7 July 2018 – Andrew’s Blog – “Strength in Unity”

We had the pleasure of spending the evening with Adele’s Uncle William who has lived in Toronto since the late 1960’s. As we chatted I noticed on the wall a Celtic cross and the picture above. The words added to the bottom right say ‘Strength in Unity’. I have no idea if it is modelled on some famous piece of early Christian art but it most certainly represents the period we are interested in. The five sailors are together in one boat, one steering and four rowing. The boat is a leather one and the Christian cross is in the stern behind the person steering. St Brendan’s vessel had sails and I am personally quite convinced that Tim Severin had things correctly assessed in terms of both size and type when he recreated that voyage. However I have covered that in a previous blog so let’s move on.

 Firstly, nobody of sound mind would ever argue against there being strength in unity. Working together is an essential aspect of the human condition. Yet when we look at the diverse range of differing Christian approaches, outside of being complex and difficult to understand, these appear to be the antithesis of working together. Our voyage has paid lip service to this. It is supposed to be an ecumenical voyage, fully inclusive, yet it has been dominated by Anglicans. To be fair Anglicanism itself is a way of bringing wide varying differences together as there have been a goodly range of beliefs and opinions onboard. The early saints of course were not Anglican and in seeking to rediscover them I wonder if we need wider theological perspectives than can arise from within the Church of England alone?

 My thought processes now are dwelling on how to we evolve a model or a concept that can be widely adopted by anybody, regardless of their current faith perspective or position? It has to be inclusive of the Gospel message that God so loved the World he came to experience it and suffered for it. At the same time it needs to have a low enough step that someone of little or no faith can engage with it. I think there are core tenants of Celtic belief that can cross into our society and should be present in our ‘church’. At the same time, to be in the same boat, rowing in the same direction we need to be able to have crew regardless of what their stated faith position is i.e. Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist etc as well as having space for someone who is ‘spiritual’ but an atheist or agnostic exploring at the edges of faith. To achieve that some of the current ‘rules’ required by the new monasticism are not workable, as I perceive them. That is not to say that someone in the Iona community cannot follow their individual rules. The thought process is rather that the framework is flexible and elastic enough that it allows anybody to join the crew, with us all achieving ‘strength through unity’ regardless.