George MacLeod (BK)
Founder of the Iona Community
by Ron Ferguson
Born just before the start of the 20th century into a famous ecclesiastical dynasty, George MacLeod became disturbed by his increasing awareness of ‘two nations’, the rich and the poor, while working as a young minister in Edinburgh during the 1920s. Disillusioned by post-WWI rhetoric about a ‘land fit for heroes’, he shocked his many admirers by taking a post as a minister in Govan, a poor and depressed area of Glasgow. Although he had been awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre for bravery during the war, he moved inexorably towards socialism and pacifism during the Depression years, while his theology evolved in mystical, cosmic and political directions.
In 1938, feeling that a radical move was necessary to meet the needs of the times, MacLeod embarked on the imaginative venture of rebuilding part of the ancient abbey on the isle of Iona. He utilised the skills of unemployed craftsmen, and persuaded trainee ministers to work as labourers. Out of this was born the often controversial Iona Community, which over the years has trained clergy for work in deprived areas, produced innovative worship for the world church, pleaded for disarmament, inveighed against world hunger and advocated joint ecumenical action on social issues.