Iona Community 'at significant risk' if funds not urgently raised

The future of one of Britain's most iconic Christian communities is in "serious jeopardy".

The Iona Community, based at the historic site of St Columba's monastery off the west coast of Scotland, has been a place of refuge for pilgrims and tourists for decades. Now based across two Christian centres it runs a monastic retreat and regularly welcomes visitors to stay.

However in a report to the Church of Scotland's general assembly on Tuesday, the community's board said the poor conditions of accommodation facilities "if not addressed immediately, will place the long term sustainability of the Centre at significant risk".

The community is based around the ancient monastery founded by St Columbus who evangelised much of northern Scotland.Iona Community /

The report read: "If action is not taken now to improve the fabric of the buildings and the associated utilities, there is the prospect of the accommodation being unfit for purpose in five to seven years' time which would in turn place the Iona Community's presence on Iona in serious jeopardy."

It continued: "Failure to carry out the urgent works required will undoubtedly place the Iona Community's presence on Iona in serious doubt.

"The impact of this on the island community of Iona would be catastrophic."

The leader of the Iona Community, Peter Macdonald, told Christian Today the aim of the report had not been to alarm people but be honest that something needed to be done. He said they hoped to raise about £1.5m from grant making bodies but needed another £1m in donations. He added: "I am very hopeful we can do this."

The renovation would mean the abbey's facilities would not need more work for another 25 years and would "improve guest experience," said Macdonald.

"As well as the general upgrade it is also about putting in lift access so for the first time people with disabilities are able to stay in the abbey," he told Christian Today.

The monastic community was first established in the depression of 1938 when a Presbyterian minister George MacLeod took unemployed labourers and trainee clergy to the island of Iona. Nearly 1,500 years ago the Irish monk Columba founded a monastic community on the island that went on to evangelise large parts of Scotland and become an important centre for Christianity in Europe.

MacLeod's community rebuilt the monastery and abbey and formed the Iona Community based around daily worship and prayer. The movement has now expanded and runs two centres on Iona and the nearby Isle of Mull.