Book Review

By Way of the Heart: The Seasons of Faith

by Mark Oakley

Mark Oakley is a writer and theologian, a canon and a university dean, and after reading his collection of sermons it might be worth nominating him as an honorary Reader too. Preaching with one foot firmly on secular ground, this rich and illuminating masterclass in sermonising offers a fresh approach to engaging with the Gospels that any lay minister might care to ponder. He preaches not so much to the mind or heart but rather to the imagination, effectively moving theology into felt and lived experience. Take for example his creative engagement with the seemingly dusty pictures in the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. If you were to be painted for future generations of art lovers to inspect, he asks the congregation, how would your ideal portrait depict your essential character? This is not just engagement with art, but with the core creative process of spirituality itself, the essential generative nature of humans as creatures made in the image of our Creator God. Paintings and poetry, television and film, music, history, novels – and yes quite a lot of the Bible too. All is food for thought in his hands, material that draws on a deep well of anecdotes and illustrations. Oakley’s endearingly self-effacing introduction draws attention to one thing this book inevitably lacks: the preacher’s voice. It is abundantly clear that his humour could soothe even the most sceptical listener through 10 minutes of any of these fine sermons. 

NICK MAYHEW SMITH

Canterbury Press £14.99 pbk 2019
9781786222046

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