An Orthodox retreat on Iona


      Iona of my heart, Iona of my love,
            Instead of monks voices shall be the lowing of cattle;

      But ere the world shall come to an end,                      Iona shall be as it was.

So runs the ancient prophecy attributed to St. Columba which provided the inspiration for the temporary Orthodox Centre set up on Iona in September 2009. Only the Lord our God knows when the time will be ripe for Orthodox monks to return to Iona. Our aim was to provide for a few weeks a house where our true God, the Holy Trinity, could be honoured in an Orthodox manner in daily worship. This was the purpose of the Orthodox Centre.

      I bind unto myself this day the strong name of the Trinity,
            By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three;
      Of Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
            Praise to the Lord of my salvation: salvation is of Christ the Lord.

With the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Gregorios, our Patron, and of our Chairman, His Excellency, Metropolitan Kallistos, leader of many Iona Orthodox Pilgrimages in the past, Iona Orthodox Retreats rented for three weeks in  September 2009 a five bedroom Iona cottage to provide a base for Orthodox and sympathisers wishing to make their own personal Pilgrimage or Retreat.

Twenty-two pilgrims stayed at Clachanach, including four priests and a deacon, to form a temporary Iona Orthodox Community. We were blessed with three Divine Liturgies; all of them (by courtesy of Historic Scotland and the goodwill of the Abbey Community) celebrated in the 12th century St. Oran’s Chapel - burial place of so many Scottish and Norwegian Kings.


Mattins and Vespers were also served there every day; the worship attracting many non-Orthodox passers-by, who frequently joined us. This sometimes gave opportunity for informal teaching, e.g. regarding the Ikons and the Saints’ Days.

Many contacts were made with the other Christian Communities on the Island; some of our guests shared in their services, and we received visits from them.

FINANCE. We decided at the outset that to be true to the spirit of St. Columba, we should follow monastic example and make no set charge upon our guests - we would rely solely upon donations. This was a venture of faith; we had no capital at all and knew that on the very first day we would have to pay £1500 rent for Clachanach. The Lord honoured this decision: our expenses over three weeks amounted to £2,333.93 and guests’ donations came to £2,313.30. The shortfall of £20.63 was more than covered by gifts totalling £320 from well-wishers unable themselves to come to Iona; for which generosity Iona Orthodox Retreats is deeply thankful. Thus we were left with a credit balance to carry forward: £299.37