"George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community in the 1930s, a resurrection of community life in the spirit and way of the monastics in Scotland, famously described Iona as a 'thin place'. He was trying to put words to his experience of living on the island, discovering that it was somehow a place where the gap that we usually sense between earth and Mystery, between us and Other, between now and Always is somehow diminished. On the thin place of Iona some of the separations present in our experience of existence seem to collapse.
"The experience of the monastics provides an insight into the possibility of thin place. I was recently invited to participate in a conversation held by a monastic community who were facing the issue of declining numbers of people coming to commit themselves to the religious life. The discussion focused on how they might respond to this. All options were on the table, including selling up. It soon became clear that among the many reasons that people outside of the community appreciated, even loved, these people was the sense that this was a praying community, and that the place itself had somehow taken on the nature of the prayer made within it. It has a sense of calm, peace and hope.
"The place of rootedness may turn out to be a thin place. It may not start out that way. Perhaps Iona was 'just' a beautiful island. Perhaps the Nou Camp was just a playing field. But in time the praying and the playing participated in the coming-into-being of thin place. When we commit to a place, perhaps the same thing will be possible. An emerging religious community might find the pub that it frequents becoming a place where people begin to express their hopes and yearnings, making prayers. An arts project might find its converted studio space beginning to inspire creativity in ways previously unimagined. An ethical trading business might find the generosity and equality of its work spaces triggering off a new desire in others to do things with justice and mercy.
rootedness: a practice
Remain in one place.
For longer than you imagine will be comfortable.
An hour, a day, a week, a season.
Stay there for whatever length of time will, you know, be more than you would choose. Give yourself to the place and to the moment."
— Ian Adams, "Stay Somewhere"
"Be intuitive about finding this place. The actual location in one sense doesn't matter. It can be rural or urban. It can be well known to you or unexplored. It may be comfortable or perplexing. But find it with care. If you pray, hold the choice of place in your praying. Be open to the idea, in the spirit of those Celtic-age peregrini monks, that the place may find you.
"Picture yourself growing roots into the ground of the place.
Don't be bashful about belonging here.
Look people in the eye when you meet.
Believe that this is your place of wisdom-finding,
your thin place,
your place of resurrection."
— Ian Adams, "Stay Somewhere"