLeod: Founder of the Iona Community. HarperCollins. ISBN 1-901557-53-7.
  4. ^ "Biography of Reverend George MacLeod, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary". University of Glasgow. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  5. ^ a b Sherwood, Harriet (6 June 2021). "Scotland's 'cradle of Christianity' on Iona is saved by small mercies". Observer. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  6. ^ MacLennan, Chris (5 June 2021). "A seven-year £3.75million refurbishment of Iona Abbey's living quarters has finally been completed". Press and Journal. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  7. ^ Horne, Marc (5 June 2021). "Iona Abbey's survival prayer answered". Times. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  8. ^ Craig, Maxwell (May 2009). "REPORT OF THE IONA COMMUNITY BOARD May 2009" (PDF). Church of Scotland. Retrieved 11 March 2010.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Iona Abbey Worship Book, 2007, pg. 164)|date=November 2009
  10. ^ "Wild Goose Resource Group - the Iona Community". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  11. ^ a b "".
  12. ^ Hawn, C.Michael, Gather Into One: Praying and singing globally, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids/ Cambridge, 2002; p.189-223, ISBN 0-8028-0983-9
  13. ^ Forrester, Duncan B., & Gay (editors), Doug, Worship and Liturgy in Context: Studies and case studies of contemporary Christian practice, SCM Press, Norwich, 2009, ISBN 978-0-334-04168-9
  14. ^ Forrester, Duncan B. & Murray, Douglas M. (editors), Studies In The History Of Worship In Scotland, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1984, 1996; p187-188
  15. ^ Rudebark, Victoria, Den Genomskinliga Platsen, Verbum Forlag, Stockholm, 2002, ISBN 91-526-2867-1
  16. ^ "473 Interview with hymn writer John Bell on a new book & new ideas for ministry - Articles - Read the Spirit". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  17. ^[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Böcker, biblar, psalmböcker och församlingsuppdrag | Verbum".
  19. ^ "Bibelselskapet | Nettbutikk".
  20. ^ Cooper, Neil (4 March 2020). "Obituary: Peter Macdonald, radical Church of Scotland minister whose brilliance as a preacher inspired many people". Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  21. ^ "BROUGHTON MOURNS LOCAL MINISTER". Spurtle. 13 February 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  22. ^ "New Leader for Iona Community". Life and Work. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  23. ^ MacMath, Terence Handley (21 July 2017). "Interview: Michael Marten, leader of the Iona Community". Church Times. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements For The Year Ended 31 December 2017 for The Iona Community". Companies House. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements For The Year Ended 31 December 2018 for The Iona Community". Companies House. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  26. ^ Turner, Karen (6 March 2020). "Statement about the Iona Community's new Leader". Iona Community. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  27. ^ "New Iona Community Leader". Life and Work. 26 May 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  28. ^ Amos, Ilona (24 March 2021). "Citizens' assembly sets out vision for green and pleasant Scotland". Scotsman. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  29. ^ White, Michael (19 January 2007). "The Rev Bruce Kenrick". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  30. ^ Shanks, Norman (26 October 2009). "The Rev Maxwell Craig". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  31. ^ "Helen Steven, 1942-2016". Dangerous Women Project. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  32. ^ Handley, Paul (26 August 2017). "John Bell: 'Why I came out'". Church Times. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  33. ^ Lake, Meredith (26 May 2019). "John Bell and the Iona community". Soul Search. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  34. ^ Cooper, Neil (28 January 2020). "Obituary: Graham Maule, revered Iona Community youth leader and founder member of the Wild Goose Resource Group". Herald. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  35. ^ "Obituary: Dr Graham Maule". Church Times. 24 January 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  36. ^ "'Living in Love and Faith' New CofE Resource on Gender Identity and Sexuality". The Iona Community. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  37. ^ "University of Glasgow - Schools - School of Education - Our staff - Professor Alison Phipps". Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  38. ^ "Interview: Alison Phipps academic, linguist, artist". Retrieved 31 July 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]