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Looking Back: Iona 1949

In the years following the end of WW2, Iona Abbey's rebuilding began once again to see the arrival of those wishing to help with the dream. Published in October 1949.

A thousand young men and women share

To climb the stone steps into the Refectory is to know the new thing of Iona, 1949. The timber, given by Norway, is now all in place. The barrel ceiling, painted the indescribable blue of the sea on the white sands of Iona, conceals the giant beams that we saw like a whale’s skeleton in the sky last year. The windows are in and the inner walls washed white. There, community and guests have Sunday dinner in token of the future when restoration of kitchen and dormitory will make this the centre of community life.

Its completion marks a definite stage in the work of rebuilding, after the toil of preparation of the early years and the slow progress of work during the war. There is a thankful sense of achievement in this great building standing finished, making the full restoration a near reality and not a foolish dream.

A full working community

This year’s work has re-emphasised the original intention of the Iona Community, for it has brought the craftsmen members back to that full partnership with the minister members which the war upset. It was fitting that this year a craftsman should introduce each broadcast service. And it was good that when so many craftsmen were at work there should be a number of new minister members. It was with that full working community that visitors came each week to share in that life. And it was in that setting of a common life and work that those who came to lecture – Professor Donald Baillie, Professor Donald Mackinnon, Mr Penry Jones and, in action rather than word, Mr Godfrey Mowat of the Churches’ Council of Healing – pointed particular aspects of the Church’s task.

And the daily use to which the Refectory was put showed the promise that the expanding work on Iona holds. For it was here that the members of the Youth Camps – eighty each week through the summer – met daily for bible study in the morning and for discussion at night. This was the kind of holiday they chose; and they came from all over Scotland, with many visitors from England and some from other lands. Their study and their worship and their life together found a new reality in the sight of the community at work, with which they were linked, not only by morning and evening worship in the Abbey. So they were a part, albeit for a short time, of a community which included craftsmen, like many of themselves, who were living and working and worshipping together in a common task. And once each week during evening worship an opportunity was given, as in former years, for those who wished to make a decision of faith to do so at the Table of Communion.

So once more, the island was a focus for a few months of the life of the Church on the mainland.

October 1938: The Iona Community - What it is, and What it is not by George MacLeod

June 1975: Macleod at 80

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