Honest Sadness

Honest Sadness

Author John Holdsworth
Publisher Sacristy Press £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789591613

We could be forgiven for thinking that lament does not have a place in our sophisticated society. It hardly appears in the New Testament, being more associated with the Books of Lamentations and Psalms in the Old Testament. However the author takes another view, one in which it is time for us to acknowledge the significant role that lament can play in allowing us to express our emotions. These can be personal, and the author vividly describes his grief at the slow and painful deterioration of his beloved wife, Sue, due to dementia. Emotions can be communal. In each chapter he describes events, for example, protests in Beirut, a family of refugees in Cyprus and the response of the public to the first lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, which form the platform to explore our understanding of lament as Christians through the Bible, poetry, and song. We are challenged to reflect honestly on what emotions we have felt whilst reading each story, to think what the Bible teaches us about lament and to encourage openness in our own ministries.

Reviewed by PETER V DYER

Lamentation, spirituality

 

Not of this Worldview

Not of this Worldview

Author Richard Briggs
Publisher Sacristy £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789591583

This poetry collection brings together attempts made over thirty years to communicate a perception of what its subtitle calls ‘the kingdom among us,’ as ‘Already here…/ And yet still at hand’ by ‘an Englishman who tried to write it all down’ – as a poem on the Vatican City humbly calls the author. This perception infuses poems exploring the experiences of a theological educator and minister reflecting on the journey of life; places (particularly Italy, USA and Durham) and the preoccupations people have in them; the mundane and the overwhelming; light’s penetration of darkness. An ineffable sense of the present and anticipated Kingdom is held in unstated connections between juxtaposed lines or verses, or in the gentle insistence of rhythm and form as they shape ideas, inviting readers to find searches for God in life and for the meaning of a poem parallel experiences. In Briggs’s best work a prayerful confidence lights his unworldly worldview, as in the conclusion to ‘A Light Psalm’: ‘So shine, Lord, shine . . . Be the headlight on my car/ And a streetlight on my way.’

Reviewed by JOHN MOSS

Poetry

 

Comfortable Words

Comfortable Words

Author Steven Croft
Publisher BRF £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781800391055

With direct regard for our locked-down world and our emergence from it, this book, based on Isaiah 40-55, is right up-to-date. Croft has written nine compelling reflections on some of Isaiah’s warmest and most yearning prophetic messages. Beginning with ‘Comfort, comfort my people’, Croft follows the prophet through the words written some 2,500 years ago as God’s message to a subdued and exiled people whose identity had been stripped away, but whom God was calling to return and rebuild. The people then needed strength renewed, fears faced, hearts refreshed, and vision expanded. Croft brings light to these prophecies as they applied to the people of the exile, and, because the prophecies point to Jesus, to us – people of the Covid lockdown. The author’s style is inspirational and heart-warming. As I read it, I felt a sense of identity with Isaiah’s original readers, and that I wanted to respond for today. It is a fine read for any disciple, and will be a valuable resource to anyone preaching from these chapters of Isaiah. Recommended.

Reviewed by ROSIE HOWARD ROWE

Old Testament analysis (Isaiah)

 

Love Mercy

Love Mercy

Author Samuel Wells
Publisher Canterbury Press £12.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781786222657   2020

Subtitled ‘The Twelve Steps of Forgiveness’, this short book discusses how individuals and groups can build reconciliation. It is an exploration of twelve steps to peace while acknowledging that peace is a gift from God rather than an achievement. Using passages from scripture, novels and films, consideration is given to the differing values of blaming, repairing and creating. It is neither a self-help manual nor yet a handbook for those seeking to broker reconciliation. It is of value for anyone who wants to think deeply about reconciliation as a form of resurrection through the remembering of an experience or behaviour. This is good background reading for us all. We are taken through the processes by which difference can lead to tension and then on to conflict before escalating into violence and war. In contrast forgiveness comes at the end of the reversal of that chain of responses. As with all Dr Wells’ books, this fizzes with ideas and connections so that preachers will find illustrations and new ways of viewing Christian teaching. Superficially an easy read, there is depth for those taking time to ponder the thesis.

Reviewed by RONA ORME

Reconciliation

 

The Canterbury Book of New Parish Prayers

The Canterbury Book of New Parish Prayers

Author Max Kramer
Publisher Canterbury Press £19.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781786223036

This beautifully produced hardback is an ideal addition to every minister’s library. The author is Precentor at Canterbury Cathedral, responsible for leading the intercessions at choral evensong. In his public role, he is required each day to deliver excellence, and this collection of original collects and bidding prayers certainly fits that description. The book is a model for good intercessions, with well-balanced but modern phrases, which update the sometimes hackneyed 20th century collections which most of us have acquired. Anyone called to lead intercessions in worship will find not only inspiration and wisdom, but also clarity and sensitivity. It is not a short book – there are over 300 pages – so one can find useful material for nearly every occasion; there is seasonal material through the church year, pastoral prayers, material for human tragedies and for the full panoply of human endeavour. Kramer also provides sensible guidance on delivering intercessions and writing your own material. In summary, this is an encyclopaedia of good practice in public prayer, and highly recommended. It would make an ideal gift for ordinands or newly licensed Readers.

Reviewed by LEONARD RICKARD

Intercessory prayer

 

Dear England

Dear England

Author Stephen Cottrell
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton £12.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781529360950

In a chance encounter at Paddington Station Archbishop Stephen was asked: ‘What made you become a priest?’ His answer – ‘belief in God and a desire to change the world’ – was too brief, and he decided to answer more fully in the form of a long letter, addressed to the entire nation. It became a 17-chapter book, addressed to both believers and non-believers. It has three parts. The first (‘Finding Hope’) sets out the general case for belief in God as the only way to make sense of our world. The middle section (‘Taking Heart’) uses scripture and original ancient sources to point to the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry and resurrection. The concluding section, (‘Changing the world’) is radical and intriguing, setting out a cogent explanation of the trinitarian God as a loving community, alongside a hard-hitting case for Christian social action. This is evangelism at its most thoughtful, a well-written and carefully argued thesis for the relevance of Christianity in the 21st century, post-Brexit, post-pandemic. The vision is attractive and encouraging to Christians; and those on the fringes of our church will find it challenging and thought-provoking.

Reviewed by KATE BURTON

Faith