The Iona Community chooses a new leader

A lay person will lead the Iona Community for the first time from this summer, following the election of Dr Michael Marten to the role, Life and Work magazine reports.

Iona Abbey
Iona Abbey with Michael Marten (inset)

Dr Marten, who identifies himself as a Presbyterian-Quaker, has been a member of the Community for over 20 years. He is currently employed by the Community as Support Services Manager, before which he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Stirling. He is married to Sigrid, a Church of Scotland minister.

He said: “We face a radically different landscape to when I joined the Community quarter of a century ago, never mind compared to when George MacLeod founded it in 1938. We now live in a post-Christendom and even post-church context: churches are no longer the default for engaging with Christian spirituality.

“Whilst many Members are still very involved in churches, others are just holding on by their fingertips, have left altogether, or have adopted multiple identities – and I’d include myself in these latter groups. These apparent contradictions are to be embraced, not shunned, for they offer us new insights into what Christian life in the twenty-first century could be.

“George MacLeod wrote a prayer in which he urged that we be taken ‘outside holiness, out to where soldiers curse and nations clash at the crossroads of the world’. The Community has always encouraged exploration of what being ‘outside holiness’ means, including new models of community living on Iona and Mull, the creation of new worship resources, new ways of engagement with the global church, and experiments in local activism.

“As we face a resurgent populist right and the increasingly hostile impacts of individualised neoliberalism, the Iona Community can offer an alternative model of human interaction, centred on meaningful relationships where all are welcomed, all are valued, and the crossroads of the world becomes a meeting place, rather than a place of conflict. That, I am convinced, is where we need to be, in Scotland and the UK, in a wider European context, and globally.”

Dr Marten grew up in the UK and Germany, studying theology in both countries. He first worked for the Community on Iona in 1990-1, joining in 1993. He has also working in Jerusalem for a Palestinian development project.

He replaces the Rev Peter Macdonald, whose term as leader comes to an end this summer. Leaders are elected from the Community’s membership of just over 280.

Marlene Finlayson, Convener of the Iona Community Council, said: “Members of the Iona Community can look forward to a dynamic and energetic leadership. Michael brings to the Leadership, not only wide experience of a variety of roles within the Community, but an active commitment to justice, peace and environmental issues, and ongoing involvement in development and campaigning issues, especially related to the wider Middle East and Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations.”