Dear Friends at St Chrysostom‟s
Greetings from the Isle of Iona!
I attended the LGBT communion service at St Chrysostom‟s and was made very welcome there and I felt compelled to share my experience of living up here in the wilds of Scotland.
At first glance, a remote Scottish island doesn‟t strike you as being a particularly cosmopolitan place, especially when compared to a city like Manchester. There are far fewer people, the shops can be counted on the fingers of one hand … but if you can overlook the downsides (are these downsides?!) then it has a lot to offer.
I work for The Iona Community, a dispersed ecumenical Christian Community that puts a very strong emphasis on working for Justice and Peace. I’m working in an administrative function for most of the time, but also take part in leading worship, pilgrimages, Ceilidh dances and other common life tasks. We welcome guests each week during the season, up to ninety on any one week.
The accommodation is dormitory-style, with smaller rooms following the footprint of the old, medieval building on the Abbey site and larger, well-appointed rooms in the newer MacLeod centre building just up the hill. When people come to stay with us, we invite them to join us in building community and learning how to live in community for the week that they are here.
Part of the Iona experience is the shared mealtimes, the laughter, the spiritual uplift during services and of course the beauty and grandeur of nature, the sea and cliffs and beaches and moorland and clear open sky that surrounds us.
And the cosmopolitan atmosphere I alluded to earlier? Well, staff and guests come from all over the world, people whose first language is English and people who struggle with the tongue, people who are wealthy, people who are not . . . and a significant number of LGBT people, more than I ever expected I would meet in such an isolated rural area as this.
“We welcome people of all ages, ethnic groups, differing abilities and sexualities in the Iona Community. We believe in the sacredness of all human relationships, that they should therefore be characterised by the practice of loving our neighbours as we love ourselves; ” Our practice does not depend on how others treat us. To love others as our neighbours means to act towards them with justice, mercy, humility, integrity and that quality which Jesus commended, loving kindness.” About 10% of the community‟s membership and staff are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, people who are fully and openly part of the common life.
This is a wonderful place in which to live and work and I would like to share it with my former friends and acquaintances at St C‟s, and I wish to extend an invitation to you all to come to visit Iona, stay at one of our centres and experience the community and life on this wonderful island.
(Of specific interest to the people I met at the LGBT communion services might be the week 1st to 7th September 2012, “Including Joy”, which is advertised as a week in which to “celebrate the health and happiness brought to churches who include and reach out to the lesbian, gay ,bisexual and transgender communities”.)
If you would like to come to island next year, full details of what‟s on can be found on the website, www.iona.org.uk or you can telephone me (01681 700404) and I‟ll send you a programme. Just ask for Joanne in Bookings.
With love to you all Joanne