Rev. Dr. Kathleen L. Roney, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Morristown, NJ, and Associate Member of the Iona Community, Scotland, conducted her Doctor of Ministry project for the Drew University Theological School, Madison, NJ, at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor PA in March 2012. The purpose of the three-day We Are Family retreat was to lay the groundwork and produce a prototype for expanding the Scottish Iona Community into America so that clergy and laymen can lead a more Christ-like existence by adopting the Iona Rule of life. Iona Family Groups facilitate growth of the intentional community's body, mind, and soul devotional method of work and life as prescribed by Reverend George MacLeod and St. Columba.
Retreat participants learned and practiced the Iona Rule of Life and how Family Group members keep the Rule through daily prayer and Bible-reading, communal worship, accounting to each other for use of resources such as time and money, and working together to participate in peace and justice activities. Ordained spiritual experts gave presentations centered on the five-fold Rule that Family Groups follow. After each presentation, participants split into Family Groups for intimate discussion, and then returned again to a large group to evaluate what had just been learned and practiced in the topics of the Iona Rule of Life.
Surveys and evaluations were guided by the attending Drew faculty advisor, which confirmed that Americans do yearn for the genuinely spiritual devotional practice employed by Iona Family Groups. Participants, both clergy and laymen, considered the Iona Rule and Family Group practice to be appropriate for Americans who no longer feel embraced by their churches. Retreat findings support Reverend Roney's proposal for an American branch of the Iona Community, making the greatest use of the existing Service Agreement between the Kirkrige Retreat Center and the Iona Community. The proposal for an American Iona Community suggests that Kirkridge become a hub of ministerial training, promoting a more Christ-like existence for clergy and laymen through regional American Family Group expansion with the Iona Community remaining the spiritual home on Iona for Family Groups worldwide.
Pictures are courtesy of:
Reverend Matilda Chase: “Mystified, Abbey of Iona, Scotland”(2013), “Celtic Cross on Iona” (2013), "Nunnery" (2013)
Nancy Schreirer: "Turning Point Overlook, Kirkridge Retreat Center"