The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective

The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective

Author D. Michael Jackson (ed.)
Publisher Sacristy  £19.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789590357

This volume resulted from a 2011 ecumenical conference on the diaconate at the University of Regina, Canada, and includes chapters on the theology of the diaconate, the transitional diaconate, women deacons, ecumenical perspectives on the diaconate, the prophetic and liturgical roles of deacons and diaconal formation. The book’s broad ecumenical range makes it unusual, with contributions from the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist traditions; in addition, authors address the diaconate in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. The 19 chapters are succinct, but make a compelling case for ecumenical engagement on a ministry shared between the Churches but often interpreted in very different ways. Nevertheless, a common thread running through many chapters is the importance of John Collins’ theology of diakonia as more than just service. The chapter on the survival of women deacons in the eastern Churches, in particular, illuminates an often overlooked and forgotten history. A weakness of the book, which will undoubtedly diminish its academic impact, is the regrettable absence of detailed references for most chapters, a bibliography and an analytical index.

FRANCIS YOUNG

Ecumenism, Ministry

 

The Meeting That Changed the World

The Meeting That Changed the World

Author Michael Knowles
Publisher Sacristy  £17.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789590265

The argument of this book is that the Council of Jerusalem in AD49 as outlined in Acts has been underestimated. Whatever detailed negotiations led up to its conclusions, it liberated pagan Christian converts from needing to follow the full rigours of the Torah. This traumatic but necessary step changed Christianity from being a local sect into a world-transforming faith. The author, a Roman Catholic, uses this model to challenge his own Church: if it is not prepared to ordain women and accept other similar reforms, its numbers will continue to decline. He is thus revealed as the kind of Vatican II-affirming Catholic who would be sympathetic to the present Pope. He would, of course, be strongly opposed by the neo-traditionalists in his church, some of whom are showing an odd disloyalty to that very Pope whose office they claim to venerate. Although the book is perhaps too long as it trawls through the New Testament, it offers a challenge particularly relevant in this year of Cardinal Newman’s canonisation: in the light of his Essay on the Development of Doctrine, how far can you embrace radical change while staying true to the deposit of faith?

ADRIAN ROBERTS

New Testament Analysis

 

Retired and Inspired

Retired and Inspired

Author Wendy Billington
Publisher BRF  £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857467201

As a retired person, I read this book hoping to be inspired. Wendy Billington writes about retirement, its frustrations and opportunities, with care and imagination. The book’s two sections deal with ‘clearing weeds’ and ‘sowing seeds’, and address retirement, loss, fear, memories, change, relationships and living for the present. It is well-structured, understandable, bible-based, and rooted in an outlook of faith and support within the local church. Each of the ten chapters contains questions for group discussion and reflection, and there is a ‘thought for the day’ based on the fruit of the Spirit. It is good stuff, but it did not raise my own level of inspiration very much. I enjoyed Jim’s story, a chapter-by-chapter case-study of a likeable but fictitious person, and his journey through different retirement challenges. However, because Jim is fictitious, the story felt designed to bring out the points that the author wants the reader to consider. The book is written for Christians, and the level of writing is basic. It will suit those who are new to the journey of faith or discipleship, rather than those who have been on the road for rather longer. It would work well for a book club of newly retired people on the fringes of church life.

HOWARD ROWE

Lifestyle

 

Sabbath

Sabbath

Author Nicola Slee
Publisher DLT  £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780232533996

‘Sabbath’ looks like a book by a poet about another poet’s poem, but it is far more than that. Slee offers us reflections on the main strands in Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poem ‘I go among the trees and sit still…’ It is not a systematic theological treatise on Sabbath, but an invitation and exploration, following thoughts, feelings, the gifts and threats of setting time aside. Slee explores the necessity and difficulty of fitting Sabbath into our pressured and success-oriented lives, and she offers the painstaking examination of the inner life that you might expect from a poet. Her chapters are complemented by excerpts from her journal, her own poems, questions for reflection and prayers (some very searching), and blank pages for our own notes. In a few places there was more personal information about the author than I wanted, but this does not detract from the vital importance of the message of the book. ‘Sabbath’ won’t help you preach a better sermon but, taken seriously, may help you lead a more integrated, more human and more godly life.

GERTRUD SOLLARS

Poetry, Spirituality

 

Searching for a Silent God

Searching for
a Silent God

Author Sarah Parkinson
Publisher Sacristy Press  £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789590388

This is Sarah Parkinson’s honest, detailed spiritual journey, punctuated by self-revealing poems. We follow her through conversion; education and career moves; marriage and childbirth; the stresses of becoming a clergy-wife and a significant bereavement. Through all the changes, she is conscious of God’s loving presence. The second half of the book describes how Sarah emerges from the ‘grey-fog’ of mourning only to realize that God has apparently deserted her. Faith says he is still around but, paradoxically, experience screams his absence. She can offer no explanations or solutions, hoping that her experiences and questions may be of help to others who are also finding it difficult to connect with God. This is a creative and well-written short book, touching on important issues of spiritual growth and times of darkness, and may be a great comfort to some. A more objective exploration of the God beyond the silence could have enriched the book further.

APRIL McINTYRE

Poetry, Spirituality

 

Following Jesus

Following Jesus

Author Henri Nouwen
Publisher SPCK  £12.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9780281083558

This simple, beautiful book is based on lectures by the late Henri Nouwen on following Jesus ‘in an age of anxiety’. I think the age of anxiety has increased in intensity since the original talks, and that Henri Nouwen’s message is more poignant than ever. From the very beginning, I felt, both by Nouwen’s style and content, drawn into the presence of Jesus Christ, and that he was talking to me. The simplicity and portrayal of the message is deeply attractive. Nouwen writes on Christ’s invitation and call, the challenge and cost of following Jesus, and the reward of joy, which was my favourite section. The last chapter is about the Holy Spirit and how to practise the presence of the Spirit day by day. Nouwen is very practical and never suggests that the Christian life is easy. He does, however, reveal a quiet assurance of peace and direction that is neither complex nor exhausting. The book is suitable for any time of year but would be particularly good for reading through Lent. I commend it to you with all my heart.

HOWARD ROWE

Vocation, Spirituality