‘Cradle of Christianity’ on remote Scottish isle opening more doors

An iconic Christian site on a remote Scottish island will become more accessible as a place of welcome, learning and retreat with the help of an Allchurches Trust grant.

Chairman of the Trust, Sir Philip Mawer, and Grants Officer, Peter Mojsa, were delighted to recently join HRH The Princess Royal, the Iona Community, and other funders and friends for a community reception for the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal.

Iona Abbey, which is known as ‘the cradle of Christianity in Scotland’ was established by St Columba as a monastic settlement in 593 AD. It went on to become an important centre of European Christianity. In 1938, Revd George MacLeod, the founder of the Iona Community, set about to rebuild the ruined living quarters of the Abbey with trainee clergy and Glasgewian unemployed, as an experiment in community-building and social change. In 1958, the Iona Community started to welcome guests from around the world in the renovated building.

Ever since, the charity has welcomed into the Abbey every year more than 1,500 people from all walks of life and from all faiths and none. They benefit from residential programmes focusing on community-building and social action. The Iona Community’s inclusive worship resources are used all over the world and its ‘Subsidy Fund’ enables groups and individuals from disadvantaged sections of society to benefit from the Iona Abbey experience.

A £3.7 million renovation project currently underway will ensure it can extend its education, training and accredited learning programmes to a wider group of people. Without this work, the Abbey’s living spaces would no longer be fit for purpose within five years’ time. The project will make the site more accessible to people with disabilities for the first time.

Allchurches Trust has awarded a grant of £45,000 to refurbish the Refectory at the Abbey, including laying underfloor thermal and noise insulation and heating and levelling the floor so that it is accessible to people with mobility issues.

Peter Mojsa said: “Iona has been a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary from the monastic community of the 6th Century to a modern community rebuilt in the shadow of the Great Depression, offering succour, support and opportunity, especially for those most in need. This ambitious project will ensure it continues to enrich and improve lives through its extraordinary mission for many more years to come and we’re delighted to be able to support it.”

Bénédicte Scholefield, Business Director for the Iona Community, added: “The refectory in the iconic Iona Abbey is at the heart of the Iona Community’s ministry of hospitality and renewal on the island of Iona. Every year, this beautiful space steeped in history sees hundreds of guests from all walks of life sitting around the ancient tables to eat and talk. This is where, through food and fellowship, barriers are broken and friendships built.

“Sadly, it can also get very cold and is not at all user-friendly for people with hearing and mobility difficulties. We are therefore delighted that, thanks to a £45,000 grant from Allchurches Trust, the refectory will benefit in 2019 from a major upgrade that will address issues of heat, acoustics and accessibility and make it an even more welcoming and convivial space.”

Proposed-Refectory-image-4.jpg#asset:871