New leader ap­pointed to the Iona Com­mu­nity


Dr Michael Marten ex­plains how he felt about his new ap­point­ment as the leader of Iona Com­mu­nity, and fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of pre­vi­ous great lead­ers, all of who are min­is­ters ‘BE­COM­ING the ninth leader of the com­mu­nity is both a huge priv­i­lege, and rather daunt­ing,’ he be­gan. ‘In elect­ing the first lay leader of the com­mu­nity, mem­bers have cho­sen to recog­nise the place that all can play in the wider life of God’s peo­ple – we are ar­tic­u­lat­ing the priest­hood of all be­liev­ers in a new way.

‘To­day, we wel­comed new mem­bers into the com­mu­nity in a spe­cial ser­vice in the abbey, known as the Hal­low­ing Ser­vice; to­wards the end of the ser­vice, the pre­vi­ous leader, Rev­erend Peter Macdon­ald, also hal­lowed me as the new leader.

‘Hav­ing been at many Hal­low­ing Ser­vices over the years since I joined the com­mu­nity al­most quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, I can’t say I ever ex­pected to be hal­lowed again, this time as leader.

‘Th­ese are ex­cit­ing times for the com­mu­nity. This morn­ing, I preached in the abbey, clos­ing with the fol­low­ing thoughts: ‘As the new leader of the Iona Com­mu­nity I have been asked on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions what I think the com­mu­nity has to of­fer in the con­tem­po­rary con­text, when churches ap­pear to be dy­ing, and Chris­tian life is seen by some as in­creas­ingly ir­rel­e­vant in the con­tem­po­rary world.

‘My re­sponse is that it is our valu­ing of com­mu­nity it­self that marks us out as dif­fer­ent. It is in the cre­ation, sus­tain­ing and nur­tur­ing of right re­la­tion­ships that we live out some­thing quite dif­fer­ent, that is lost in the win­ner-takes-all cut-throat cap­i­tal­ist world around us, a world that wor­ships at the al­tar of nuclear an­ni­hi­la­tion, ac­cepts with equa­nim­ity the deaths of thou­sands of Africans in the Mediter­ranean each year, ig­nores the in­creas­ing at­tacks on the poor and dis­abled in our own so­ci­ety, doesn’t no­tice the marginal­i­sa­tion of non-bi­nary peo­ple in all ar­eas of life.

‘We re­ject th­ese things. We re­ject them be­cause they run counter, in ev­ery imag­in­able way, to the idea that right re­la­tion­ships should be at the heart of how we re­late to one an­other.

‘This is why we are in the mid­dle of a ma­jor fundrais­ing ef­fort to re­fur­bish the abbey: the build­ing is in need of re­pair so that we can con­tinue to bring peo­ple from all walks of life to come and share in the ex­plo­ration of how to build com­mu­nity, of “find­ing new ways to touch the lives of all” as one of our founder’s prayers puts it.

‘This is at the heart of all our work, whether on Iona, Mull, or the main­land, whether with young peo­ple, in our pub­lish­ing and pro­gramme ac­tiv­i­ties, or the out­reach of the Wild Goose Re­source Group re­new­ing wor­ship in churches.’

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