Work and lifeMargaret Ernst BMC ’11 | August 12, 2010
Work and life are good here at the Iona Community. Two of the season’s busiest weeks are over, Youth Festival and Community Week, and the Community’s two centers have returned to quiet but bustling normalcy. A normal week here means about 90 guests staying in the Abbey and MacLeod Center (on average, a group from the UK, Canada, and North Carolina), and for me and Nellie, my fellow children’s worker, about seven sessions for children from Saturday through Thursday.
It took me a while to get into the groove of the children’s program here, because well, there wasn’t much of a groove to fall into. Because the children’s worker positions are volunteer and for the summer season only, children’s workers must reinvent the wheel every summer and create the program when they arrive on the island. Nellie and I are working on significant handover notes so that our successors have the resources to build on what we’ve done this summer (the first piece of common sense I’ve learned in the world of program development? Take notes, save your notes).
A few stumbles aside, I’m very thankful for having stepped into a position where I can have such control over programming for kids. Iona has such a multilayered history and present that I’ve really enjoyed mapping out how to make the kids’ experience here site-specific. I’ve also learned that doing so is easier said than done. You think it comes naturally to run activities that are nourishing, educational, and adventuresome, especially somewhere like Iona, but now I recognize there’s a reason that people spend their lives researching exactly how to do it well…
But I’m learning. I don’t have a teaching background, which I think would help me know how to communicate effectively with kids of so many different ages, but week by week I’m taking in what kinds of little structures and patterns enable kids and adults alike to learn and build something together, to feel close to where they are.
The sun has been setting earlier and earlier and the nights are darker, which means that I’m getting close to the end of my time here. I leave on September 4th and will go back to Bryn Mawr on September 6th, a week after classes start. So far Iona has given me a series of burning orange sunsets and affirmation of my faith in a radical, liberation-driven Christianity. By my conversations with guests and staff members I feel encouraged to continue exploring theology as a way to get people to chip away at racism and homophobia. I feel encouraged by Iona’s liturgy, books left out on breakfast tables, the ritual of everyday, and the justice work and workers that surf in and out of the island’s centers like the tide. So far I feel encouraged to have faith.
“Once, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about spirituality, or was it economics?, and he used the analogy of a cup, saying ‘Did not God, who made the outside, also make the inside?’ (Luke 11:40). Our spirituality is our profoundest motivation, those instincts, intuitions, longings and desires that move us, animate us, inspire us – literally, breathe through us…If you like, it’s the inner life of the cup.
But our spirituality is not just interiority. It is also our choices and actions; it is where spirit is given flesh, where intention becomes action, where we practise what we preach. Our spirituality shows up just as much in how we spend our money, our time, our abilities, as in how we say our prayers. If you like, it’s how we use the cup…If you like, it’s whom we share the cup with.”
Kathy Galloway, former leader of the Iona Community, 2001