Book Reviews

Hope in Action by Cardinal Vincent Nichols

I would like to recommend a new book written by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster with a Foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Hope in Action by Cardinal Vincent Nichols is about hope in a world which seems full of hopeless problems, by which we too often feel defeated. This is not a book for those who prefer to withdraw into an unreal, rose-tinted world. It is about sexual violence and abuse, human trafficking and slavery, religious extremism and the world’s victims. It is also about Christians as agents of mercy, mission and hope. Simply written but full of profound wisdom, it is a book which Christians of every denomination should read. It is available at the Abbey Shop at the discounted price of £6.95.

God with us by Rowan Williams

A year after I began my training for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge – and reading for the Theology Tripos at Trinity College – a young man arrived at Westcott as our new Chaplain. And – shock horror – he was a layman! The Principal had appointed him because he recognised in the young Rowan Williams a profound theologian, a brilliant scholar and a man of deep faith and deep prayer. We arrogant young ordinands soon recognised all those gifts in Rowan, and many more.

Rowan was ordained Deacon in Westcott House Chapel at the end of my second year. I am proud to have been invited by him a year later to be the Deacon at his first celebration of the Eucharist in the same chapel, days after I had been ordained Deacon in Bristol Cathedral. I am also so pleased that he accepted my invitation to come to the Abbey as Archbishop of Canterbury to the great service we held in 2005 to mark our 13th centenary (not, as an eagle-eyed parishioner has noticed [thanks, Bob – no wonder you made Professor!], the service in 1998 which was the millennial celebration of the Abbey’s becoming a full Benedictine monastery in its own right. Rowan preached at that too, but was then “only” Bishop of Monmouth).

Over the years I have bought and read all of Rowan’s prodigious output of books, which continued throughout his time as ABC (as the Archbishop is always known in the trade!) and has increased in number since his “retirement” and appointment as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (the wrong Magdalen, from my point of view: you can take a man out of Oxford and plonk him in Cambridge, but you will never take Oxford out of the man).

Now I will share a secret with you. I struggle with some of Rowan’s bigger books. It’s not so much the depth of the thinking as the need to get a half-nelson on the grammar, the over-long sentences and all the consecutive clauses. But when he wants to write simply and accessibly for ordinary people like you and me, he can do it superbly well. That is why I have no hesitation in recommending his latest book as my Lent Book for 2017. It is entitled God with us: the meaning of the cross and resurrection – then and now. Its published price is £8.99, but because I want to get you all reading it, you can buy it at the Abbey Shop in the Close for £6.95.

Deepest Dorset edited by Fanny Charles & Gay Pirrie-Weir

Edited by journalists Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie-Weir, this splendid new book looks at what makes Dorset special, how it has developed, and how its combination of benign climate, beautiful scenery, stunning coastline, glorious buildings, vibrant creative arts and outstanding food continue to draw people. Beautifully produced, it includes a series of photographic essays by the Sherborne-based photographer, Katharine Davies, and contributions from a host of Dorset folk. What makes the book extra special is that it is raising funds for Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, Weldmar Hospicecare Trust, Dorset Community Foundation and Dorset RNLI. The cover price is £20. There are no production costs to pay as these have been covered by the Rothermere Foundation, and all the contributors have given their services for free.

A Good Year (SPCK) edited by Canon Mark Oakley

A more substantial book, just published, has a chapter on each of eight major seasons of the Church’s year, from Advent to Pentecost. A Good Year (SPCK) is edited by Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. All the authors are Anglican bishops, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (Christmas) and his successor Justin Welby (Lent). Other contributors include our own Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne (Pentecost) and former Bishop of Ramsbury, Stephen Conway, now Bishop of Ely (Easter). Abbey Shop Manager Phil Prout is able to offer this splendid volume with a major discount: £6.95 instead of £9.95.

Cross the Line (Footballers talk God, Faith and the Beautiful Game) Edited by Ollie Baines and Liam Flint

A second volume would make a splendid gift for anyone in your family or close circle who is mad about soccer. Cross the Line is sub-titled Christian Footballers talk God, Faith and the Beautiful Game. Edited by Ollie Baines and Liam Flint, it interviews 20 prominent footballers who do exactly what the subtitle suggests. It also costs £7.95 at the Abbey Shop.

Disappointment, Doubt and other Spiritual Gifts by Mark Yaconelli

I have been recommending books for holiday reading, which you can obtain from the Abbey Shop in the Close. I now want to commend to you a very different book, about failure, loss, grief, disappointment and various kinds of suffering. It is entitled Disappointment, Doubt and other Spiritual Gifts and is by Mark Yaconelli, who lives in Oregon, USA. It is, therefore, a very American book. But it deals with themes common to all of humanity. It is accessible, honest and written by a master-storyteller. Everyone would benefit from reading it. Copies are available, or can be ordered, at the Abbey Shop, priced £7.95.