Finding Abundance in Scarcity

Finding Abundance
in Scarcity

Author Samuel Wells (Ed,)
Publisher Canterbury Press £14.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781786223692

St Martin-in-the-Fields is a busy church with an international reputation, a large team of paid staff and volunteers and a wide-ranging ministry. Sam Wells is vicar there. Reading the back cover of this book, you might think this is the story of how a large and successful central London church has coped with the pandemic, and that it isn’t a book for you if you are in a smaller church. If you read as far as paragraph two on page one, you will see that this isn’t the case – far from it! Drawing contributions from leaders of a range of expressions of St Martin’s work, the book shows how the church responded to the changing world that the pandemic brought to us and, importantly, how they sought to see God at work – sometimes in the most unexpected areas. Alongside the narrative, there is an abundance of theological reflection offering pastoral insights and practical advice based on experience. I found this book stimulating and, in many ways, reassuring as we continue to be the Church for a different world.

Reviewed by CHRIS BRACEGIRDLE

Ministry

 

A Sin of Omission

A Sin of Omission

Author Marguerite Poland
Publisher Envelope Books £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781838172039

This is a superb, highly readable if challenging novel. It is set in the Cape Colony of South Africa in the late nineteenth century and tells the story of two brothers: Malusi (Stephen) Mzume and his elder brother Msamo. Born into village poverty Malusi wanders outside the village into the bush in search of food to be found by a priest, who undertakes to take both brothers into his church and to train them as priests. Stephen is then sent in 1869 to St Augustine’s Missionary College in Canterbury. He is out of place there as a Black man in a white society and on returning to his homeland he finds himself equally displaced from his own former tribal culture. This is a story about colonialism, racial discrimination of the worst order and the risks of moving outside one’s own culture. It is about the failure of inculturation, the unbending imposition of religion upon a tribal culture and the sin of omission – the failure of the church hierarchy to support the very people trained to reach out to their own people. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by MIKE ABBOTT

Novel

 

The Meanings of Discipleship

The Meanings of Discipleship

Author Andrew Hayes & Stephen Cherry (eds.)
Publisher SCMP £35
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334060260

Discipleship is an ecclesial work: it is not a purely solitary exercise in becoming more Christlike. Of course one of the outcomes of being a disciple is to become more like Christ; however that should not be an end in itself. If, as Rachel Mann argues, discipleship is about becoming your true self, then that true self should be better equipped to live a fuller and more creative life in Christ, which must surely benefit others as well as yourself. Each chapter conveys a different picture of discipleship, which might leave an individual reader somewhat confused as to which route they should be following. Could it be discipleship as gardening, as the chapter by Sam Ewell proposes, or might a social action approach as argued by Anthony Reddie be your way forward? Perhaps this book would be best used as a group resource, for example by a parish ministry team, for whom a clearer idea about the breadth and depth of discipleship might give them a new understanding of God’s calling in their particular context.

Reviewed by MARION GRAY

Theological essays

 

Unveiled

Unveiled

Author Clare and Micah Hayns
Publisher BRF £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781800390720

I can thoroughly recommend this lovely book. It tells the stories of 40 women in the Old Testament, highlighting the choices that they made in often very limiting circumstances. Each of the women is beautifully illustrated by the author’s son. Micah Hayns studied art in Florence but brings a contemporary feel to his drawings which sensitively reflect the characters of these women, several of whom I had never noticed in the Bible before – Jochebed and Rizpah being two. Clare Hayns is Chaplain at Christ Church College, Oxford. She is a great storyteller and she adds a reflection after each story, and prayers, which come from a great variety of sources. These make this a book a fine way of enlivening your Bible study and of getting to know the Old Testament better, either alone or in a group. It deals quite thoughtfully with the problems some of these old stories raise for us and suggests some ways of understanding them. This book would make a lovely gift.

Reviewed by CLARE DISBREY

Old Testament Analysis

 

Cries for a Lost Homeland

Cries for a Lost Homeland

Author Guli Francis-Dehqani
Publisher Canterbury Press £10.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781786223838

Out of an extraordinary life story, the Bishop of Chelmsford has provided an extraordinary book. Six reflections on Jesus’s sayings from the cross weave together memories of growing up Christian in a Muslim country, experiences during the Islamic revolution in Iran and as a refugee in Britain, with thoughts on identity, belonging, relationships and diverse theological themes. The links to Jesus’ last words are sometimes what we would expect, sometimes surprising. What is the connection between ‘I thirst!’ and a blunt potato peeler? I leave you to find out. There is a lot of pain in these pages. In the foreword, Sam Wells writes, ‘Here you will find Christ’s story inscribed on her own flesh…’. Yet there is nothing depressing about the narrative, but rather a profound compassion for the human condition. The foreword and afterword, both add to the richness of this short book. This book could give a Lent group ample food for thought simply with the use of a few questions, such as: ‘What has touched you?’ or ‘Having read this, is there anything you see differently now?’

Reviewed by GERTRUD SOLLARS

Biblical reflections

 

Motherhood and Autism

Motherhood and Autism

Author Eilidh Campbell
Publisher SCM £25
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334061502

From blissfully contented newborn to an unsleeping, inconsolable nine month old – the stuff of nightmares – as it proved to be for the author, a theologian whose son was diagnosed with autism, aged six. Her experiences, and those of others, bring uncertainty, fear and grief. The book divides into three sections: autism and ambiguity; normalcy, stigma and disability and finally, mothering a child on the autistic spectrum, including motherly guilt and conflict. This is an academic book, but deals with the distress and exhaustion of mothers who cannot always live up to the Madonna model when faced with apparently unending violent, disruptive, anti-social behaviour. ‘What do I understand by “normal”? How do I approach what I perceive as “abnormal”? Whom do I ignore, devalue exclude and stigmatise? How do the disabled live in an abled world? How can I understand love that shows little or no affection or empathy? Crucially, how can we support the carers of autistics?’ This is not a comfortable book, but please read it. It is good and humbling to be challenged by what cannot be contained.

Reviewed by ROSIE BUDD

Theology of disability