Sunday, 22 July 2012

Liberation, belonging, identity

"Come to me and I shall give you rest." 

"One bread, one body, one Lord of all, 
one cup of blessing which we bless, 
and we, though many, throughout the earth, 
we are one body in this one Lord." 
© John Foley, SJ

"You are something new but haven't fogotten where you've come from."

"Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your task to fulfil...
Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find...
Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart,
I praise and adore you for all you impart...
Lord of all being, I give you my all;
if I should disown you, I'd stumble and fall."
© John Copley Winslow

Her children arise up and call Her blessed 

What did you learn about yourself during your time on Iona?
How do you feel you are different now?
Has your faith changed, and how?
What did community life teach you about the kingdom of God?
Did living in community make it easier for you to talk to people you don't know?
Do you feel more able to be an involved member of a church after your time there?
What did you learn about God?

These are just some of the many questions I have been asked since finishing my job with the Iona Community back in December. These are some of the questions I have found very hard to answer since then. I realise that they aren't questions I can take and answer lightly. "What did you learn about God and about yourself?" There will never be a one line answer to those types of questions. They are questions about life and questions that I can only begin to answer as I continue to journey through life beyond living on Iona.

One of the things which has been difficult for me in my transition from Iona life back to Edinburgh life is knowing how to 'do' church; where to go, who to be with, what it means to me and so on. I went back once to my church that I attended before moving to Iona and, although knowing deep down I didn't want to go back there full time, it was a very strange experience for me. I say I knew deep down that I didn't want to go back there for a few reasons, but the main reason being something to do with change in myself. The last time I was attending this church on a regular basis I was 19/20 years old. On returning from Iona I was 22 years old. That difference may not seem like much in terms of age, but in terms of where I have been on my life's journey, with God and personally, there is a big difference in those 2-3 years. Of course I love my church family there and I would never want to lose contact with them, but for who I am now this church does not feel like the most comfortable fit for me. As quoted before: "You are something new but haven't fogotten where you've come from." That church will always be the church where I found Christianity for myself, where I began my personal growth and journey with God and where I made so many important friends. I will never forget what that church has allowed me to go on and do. Yet, now, I am something new and I have to let that be what it needs to be.

I have also been back to the church where my dad goes a couple of times. This is the church where I was raised, where Christianity was set in my bones and technically my home church I guess. The familiar - that is what that church is to me. The familiar safety net. In some ways it will always be that for me, and it's very special to have a place like that. I think if I had have had the time lately, which I didn't due to working most weekends, I would have gone here more often. It has been so many years since I have been there regularly that not many people have known me there since I was about 13 years old, and so going back now they take me to be somebody very different. There's that something new again.

So, what does this 'something new' need? I need to not forget where I have come from, from my roots at Christ Church and my growth at Liberton Kirk. I need to allow myself to be who I need to be now within a church, as a 22 years old woman who is now strong in her views, willing to express who she is to the outside world and not so afraid to hide her life journey with anyone. I require somewhere that I can stand up and be open and honest about who I am, and I require somewhere that I can be challenged to a new level over and over again. Life is dull withough challenges. I don't want to sit back in a church community and nod along with everything merrily like a plastic dog sitting on the dash of your car. Of course, like any human, I would like to be accepted in a community for who I am. I would like to be able to accept everybody in that community also, and feel able to contribute something to benefit the wider community (here speaketh the girl about to study Working with Communities....). 

Today I went along to a new church, a church which I found on a simple google search. Augustine United Church in Edinburgh is a beautiful place. The building is so beautifully built right in the centre of town, mixed in with libraries, cafes, shops, pubs, museums and tourist attractions - right in the heart of the community. The building is so beautifully put together inside, with words of inspiration, faith and stories to tell, with community art/craft projects hanging on the halls and with stained glass windows telling very moving stories. The people, most importantly, are also beautiful. The warmth as you walk in is very obvious and welcoming, the smiles are genuine and the words spoken are honest. God can be felt within those walls and within those people. The interest in my life, the enthusiasm for the Iona Community, the smiles of familiar faces (met previously on Iona last year), the words of the sermon and prayers, the songs honestly sung and the spirit of God moving in that place - they are the things that made that church this morning so special for me. It isn't often you will hear a sermon in such 'normal' language that all can understand and relate, songs being sung with such emotion and truth, and a minister positively praying for the same-sex marriage bill in the Scottish parliament. It isn't often you would feel comfortable to sit in a church with a 'Pride!' bracelet on and not feel judged for doing so. The church has a group called Our Tribe and they have recently won an award for the work that they do in their community, and I found this very moving and inspirational. I feel truly blessed to have found this church today, and I hope and pray that it continues to challenge and reward everybody who attends, and more.

This morning God became real for me again for the first time in a while. Since leaving Iona I have not been a regular church goer and that has put a strain on me in many ways. I hope this is another new chapter of my life now, and certainly a new step on my journey. "Lord of all being, I give you my all; if I should disown you, I'd stumble and fall." That stumbling has been oh so real for me in these last months while settling back in to Edinburgh and making decisions of what to do with my life. This past week I have stepped back on my little ladder and journey onwards once more, after time spent on Iona with people who mean the world to me, in the place which I can still call home, and within the Abbey itself, and then finding this church where I hope I can just be me as I begin my new studying venture. Life moves on. "And you can't keep life from moving on so roll along."

Patchwork put together by 'Our Tribe'

"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 make 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
and the crossroads of the world.
So shall this building continue to be justified.
We ask it for your own name's sake.
© Wild Goose Publications - Iona Abbey Worship Book


  1. This place looks like a good place for you. You sound very grounded in this post. Hope it goes well for you.

  2. Yay, happy churches!

    Also, I was there when that award was presented. They did it at General Assembly, and they did sound awesome.