Author of "Let the Giving of Thanks Be Our Sacrifice " in Psalms for All Seasons The Iona Community, founded in 1938 by the Rev George MacLeod, is an ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions in the Christian church.
Its headquarters are in Glasgow, Scotland, where its publishing house Wild Goose Publications is also based, but its main activities take place on the island of Iona, and to a lesser extent also on Mull, in Argyll and Bute.
The community began as a project led by George MacLeod, at that time Church of Scotland minister in Govan, Glasgow, to close the gap which he perceived between the Church and working people. He took a group of ministers and working men to Iona to rebuild the ruined medieval Iona Abbey together. The community which grew out of this was initially under the supervision of an Iona Community Board reporting to the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, but later the formal links with the Church of Scotland were loosened to allow the community more scope for ecumenical involvement.
The Iona Community is a scattered community. Its members live mainly in Scotland, England and Wales, others live in Australia, Germany, Malaysia and the United States. In May 2009, there were 270 Full Members, "around 1800" Associate Members and 1600 Friends of the Community. 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.
The Iona Community runs three residential centres: Iona Abbey and the MacLeod Centre on the Isle of Iona, and Camas Tuath on Mull. 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. 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.
The community has its own ecumenical liturgy which is used daily in the abbey and elsewhere.
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 Jo Love supported by a small administrative team led by Gail Ullrich.
Along with a team of local Glaswegians, they also run a monthly, city-centre workshop & worship event, Holy City.
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-80s. In the 80s and 90s, the Wild Goose Worship Group was highly influential in introducing songs from the 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. Collections of Wild Goose Resource Group songs and texts have been published internationally, including translations into Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Japanese, Dutch, Frisian, Danish and German.
The leader of the community is elected by the members. The leaders to date are:
George MacLeod 1938-1967
Ian Reid 1967-1974
Graeme Brown 1974-1981
Ron Ferguson 1982-1989
John Harvey 1989-1996
Norman Shanks 1996-2003
Kathy Galloway 2003 - 2009
Peter MacDonald 2009–present (Term extends to 2016)
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.
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.