Invisible Worlds: Death, religion and the supernatural in England 1500-1700

Invisible Worlds: Death, religion and the supernatural in England 1500-1700

Author Peter Marshall
Publisher SPCK  £17.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281075225

My first reaction to this collection of essays (divided into two parts – one heaven, hell and purgatory; the other angels, ghosts and fairies) was: ‘Angels and ministers of grace defend us!’ (Hamlet I iv). The discussion of guardian angels from a Calvinist, rather than a Lutheran perspective, is intriguingly open-ended,

inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. The discussion of Purgatory was particularly fascinating. Its removal as a believed post-mortem destination, long-underpinned by dogma and then-contemporary literature, had a profound, unexpected impact: ‘…with the despising of purgatory, they began little to regard hell’ as one scribe put it. At modern funerals, the minister says: ‘in sure and certain hope of the resurrection…’ regardless of whom is being buried/cremated and what they did/did not believe. Are these comforting words only that, or should the church be more open, more honest about heaven and hell? This book provides an eloquent starting point for such a debate. Marshall has written an accessible masterpiece providing the key to understanding the collective intellectual and spiritual mindset post-Reformation, and its continuing influence on post-modern
western Christian thought.

ANDREW CARR

History

 

Pilgrim Journeys

Pilgrim Journeys

Author Sally Welch
Publisher BRF  £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857465139

Welch takes the reader on an unexpected journey with this slim but thought-provoking companion to ten pilgrim routes in Europe and the Holy Land. Avoiding such practical details as can be found on the internet, she instead offers a themed meditation on the spiritual steps that lead on a walk towards holiness. The opening description of St Columba’s Way, from Iona to St Andrews, becomes an extended discussion of what it means to be called, including a heartfelt appraisal of her own sense of mission. Driven by a self-confessed feeling of restlessness, her attachment to pilgrimage has an authentic ring to it: the word pilgrim was first used to describe a type of perpetual wanderer, a self-imposed exile whose journey was far removed from the later understanding of a return trip to a holy site and back. She concludes by describing a talk about an expedition planned with almost military precision along a Norwegian pilgrimage route to Trondheim, which left the audience impressed but unmoved by its spiritual content. Instead her book offers a more reflective and profitable meander along pilgrim ways.

NICK MAYHEW-SMITH

Pilgrimage

 

Hans Küng

Hans Küng

Author John J. Kiwiet
Publisher Hendrickson  £14.95
Format pbk
ISBN 9781619709737

Continental theologians tend to write big books. The German Catholic Hans Küng exemplifies this, as in this re-issue of Kiwiet’s sympathetic, pithy and critical survey. Most of us will know of On Being a Christian. Not all that he was dismissed by the Pope from his official Catholic teaching role in 1979. Why? For being a scourge and articulate critic of out-of-date and untenable aspects of Catholic belief and practice. ‘Faith in the living Lord should coincide with concrete action’ within the Church and in secular society. He was an ecumenist who sought to bring Catholics and Protestants closer together, healing the centuries old rift of the Reformation. He opposed the Pope’s infallibility, writing that the Church was best placed to be without defect, but not the Pope. He was a brave searcher for the truth, critical of the Vatican hierarchy’s handing down the faith from above, and of those in power who protected the status quo and blocked change coming from below. His hopes rose during John XXIII’s papacy but then were dashed. He remains a champion of worshipping men and women, Protestant or Catholic, and those outside the Church.

JEREMY HARVEY

Biography

 

Journey to the centre of the soul

Journey to the centre
of the soul

Author Andrew D Mayes
Publisher BRF £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857465825

This may be a spiritual book for explorers, as it is subtitled, but it certainly is not for beginners. It is for those well-versed in the scriptures and with a rudimentary knowledge of some mystical writers. A degree of comfort with theological vocabulary will also help. Not a quick or easy read, this book will reward slow, reflective reading. As an extended metaphor of underground landscape to encourage spiritual awareness, it is original and stimulating. Some may find there is too much geological information. The prayer exercises in each chapter are imaginative and varied. The book could be used as the basis for a retreat or with an experienced home group. Spiritual directors and those looking for fresh imagery for the work of the Spirit will find much of value here.

RONA ORME

Spirituality, Prayer

 

Dangerous Prayer

Dangerous Prayer

Author Darren Cronshaw
Publisher Paternoster £14.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781842279762

The author believes that prayer should not be escapist, or just about changing ourselves, but missional – motivating us to seek to change the world in the direction of God’s kingdom. He provides a verse by verse exposition of the Lord’s Prayer to show how this can happen. We are challenged to be part of the answer to our prayer, and to be careful what you wish for. He argues that to ask for our daily bread is to desire to subvert the global economy. Praying for the kingdom questions political manifestos. To seek forgiveness is to work for truth and reconciliation. It is slightly repetitive in places but there are many helpful anecdotes and references to films. Although the author is evangelical, he quotes with approval catholic, orthodox and liberal theologians. With journaling exercises, discussion questions and references to video clips, it could stimulate
a course on prayer.

DEREK JAY

Prayer, Mission

 

If Entrepreneurs Ran the Church

If Entrepreneurs
Ran the Church

Author Peter Kerridge
Publisher SPCK  £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281078004

This book contains a miscellany of ideas about how to reinvigorate the Church from eight successful people who run large enterprises. Having been in industry, I was sceptical that managers in commerce could envisage getting the best out of the mix of stipendiary and voluntary workers that is the Church. Their ideas, though, draw one in probably because whatever it is, they want to make it work. A phrase that crops up several times is, ‘generosity of spirit.’ More emphasis is put on willingness to do things in the name of Jesus than on money and for this reason, and the many fresh ideas, I think this is especially a book for Readers. The overview at the end of the interviews is particularly welcome as a summary, and the ‘questions to help you consider how your church might gain from the entrepreneurs’ ideas,’ are useful.

JOHN FOXLEE

Leadership