Celtic Trail – Day 5 – Pilgrimage on Iona

Approaching the holy Isle of Iona

We have arrived on Iona (it was my fourth visit there) on a cloudy and cold afternoon. We have settled at the Iona Hostel, on the North side, one of my favourite places on the island, because of the quiet Christian atmosphere and the stunning beauty of the beach close by.

Had a little trouble getting to sleep in the hostel. Although it was nice as Hostels go, we had a dorm room situation with men in one room and women in another. Judy prepared a “brunch” with the food at hand and it turned out quite good. After devotions, we walked about a mile to the Iona town center in a windy rain, (typical of many days on Iona).

The simplicity of small farms with sheep and cattle all around, walking rather than driving, and having a hot cup of coffee or tea, allowed one to be more in touch with the purpose of being on a spiritual pilgrimage.

Iona Abbey from the sea

We met with Reverend John Bell at the Iona Abby who walked us through a brief history and an explanation of the Iona Community, which is a membership based community for people who may live in other places but identify with the Iona Community.

We have met with John Bell two days in a row, talking about Celtic spirituality, the Iona Community and urban missions. I hope to be able to edit and publish some day the recordings.

With my colleague, Kati, at the Abbey
where we havcve started our pilgrimage

The second full day on Iona, together with two of my colleagues,  I have made a short pilgrimage, with Bible readings, meditation, singing and preayer in the key places opn the island. I hope to be able to write some day a post on this meaningful pilgrimage experience.

John Bell shared that Columba came from Ireland in 563 AD. He was from a wealthy family and could have been king of Ireland, but chose instead to be a monk. The Celtic tradition did evangelism by friendship as opposed to the Roman way that was based on knowledge and belief. The Celtic period lasted for about 1,000 years. Unfortunately, during the protestant reformation many of the catholic buildings and writings were destroyed.

In 1890, the owner of the property, Mr. George Mcleod, decided to rebuild the cathedral for use by all Christian traditions and hoped that it could be a religious seminary. The Celtic history was still considered to be part of the Catholic Church. McLeod was a soldier and a clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He later resigned his parish in Glasgow, became a pacifist and in 1938 established the Iona Community movement. Over the next 25 years people brought money and spent time working to continue the building of the Iona Abby facilities. McLeod was a storyteller and often shared how God was at work to lead in the effort of building the Iona Community. The building was completed in 1963 for people to come from all over the world to enjoy this spiritual place. The Iona Community now has 268 members, with an average age of 45. Membership is now closed for two years. About 35% of the members are priests/pastors. Full membership is a two-year process and requires participation in some kind of project or common task. The Iona Community has five rules…

  1. Devotion: Thirty minutes of daily scripture and prayer.
  2. Social Justice: Pacifist style of life and agree with social justice.
  3. Time: All time belongs to God, and the way one used time is an indication of the things that are important in life.
  4. Money: All money belongs to God. Each year one must share with his/her group how their money is used. 10% of net is given to God.
  5. Groups: Meet together once per month in small groups all across the country.


In this and in the following posts, the text in BLACK is by Michael Carlisle, one of our colleagues on the Celtic Trail, and the text in BLUE contains my comments.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

4 thoughts on “Celtic Trail – Day 5 – Pilgrimage on Iona”

  1. De fapt imi aminteste de l’ile de Batz, insula intre Franta si Anglia. Nu-mi vine sa cred asemanarea, asa cum se vede ea din poze. Curios….


    1. Interesant. Ceea ce face ca Iona sa fie un loc special este probabil multimea de rugaciuni care s-au rostit in acest loc de-a lungul secolelor. Este ceea ce cel;tii numes ‘a thin place’, un ‘loc subtire’, unde granita dintre lumea noastra si lumea lui Dumnezeu este sustire ca o foaie de hirtie.


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