Iona Com­mu­nity’s newly-elected leader hopes he can ‘find new ways to touch the hearts of all’

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths -

DR MICHAEL Marten, 48, was voted the next leader of the Iona Com­mu­nity by a mem­ber­ship of just over 280. Dr Marten, who iden­ti­fies him­self as a Pres­by­te­rian- Quaker, is the first lay per­son in the seven-year role, but has been a mem­ber of the com­mu­nity since 1993.

‘I feel very ex­cited, some­what daunted,’ he told The Oban Times. ‘ There’s a line of eight il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sors, and I am fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of peo­ple I hold in very high re­gard.

‘I view this as a great op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing for the com­mu­nity which has been a home for me for a quar­ter of a cen­tury, and I hope I can give some­thing back.’

Dr Marten mar­ried Si­grid in 1994, who shortly there­after be­came a Church of Scot­land min­is­ter, and then com­pleted a PhD in church his­tory and in­ter­faith the­ol­ogy in 2003, be­fore teach­ing Mid­dle East pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Lon­don and re­li­gion at Stir­ling Univer­sity from 2008-15. Most re­cently he has been em­ployed by the Iona Com­mu­nity as its sup­port ser­vices man­ager.

Mar­lene Fin­layson, con­vener of the coun­cil of the Iona Com­mu­nity, said: ‘ Mem­bers can look for­ward to a dy­namic and en­er­getic lead­er­ship. Michael brings to the lead­er­ship not only wide ex­pe­ri­ence of a va­ri­ety of roles within the com­mu­nity, but an ac­tive com­mit­ment to jus­tice, peace and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, and on­go­ing in­volve­ment in de­vel­op­ment and cam­paign­ing is­sues, es­pe­cially re­lated to the wider Mid­dle East and Chris­tian- Jewish- Mus­lim re­la­tions.’

Out­lin­ing his vi­sion, Dr Marten said: ‘ We face a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent land­scape to when I joined the com­mu­nity a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, never mind com­pared to when George MacLeod founded it in 1938.

‘ We now live in a postChris­ten­dom and even post- church con­text: churches are no longer the de­fault for en­gag­ing with Chris­tian spir­i­tu­al­ity.

‘ While many mem­bers are still very in­volved in churches, oth­ers are just hold­ing on by their fin­ger­tips, have left al­to­gether or have adopted mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties – and I’d in­clude my­self in these lat­ter groups.

‘ These ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tions are to be em­braced, not shunned, for they of­fer us new in­sights into what Chris­tian life in the 21st cen­tury could be.

‘George MacLeod wrote a prayer in which he urged that we be taken “out­side ho­li­ness, out to where sol­diers curse and na­tions clash at the cross­roads of the world”. The com­mu­nity has al­ways en­cour­aged ex­plo­ration of what be­ing “out­side ho­li­ness” means, in­clud­ing new mod­els of com­mu­nity liv­ing on Iona and Mull, the cre­ation of new wor­ship re­sources, new ways of en­gage­ment with the global church, and ex­per­i­ments in lo­cal ac­tivism.

‘As we face a resur­gent pop­ulist right and the in­creas­ingly hos­tile im­pacts of in­di­vid­u­alised neo-lib­er­al­ism, the Iona Com­mu­nity can of­fer an al­ter­na­tive model of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, cen­tred on mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships where all are wel­comed, all are val­ued, and the cross­roads of the world be­comes a meet­ing place, rather than a place of con­flict.

‘ That, I am con­vinced, is where we need to be, in Scot­land and the UK, in a wider Euro­pean con­text, and glob­ally.’

The Rev Peter Macdon­ald con­tin­ues as leader un­til the sum­mer, when Dr Marten suc­ceeds him.

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