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The power of the flock.

Our recent international travels took me to one of my favorite spots on earth, the tiny inner Hebrides island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland. Gray and windswept, this bleakly beautiful speck of land is the site to which St. Columba of Ireland came in the 6th century and from which he and his missionaries began to bring Christianity to the people in north Britain.

Although the abbey which Columba and his monks established on Iona fell into ruin during the Viking raids of the 8th and 9th centuries, a new Benedictine abbey was founded sometime between 1164 and 1203. By 1900, this abbey and a major rebuilding in the mid-15th century were also lying in ruin. In 1938, however.

Fact One: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the birds that follow. And by flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range and is able to fly 75 percent faster than if each bird flew alone. Lesson" People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they're going quicker and easier because they're traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact Two: Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the other birds immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We're willing to accept their help and to give help to others.

Fact Three: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies into the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent a Scottish Presbyterian minister from Glasgow, George MacLeod, began its restoration.

Now the abbey is home to the Iona Community, an international ecumenical group of clergy and lay people, bound by a common commitment to a disciplined life of Christian prayer and action in the world. Though many members of the community live ordinary working lives in a variety of jobs throughout the world, the mission of those who live on Iona is to welcome visitors into their midst and into their work of global reconciliation.

Next to the tiny St. Oran's Chapel is a graveyard where it is said lie the remains of 60 Scottish, Norwegian and Irish kings and many lords of the Isles. It is widely held that both Duncan and Macbeth lie here as well. I found Iona to be the holiest spot on earth that I have ever visited. The "vibrations" on that tiny Scottish island touched my soul.

The symbol of the Iona Community is the wild goose. The absolute appropriateness of this symbol is captured--more eloquently than I could paraphrase--in the following piece written by Angeles Arrien: on each other's skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, or resources.

Fact Four: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouragement. In the group where there is encouragement, the production is always greater.

Fact Five: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot, two other geese always drop out of formation and follow it down to help or protect it. They stay with it either until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation and catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Overall: Though I frequently want to fly off on my own, I do well to remember the power of the flock. My theological reflection is: May God help us to be as wise as a goose.
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Title Annotation:Iona; geese flying formation
Author:Roorda, Ervin G.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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