The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, 2024
Author Selina Stone
Publisher SPCK £11.99
The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a bold and imaginative choice in selecting this impressive book as his recommended reading for Lent 2024. It has the complex subtitle, ‘Wisdom from Black spirituality for people of faith’, but the main title seems a little old-fashioned until you recognise its source and consider its deep meaning. ‘Tarry’ is a word seldom used nowadays. I liked the dictionary options of ‘sojourn’ or ‘to dwell for a time’; and it comes from Jesus’ words in Gethsemane to his disciples: ‘tarry ye here and watch with me’ (Matthew 26:38 AV).
Dr Selina Stone is a Pentecostalist, an academic theologian and – a sign of the times – an influential ‘podcaster’. She writes beautifully, bringing life and vibrancy to the text and shows clarity and wisdom in her biblical interpretations. The liveliness of her writing contrasts with much of her subject matter, especially the sections on quietness, darkness, and contemplation for spiritual growth. It is these parts of the book which make the title particularly appropriate, for it is through taking time to pause and reflect that we grow closer to God. But I also found charismatic dynamism elsewhere in the book: the section on Spirit, for example. Dr Stone is not afraid to tackle hard contemporary issues. Her section on healing looks at the Aid epidemic in Africa; and her section entitled ‘Movement’, invoking Abraham as a wanderer, has obvious resonances with the worldwide migrant crisis. I loved, too, her wisdom on the theme of oneness and reconciliation, which I read, appropriately, during the week of prayer for Christian Unity. Grief (‘Weeping’) is also addressed, and I marvelled at the beauty and poignancy of the personal account of how the author, grieving for her own mother, was comforted and spiritually strengthened by gazing on a pietà: Mary holding her crucified son.
This book transcends the boundaries of our traditions and is truly for people of all faiths. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Reviewed by KATE BURTON