Iona and Scotland’s Spiritual Legacy

Iona is a sleepy island situated just off the Ross Mull on the western coast of Scotland. It is generally referred to as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland mainly because of the work accomplished by the Training Center set up on the Island by the renowned Celtic missionary Columba.

The Celtic Church was one of the few bastions of truth that held in check the advances of Catholicism in the British Isles, providing the inhabitants of the Heptarchy with an alternative to both Paganism and the Papacy.

Iona, Scotland, United Kingdom

One of the foremost champions of the Celtic Church in Scotland was Columba, a devout missionary who founded a training school on the windswept island of Iona. 

Columba was an Irishman, born in Donegal in 522 AD to parents who were of royal lineage. One of Columba’s teachers was Finnian of Clonard, best known for making the Bible the foundation of all education. His tutelage had a profound impact on Columba, who after a period of time at Clonard, left to plant churches and set up mission stations wherever God led him.  Columba is described by some historians as being incessantly active and it was perhaps this intensity of energy and a fervent zeal for the truth that led him to plant over 300 churches and to found a great number of Bible training schools.

Iona

After seven years of this activity, Columba and 200 of his closest friends sailed from Derry in Ireland to the island of Iona in Scotland where they landed in Mull Bay, known today as Columba’s Bay.

 As soon as they landed they rolled up their sleeves and began to set up the infrastructure needed to start up a thriving, self sustaining mission outpost. Part of that outpost was a Bible training school attached to a farm, a bakery, and large gardens. Bible study, education in the arts and sciences and an emphasis on spirituality through prayer and personal Bible study made up the core of the academic curriculum. 

Like the reformers who came after him, Columba centered his mission school on the Bible working hard to make sure that the Bible was placed directly in the hands of the people. Columba is said to have transcribed about 300 copies of the Bible by his own hand while at Iona which suggests that many of the other missionaries and students based on the Island would have been engaged in similar work.

Iona

Iona became a launching pad for the establishment of many other Bible training schools stretching from the British Isles all the way across continental Europe. The missionaries at Iona didn’t see themselves as reformers but as guardians of the truths that had been passed time from the time of the apostles. This meant that Iona was a Sabbath keeping outpost as well, weekly observing the Biblical Sabbath across their campus. 

After 34 years of faithful and fruitful service to God and his fellow men, Columba passed to his rest on the 9th of June 597 AD.  The training school at Iona continued to be a center of influence in some shape or form until it was turned into a Benedictine monastery in 1203 AD.

Iona represents the immense possibilities and the vast scope of what a Bible-based missionary training center can accomplish. The training school launched an entire generation of workers into a field of service that was in desperate need of them. In many ways, this is perhaps Columba’s most enduring legacy and his most significant contribution to the work of God. 

If you want a revolution, the revolution begins with you. It begins first with the training and education you receive at the feet of Jesus and then continues through your intentional association with spiritually experienced men and women. An army of youth, rightly trained, will be the catalyst for finishing God’s last work on earth and when He raises such an army, nothing will stop their forward march. Will you be among them?

Further Reading

  • Schaff, P. (1858) – History of the Christian Church Volume III
  • Wilkerson, B.G. (1944) – Truth Triumphant

Footnotes 

C.T. Studd quoted from N.Grubb, C.T. Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer; CLC Publications, 2001, p. 120-121