The Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor
Author Kathleen P Rushton
Publisher SCM £25.00
The title, a quote from Pope Francis, describes this fine book’s concern for ecological and social justice. More surprisingly, the sub-title locates the theme as ‘Hearing Justice in John’s Gospel’. The author, a Roman Catholic scholar, confesses that, when young, she believed that it was in the synoptic gospels where ‘Jesus and justice were to be found’. Many may agree, but here is a convincing case for John as well. Rushton carefully deploys lectio divina and encourages the widespread hunger for spirituality which the fourth gospel brings forth. The book is not an alternative commentary, but it does provide detailed exegesis of all the Johannine Sunday readings used in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Roman Lectionary. These are comprehensive and scholarly expositions which amply fulfil the author’s ambitious intentions by demonstrating that within John we do indeed discover an urgent call to hear the voices of the marginalised peoples in our world, and the need for ecological justice and equity. The author’s approach generates contemplation and calls forth action. I warmly recommend this book.
Spirituality, New Testament Analysis
Author A D A France-Williams
Publisher SCM £19.99
This is an uncomfortable book, implacable in its challenge to the hierarchy of the Anglican church, yet compelling in its insights and thoroughly readable. Subtitling his book ‘Institutional Racism and the Church of England’, the author presents cogent evidence that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) ministers and laity are side-lined and essentially ignored. He uses history, theology, biography, fiction and some excellent original poetry to make his case. White bishops and senior clergy do not usually emerge well from the process, although some have had the grace and humility to apologise and admit there is a deep-rooted problem, which will not be fully addressed by pastoral, practical support. The strong ethnic voices in the church may have been heard, but not necessarily understood. France-Williams shows that BAME people need white partners who will fight alongside them to combat racism, and not just ‘cheer from the sides.’ If you think that racism in the church does not exist, or if you believe it is not a problem in your (white, rural) diocese, then think again. This book is required reading for all ministers.
Author Robert Beaken
Publisher Sacristy Press £12.99
The series of sermons selected here, written from an Anglo-Catholic perspective, are easy to read, if slightly old-fashioned in style. As well as sermons on the Christian year, some deal with special occasions such as Baptism, a funeral, and a marriage. There is some good teaching here, particularly with Beaken’s interesting take on the parable of the pearl of great price, and persuasive arguments on why Mary should be venerated. In his Holy Week sermons he emphasises the importance of living Jesus’ experiences during this time of waiting before Easter, stressing the reasons why we should make the effort to be in our churches in order to feel that ‘we are there, in Jerusalem with Jesus’. There are times when Beaken seems to be endorsing the doctrine of pre-destination: for example in his wedding address he speaks to the couple of ‘a God who has always planned that you will meet and marry’; and the young priest that ‘long before he was born …God had always planned that [he] should be a priest’. Despite some reservations, I think that the reader will find something here that ‘may cheer, strengthen and encourage’.
Author Helen Julian
Publisher BRF £8.99
Subtitled ‘Following Christ in the ways of Francis and Clare’, the main protagonists are of course these two founders of Franciscan spirituality. Much more than this, the book covers a breadth of experience down the
years and across all walks of human life. Each chapter brings us examples lived out from the 13th century to modern times: the lives of mystics, martyrs, missionaries and many more. Each chapter ends with questions, causing us not only to reflect on the ways and situations of these holy people, but equally importantly on our own. The final chapter is titled ‘The witness of life: simply living’. Here are the ordinary people. Any lingering doubts we may have had about where we could fit in are dispelled. This is a truly inspirational book on many levels. We see so many times where a life truly devoted to God, and given the right encouragement on the way, can lead. And through it all we have the words of Francis himself in our heads. The importance of discerning and carrying out in our lives:
‘May Christ teach you what is yours (to do)’.