Community, Work and Worship

In 563 A.D. St. Columba set sail from his beloved Ireland to convert the wild druidic lands of what is today Scotland and Northern England.  Exiled from Ireland for a conflict which he  helped start and which led to the death of many, Columba sailed east stopping a number of times until he came to a place where, after climbing the highest hill (and there are some high ones – think a green and wet version of the Texas Hill country), he could no longer see his beloved Ireland.  There on the isle of Iona with 12 companions St. Columba established a monastery with the express purpose of sharing the gospel. This great work of God was a combination of both penance and pilgrimage.  According to legend Columba was charged with converting as many people to Christ as those who had died because of the conflict that caused his exile.  Many of us (especially those with Scottish heritage) know life in Christ as extensions of the spiritual lineage of St. Columba. We landed on Iona on July 30th to become (temporary) “residents” of the Abbey for their “Gathering Place” retreat.  The day’s rhythm quickly settled into 8:15 a.m. breakfast, 9 a.m. worship.  It is at the close of the morning worship that our common schedule shifts.  To be a part of the Abbey is to take place in its common work.  Rev. George MacLeod (who revived the modern day Iona Abbey in the pre-World War II depression) deeply believed that shared work built community.  So do I.  So do we. The notion that work and community are welded together is no new insight.  This is a central part of the community framework which Jesus builds with his 12 apostles.  It is a crucial part of the spiritual growth and learning that takes place on our CTCYM trips.  My part of the common work for the community involved being “trash man” for the “east range” (a physical section of the Abbey).  Every morning after worship, I went the 5 restrooms of the East Range and check to make sure they had toilet paper, soap, sanitary napkins and emptied all the trash bins/cans and restocked each restroom (the British would say toilet) as appropriately needed.  This is no new task for me; I’ve been the trash taker-outer for the last 34 years, 11 months and 2 days.  (Jolynn and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary on August 16th.) What stands as distinctive is not so much that common work building community but the way the work & community are tied to worship.  There is no benediction, closing or sending from our worship service.  The worship service has a liturgical prayer (at what we would normally consider the end) that leads directly to our  common work.  At least symbolically work, worship and community are woven together. As we moved to our common work, I could not help but recall with fondness and joy the closing CTCYM communion services I have been privileged to take part in.  Community, work, and worship go together.  God blesses the intertwining.