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Iona Community in Scotland

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Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It has been a powerful spiritual center over the centuries. Every year pilgrims come to this beautiful “thin place” to experience the special beauty of the island and the rich worship life of the Iona community in the ancient Abbey. The Iona community, formed by George MacLeod in 1938, is a center for Celtic spirituality and theology. The music and liturgy produced by the Iona community is used frequently at Immanuel.

The Celtic approach to spirituality, as reflected in the Iona community, emphasizes the original blessing of creation, the beauty of nature, and the belief that worship is all that we are and all that we do both inside and outside the church. The Iona community believes that people come to Iona not to be changed into “religious” people, but rather to be made more fully human. This perspective, along with the beauty of the liturgy and their commitment to peace and justice, resonates deeply within our life at Immanuel.

In 2009 IPC pilgrims first traveled to Iona. It was a marvelous experience. We hope to continue pilgrimages to Iona every other year. The next one will be in 2017.

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Why the Wild Goose?

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In the Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented as a bird, but not the peaceful and serene dove landing on Jesus at his baptism. For their symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Celtic church people chose the Wild Goose, (An Geadh-Glas). This has become the logo and name for the worship branch of the Iona Community. Why did the Wild Goose speak to those ancient Celtic Christians? To begin with, wild geese aren’t controllable. You can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud. Unlike the sweet and calming cooing of a dove, a goose’s honk is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving – and just a bit scary. In much the same way the Spirit of God can be, demanding and unsettling. Think about the story of Pentecost, and the impression the disciples made on the crowd. People thought they were drunk and disorderly! Its one thing for a gentle dove to descend peacefully on Jesus – it’s something all together different when the Spirit descends like a wild, noisy goose!

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