Faith at Work IV

November 2004

One of the favourite sayings of George MacLeod, the founder of the Iona Community, was that "matter was the matter".  I heard him say it myself when he came to address us at our annual Iona Associates day conference in Birmingham in 1986.  We asked him to come again a couple of years later but alas he was too frail to make the journey; he died in 1991 at the grand old age of 96.

So what did George mean?  Ever since becoming a pacifist as a result of his time served during the First World War, he worked actively for bringing about peace and justice.  He would argue that our excessive attachment to material things and the acquisition or protection of them lead to increased risk of conflict and in the end to war.  How much better would it be for us all if we could find ways of sharing our resources and our skills so that we could all belong as our right to One World and play our part within it.

On November 11th, we keep alive the memory of those who sacrificed themselves in the struggle to maintain freedom and peace during two World Wars.   In those tragic years, there was a huge loss of life accompanied by great material oppression and we remember with gratitude those who fought to see right prevail.  These days, we have vastly greater weapons at our disposal and yet it is terrorism that now holds us to ransom.  September 11th reminds us that outrageous acts of terror can be perpetrated without recourse to sophisticated or unimaginably powerful weapons.  Mental torture or anguish can be as devastating as anything physical.

But in his simple saying, George was also trying to say that our predominant emphasis on “matter” means that we risk losing touch with “spirit”.  He sought to be clear that our entire material world as well as our whole life within it is endowed with spiritual truth.  This is very much an integral part of Celtic spirituality and the Iona Community has grown up clearly within that tradition.  This moulding of the spiritual with the physical is embodied in the prayer that is often used when members of the community come together for worship:

O Christ, the Master Carpenter,
who at the last, through wood and nails,
purchased our whole salvation,
wield well your tools
in the workshop of your world, so that we,
who come rough hewn to your bench
may here be fashioned
to a truer beauty of your hand.
We ask it for your own name's sake.

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
This page was last updated on 2004-09-29

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