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George MacLeod

Founder of the lona Community

George MacLeod was one of the Church of Scotland’s foremost clerics. His fame came from two sources, each achieved in the teeth of opposition from the
Church establishment: he led a group to restore Columba’s monastery on lona; and founded the lona Community, reviving in a modern context the missionary spirit of lona’s first settlers in deprived city areas.

More About George MacLeod. As turbulent clerics go, Baron George Fielden MacLeod of Fuinary has gone farther than most. While remaining one of the world's most even-tempered gentlemen, he is one who has never backed away from a point of principle. Son of an MP who was also a baronet, George MacLeod went to Winchester and then to Oriel College, Oxford. He was 19 when the First World War broke out, and got a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He won both the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre, and fortunately survived. At war's end MacLeod went to Edinburgh, where he set himself to studying for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. In 1926 he became the minister of St Cuthbert's, and in 1930 he moved on to be minister at Govan parish church. Govan suited him. In spite of his upper- class background he had become a passionate egalitarian with a deep regard for the working class.
Firmly left-wing, MacLeod was also a magical preacher and public speaker, and he could get people excited. He was the man who founded the lona Community in 1938 to set about restoring the abbey and other buildings on the island. A dozen ministers and some lay people rallied around him to spend their summers there, living the simple life and working with their bare hands.

With his experience of war, MacLeod had become a pacifist, and remains so. He succeeded to his father's baronetcy in 1924, but didn't use the title. The life peerage he was awarded in 1967 was a different matter because it offered him another platform from which to proclaim his powerful gospels. George MacLeod put the cat among the pigeons when he was moderator of the General Assembly in the late 1950s. He gave his support to the very prickly proposal to reinstitute bishops to the Kirk as a means of encouraging church unity. It didn't happen of course.