The Eucharistic Faith

The Eucharistic Faith

Author Ralph McMichael
Publisher SCM £25
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334056591

This is the first of a projected series of volumes seeking to recast the whole of Christian theology from the perspective of the Eucharist. The author’s logic is hard to fault, and if his project has any success, I suspect it will generate lively and influential debate. Although the book is densely written and academic, the basic idea is straightforward. If you take seriously the core Christian belief that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, and believe that the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus as a pattern for us to follow, then its centrality cannot be denied, and must affect every aspect of theology. There is something here to challenge the assumptions of all Christians, whether Catholics who perhaps cling to outmoded models of what is meant by ‘real presence’ or Protestants who regard a communion service as not much more significant than a service of morning prayer. The tone of the book is very much ‘theology from above’, so the Eucharist is not so much seen as a humanly-devised act of worship as something given by God to which we must faithfully respond. In fact, at times the book reads rather like something Karl Barth might have written had he been a high-church Anglican rather than a Swiss Calvinist.




Place of Repose

Place of Repose

Author Katherine Tiernan
Publisher Sacristy £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789590784  2020

This interesting, well-crafted historical novel imagines the detail behind an epic series of journeys by the monks of Lindisfarne: a mission to preserve the relics of St Cuthbert from the depredations of the heathen Danes who were destroying churches and monasteries across Northumbria in the late 9th century. From Lindisfarne, the saint was transported west to Carlisle, lodged temporarily near Derwentwater, was shipwrecked during an abortive journey to Ireland, and eventually travelled back to northeast England to a shrine at Chester-le-Street.

Two characters dominate the narrative – Stiltheard the restless, stuttering novice and Eadred, Abbot of Carlisle, a sybaritic but faithful priest who acts with astute diplomacy to bring peace to the region. Both are influenced in contrasting ways by visions of the coffined saint, who is present as a mysterious guiding presence throughout the journeyings. The novel describes violent, turbulent times, but is ultimately about reconciliation and restoration, brokered through divine spiritual interventions. It will delight all who are interested in Saxon history and Northumbrian Celtic Christianity.


Historical Novel


The Jesus Story in 4D: Combining the Accounts

The Jesus Story in 4D:
Combining the Accounts

Author Nigel Andrews
Publisher Loxwood Press £14.95
Format pbk
ISBN 9781908113340  2020

What a delicious irony for a retired anaesthetist to review the cutting and stitching of a retired surgeon! Andrews has compiled a chronological account of the life and work of Christ from the Gospels and the first two chapters of Acts, using 76.5% of the verses available. What was his motivation – and is he successful? He feels the gospel may be better understood within the framework of a continuous timeline so that ‘…the closer will be our encounter with Jesus… the good news of God’. Each excerpt is colour-coded for source. After an explanatory introduction, 14 chapters follow, from ‘Preparation for the Messiah’ to ‘The Church is Born’. The text flows easily, even if a single interpolation from another source brings a slightly intrusive colour change. The author’s use of his personal version of the text is sometimes striking: John 8:9, (the accusers) “began to go away one at a time” becomes ‘they begin to slip away, one by one’. Other occasions are less helpful: Mark 5:19, ‘how he has had mercy on you’ becomes ‘how kind he has been to you’. If it does indeed increase accessibility and understanding for a casual gospel reader then it is a benefit worthy of the obvious effort.


New Testament Analysis


How to Read the Bible

How to Read the Bible

Author Michael Parsons
Publisher BRF £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857468093 2020

‘We read scripture to hear God speak to us, to relate to us in and through Christ.’ The author emphasises engaging with the text, rather than merely reading it, and he sets out to explain and demonstrate how his readers may do this, in a number of different ways. He offers exercises at chapter ends, so that individuals or groups may further their experience of the topic presented. As a writer I found the chapter on poetic language interesting. We are so used to imagery in the novels we read now, but when the psalmist uses imagery, for example, it would probably have been the first time a phrase or word was used creatively. Parsons is an experienced minister and theology lecturer, and he writes clearly and encouragingly. Sometimes I feel he leads readers towards his own viewpoint, rather than guiding them to form their own. The concluding chapter in the book considers the reasons we want to be biblically literate. By the end I was conscious that behind each book in the Bible there is a writer, and beside each writer there is God.


Biblical Literacy


Love, Interrupted

Love, Interrupted

Author Simon Thomas
Publisher Trigger £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789561043

This book is about the love that was interrupted by the sudden tragic death of Gemma, the author’s wife. Interwoven with the shattering impact on her TV presenter husband and their eight-year-old son are accounts of problems the couple had to deal with in the years leading up to this event: infertility, miscarriage, depression. The author is extremely honest not only about his and his family’s struggles coming to terms with Gemma’s death, but also his mental health issues, and the impact of it all on his Christian faith. I found this an amazing, warmly written book, full of insight. It pulled together thoughts, feelings, and reminiscences of not only the author but also of many of the people close to Gemma; and some strangers. So much grief could very easily overcome, and very nearly does. But overpowering waves of grief are tempered with tiny waves of things like random acts of kindness which make life bearable. We too are left with hope and a message not to neglect any opportunity, however small, to lighten someone’s load.



Advent, Nativity


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