Parable and Paradox

Parable and Paradox

Author Malcolm Guite
Publisher Canterbury Press £10.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781848258594

Malcolm Guite, chaplain, poet and theologian, has produced an absorbing and rewarding series of poems, characterised by simple but beautifully precise vocabulary. He is a careful and adept wordsmith and, while using biblical language, is not afraid to make it more effective by adding modern idiom where appropriate. All the poems are competent and well-wrought and many have memorable lines and cadences. Like the poems of Rowan Williams (whose influence may perhaps be detected), Guite’s work evokes emotion and careful reflection. For example in the highly topical sonnet, Christ Among the Refugees, we join ‘that fearful road of weariness and want/Through unforgiving heat and hate…’ knowing at the end that Christ has ‘pitched his tent’ among us – an allusion to John 1.14. At the heart of the book are fifty sonnets based on the words of Jesus and, in particular, his most challenging sayings: the ones that make us all uncomfortable. In this respect some of the poems are as effective as a hard-hitting sermon. This is an excellent book and is highly recommended for Christian teaching. It could be used by ministers and Christian leaders to supplement private prayer and devotion, for quotations in sermons, or for small group teaching and discussion.




Instruments of Christ’s Love

Instruments of
Christ’s Love

Authors Phillip Tovey, Sally Buck and Graham Dodds
Publisher SCM £14.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334054351

Three people, one of them a Reader herself, all engaged with Readers and training Readers in some way write a book about ‘The Ministry of Readers’. Significant bits of it are descriptive – what some Readers do and what Readers say about their ministry in their own words. In Chapter 2, Phillip Tovey asks the perennially fascinating question ‘What is a Reader?’ and gives us a useful overview of the answers, set in the context of reflection on lay ministry in general. He also shows, in ‘Readers in History’, that Reader-like persons were very active and effective in the American colonies, pre-dating the revival of Reader ministry in 1866 by 150 years. (I was surprised, though, that there was no mention of the Elizabethan experiment.) A view ahead is opened up by Graham Dodds in ‘Readers as pioneers?’ There is no doubting the commitment of the authors to Reader ministry and their appreciation of its importance and potential. This book may be useful for those exploring Reader ministry or in training, wanting a reasonably concise overview of all things Reader.


Reader Ministry


Abiding Grace

Abiding Grace

Author Rupert Bristow
Publisher Kevin Mayhew £11.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781848678699

This collection of just over two hundred prayers, all of the author’s own composition, is intended for use, as the sub-title suggests, ‘later in life’. Many of the themes address issues of later life, such as retirement, funerals, loneliness, heart attacks and dementia, but there are also prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings which life has conferred. I certainly didn’t expect to encounter the word ‘stair-lift’ in a book of intercessions! The stance of the person praying varies from the subjective to the objective, and so the book could be used either in private prayers or in the context of a service. The book is printed in a large, clear font, to combat that other condition of later life: failing eyesight. Individual Christians will be able to use it in personal devotions and those who minister to older people will find it helpful in compiling intercessions. Just occasionally I found that the prayers lacked a final cadence and ended somewhat abruptly. Sadly this will be Rupert Bristow’s last book,
as he passed away in November after a
short illness.




Lamentations and Ezekiel for Everyone

Lamentations and Ezekiel for Everyone

Author John Goldingay
Publisher SPCK £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281061396

This pilgrimage of translation and commentary through the Old Testament has now reached Lamentations and Ezekiel. Some readers may suspect the pilgrim’s progress has reached the Slough of Despond, but John Goldingay has done his best to make these hard books accessible. As earlier in this series, there are some curious features of translation. Thus we have Young Man where NRSV has Mortal and KJV has Son of Man and the backsliders’ idols are unceremoniously condemned as Lumps. The need to produce just one book to cover such a complex pair as these has meant that the sections of commentary are necessarily briefer than one might like, so if you want to know about Ezekiel’s life or how he relates to other prophets look elsewhere and students of Lamentations would be better with the recent IVP commentary by Christopher Wright (see Autumn 2016 review p.33). So this book gives us Goldingay as a companion on our pilgrimage rather than our guide. I think we could cast him as Hopeful.


Old Testament Analysis


Disappointment, Doubt and other Spiritual Gifts

Disappointment, Doubt and other Spiritual Gifts

Author Mark Yaconelli
Publisher SPCK £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281076505

Don’t buy this collection of stories unless you are prepared for challenge – it’s powerful! Written in a modern, accessible style, its ten chapters explore different areas of personal loss and darkness: the stuff we all experience from time to time but try to hide. Each chapter centres round a compelling, parable-like story and concludes with searching questions and helpful actions (spiritual exercises.) Perhaps if Jesus wrote a book he might have done it this way: letting the story speak for itself, creating a safe space to confront dark issues, move through pain, encounter God’s grace and reach towards love. I particularly appreciated Prayer Service Disaster (Gift of Disappointment) and The Dark Night, including Mother Teresa’s story. Much material here would be useful to Readers: emotive illustrations for talks; insights for pastoral ministry; instructions for spiritual exercises. Above all, it’s about grace, hope and life. Recommended.


Spirituality narratives


Living with the Mind of Christ

Living with the Mind
of Christ

Author Stefan Gillow Reynolds
Publisher DLT £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780232532500

Mindfulness seems to have struck the public consciousness recently but how does it fit with Christian thinking? Reynolds answers this question very thoroughly by showing that mindfulness practice as taught today links closely with Christian thinking. He considers Christian saints and mystics throughout the centuries and the insights they bring to that mindful awareness of learning to be alive in the present moment. This can then deepen into meditative prayer or contemplation ‘enabling us to open our whole being to God’s love’. It is a very helpful, comprehensive and accessible work and certainly opened my mind to the whole area of Christian and secular thinking about the subject; the text is packed with detail about the Christian thinkers of the past – but, while the chapter notes are thorough, an index would have increased its usability greatly.


Mindfulness, Meditation


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