Online Zoom Forum: Iona: Spirituality of Landscape, Seascape, Place, and Community.

Date: Wednesday 25 September 2024.
Time: 7pm-9pm (UK time).


Format: There will be five talks, each of 12 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of discussion among the speakers and the chair, followed by Q & A.



Simon Barrow:

Bio: Director of the Ekklesia think-tank, which focuses on beliefs, ethics in public life, Simon is also a writer, lecturer and consultant on public policy, training and development, theology and politics.

He is a member of the National Union of Journalists' Ethics Council.

He has authored and edited or co-edited numerous books, the latest of which is 'A Better Nation: The Challenges of Scottish Independence' (Luath Press, May 2022).

His forthcoming book ‘Against the Religion of Power: Telling a Different Christian Story’ will be published by Ekklesia this summer.


Rev Dr Norman Shanks:

Title: Spirituality and Iona: Escape or Engagement?

Description: Iona – a beautiful island, distinctive through its history, heritage and as a place of pilgrimage.  

Spirituality - a ‘slippery’, multi-dimensional word and concept.  

The Iona Community - ecumenical, Christian, dispersed - a centre of hospitality and exploration in a restored Benedictine monastery on Iona.

‘Celtic spirituality’ - current interest but lack of authentic contemporary evidence.

Spirituality as part of human personhood - to do not with ‘escape’ but with ‘engagement’ with others, with social issues and with God.

Bio: Norman Shanks lives in Glasgow, married to Ruth, with three children and seven grandchildren.  

He is a retired Church of Scotland minister, a member of the Iona Community (Leader 1995 – 2002), and author of Iona – God’s Energy: the spirituality and vision of the Iona Community (1999, revised 2007).

He was for 15 years a senior civil servant at the Scottish Office, and after training for ministry was chaplain to Edinburgh University, lectured at Glasgow University and was latterly minister of Govan Old Church.

Among public appointments he has been convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Nation Committee, and a member of the UK Board of Christian Aid, the World Council of Churches Central Committee and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

Dr Donald Smith:

Title: Shipwreck and the Sacred Places.

Description: How Abbot Adomnan sheltered a shipwrecked traveller, re-storied Jerusalem in Iona, and passed on the gift of pilgrim memory for us to continue and evolve.

Bio: Donald Smith is founding Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Donald Smith is a noted storyteller and performance poet in his own right, novelist, and playwright; and has authored a succession of books about Scottish culture, including Storytelling Scotland (2001) and Freedom and Faith (2013).

From 2012 to 2023 he was CEO of TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland).

(Donald was born in Glasgow to an Irish mother, and was brought up in Church of Scotland manses in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling.

In 2023 he was honoured to receive the Hamish Henderson Award for lifetime achievement.

Dr Rosemary Power:

Title: Migrants, Faith and Practice: Columcille, Margaret and the Anonymous Dead.

Bio: Dr Rosemary Power is a historian specialising in Norse and Gaelic studies.

She is associate researcher of the National University of Ireland, Galway, and has published academically on Iona.

Dr Lorn Macintyre:

Title: Iona: Mysticism and Tragedy.

Description: Because of the savagery of Viking raids, Iona’s history is suffused with tragedy.

The antidote to this legacy of the martyrdom of members of the religious community has been the Celtic mysticism expressed in the writings of William Sharp (alter ego, Fiona Macleod) which sought to open a paranormal portal back to the time of Saint Columba.

Did Sharp’s writings take an Italian lady to the island, her quest ending in sacrifice, and what were the hippies who descended on Iona in the 1960s and 1970s searching for? I will explore the enduring atmosphere of piety on Iona which so many report as spontaneous, as against those who have searched for, and, in some cases evidently encountered, other forces not so benign.

Bio: The Scottish writer Dr Lorn Macintyre has written extensively on Iona in both poetry and prose, having lived on the adjacent isle of Mull.

Kenneth Steven:

Title: Out of this World.

Description: Thoughts and poems swirled around my meditation on a lifetime spent visiting and trying to understand Iona.

I’ll touch on the dangers of perceiving Iona as having been on the edge of the world, a retreat place in the far west, during the height of Celtic Christian days.

Bio: Kenneth Steven is a poet, essayist and children’s author: he and his wife Kristina live on the Isle of Seil.

They lead a Celtic Christian retreat at the Argyll Hotel on Iona each October.

Much of Kenneth’s work over the years has been inspired by his exploration of Iona and the Celtic Christian story:



An archive recording will be made for the EICSP archive.

NB: There will be no refund if you cancel your booking.

Cost: By Donation:
Contact: Neill Walker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


If you are having a difficulty paying by Paypal, then you can pay by bank transfer instead.

NB: you must also email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so we can send you the Zoom sign-in details.

Here are the bank transfer details:

Account Name: Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace
Bank Address: Edinburgh Royal Mile Branch
Account Number: 06131159
Sort Code: 802000

Some international transfers also ask for an IBAN number:

The IBAN number is as follows:

GB70 BOFS 8020 0006 1311 59

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