Church Renewal

Iona Abbey on the Island of Iona in Scotland, from Wikipedia

As I was reflecting on what to say today in my devotional (since I realized I never did one yesterday, sorry about that), I began to look through a book I’ve had for years from the Iona Community called “Gathered and Scattered” Readings and Meditations from the Iona Community.  I began to think abut how the Iona Community has always lived a bit in this sort of strange feeling we are in now, while they have people in their daily services, they are often gone the next day for good, only to connect though Facebook or prayer books or whatever else might connect them to one another.  “Gathered and Scattered” is a great description of their situation and our current situation.  This book is a collection of readings on 30 different topics (one for each day of the month), for four months from people in their world wide community.  

The reflection for day 20 of the month is on Church Renewal.   This of course has been a topic of conversation for decades in the Western Church, especially the Church of Scotland where secularism is the “religion” of the nation.  But it seems to mean something different reflecting on it today.  Because yes, we need a church renewal, what we’ve been doing as a church (not just Bluff but all churches), is not what we will be doing for the next few years.  And may whatever we have coming be better? 

On Month 2 Day 20, David Orr, an early member of the Iona Community reflected in 1962 (this is just a little of what he said):

Renewal for the Church has always meant the Church being less concerned about itself and more concerned about the world it exists to serve…We must realize that the Church at work does not mean (as we normally take it to mean) a religious institution acting in institutional ways, it means Christian people living their lives.  In the same way our personal Christian action is not something which we add on to our ordinary lives, or undertake with that part of our leisure time which we can spare for Church work. It means: living our ordinary lives responsibly, in obedience to Christ.  This is who God, through His Church, can get to grips with His world; this is the way of leaven and salt and light; this is the truth, which the Reformation recovered, that the Church is the laity, the whole people of God. 

On Month 3, Day 20, we hear a prayer from the Iona Abbey Worship Book, one that has always been a favorite to me, and works well in this time, I hope you’ll lift it up today especially as our session meets this evening to decide our next steps:

O Christ you are within each of us.

It is not just the interior of these walls:

It is our own inner being you have renewed.

We are your temple not made with hands.

We are your body.

If every wall should crumble, and every church decay, we are your habitation.

Nearer are you than breathing,

Closer than hands and feet.

Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery, look out with compassion on the world.

Yet we bless you for this place, for your directing of us, your redeeming of us, and your indwelling.

Take us outside, O Christ, outside holiness, 

Out to where soldiers curse and nations clash

At the crossroads of the world

So shall this building continue to be justified.
We ask it for your own name’s sake.


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