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R. S. Stanier "Robert Stanier" (London)

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The Life and Work of a Priest
The Life and Work of a Priest
by John Pritchard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

92 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, homely guide to priesthood today, 21 Jan. 2008
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This little book is full of wisdom about the life and work of a priest, (essentially one in the Church of England) in all sorts of areas. It has short, lucid chapters on a range of areas, including preaching, personal organisation, attentive listening, theological reflection, prayer etc..
What it doesn't do is come up with a 'silver bullet' answer, finding the core around which people can define priesthood.
Rather, what Pritchard does is balance an essentially ontological understanding of priesthood (i.e. a priest is something a person is, rather than a job that a person does) with a high view of all the functional things vicars in particular are asked to do.
For example, the paperwork on your desk is not mindless 'red tape' to be scorned: rather, it should be seen as "pastoral work", as invariably each bit of paper is a request/ a need from a particular person: "what you do to the least of these bits of paper, you do to me".
The consequence is that he never privileges one aspect of ministry over another on the basis that one of the two is actually far more important.
Priests should be able to read the signs of the times AND make the worship they lead accessible to newcomers AND go on retreat once a year AND be pastoral ministers who listen "not just to the bassline of the conversation but also the melody" AND collaborate ecumenically AND look for joined up projects with government AND work together with the laity AND keep up with theological developments AND prioritise their family life AND allow outside interests to flourish AND limit themselves to a 50 hour week.
Even just listing those necessary attributes can make a priest feel a bit overwhelmed. There is a weakness to the lack of prioritisation: the task remains endless.
And yet...
this book doesn't feel overwhelming when you read it. There is a generosity at its heart, and a homeliness to his expressions (even when there's a depth of theology behind them) that makes it highly readable, and supportive.
It's made me reconsider my ministry, and it's the book I would now recommend for reading first, by anyone considering ordination as a priest in the Church of England (ahead of say, Michael Ramsey's "The Christian Priest Today" or Steve Croft's "Ministry in Three Dimensions").
It's realistic, but also wise. Above all, it rings true.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2008 5:26 PM GMT

A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality
A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality
by Stephen Bates
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched, penetrating and bitchy, 19 Nov. 2007
Stephen Bates is the recently retired religious correspondent for the Guardian. Even then he had a liberal bias. Here, able to write from a more personal viewpoint, he can let rip in a racy, somewhat bitchy, but ultimately penetrating account of Anglicanism's current favourite argument.
Since he no longer has to please potential interviewees, he fires off pretty freely. Thus, the bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt is 'an establishment figure of stately pomposity' (p180), just one of many pithy and elegantly dismissive phrases.
For example, when Dr David Hilborn, head of theology at the Evanglical Alliance describes Rowan Williams' writings on homosexuality as "both morally and hermeneutically flawed", Bates notes simply that this is "the assistant curate of St Mary's Acton saying that the Archbishop's writings are 'exegetically partial, theologically elliptical and ethically contentious'." and leaves it there.(p184)
And at times, these are genuinely revealing:
Greg Venables, while Archbishop of the Southern cone, and his predecessor preached the Gospel "so successfully that he ministers to a total congregation of 22,000 souls thinly spread across the vasts wastes of the Andes and the Pampas - rather less than many English deaneries..." (p163)
All this makes for an entertaining read, but the level of research, the number of interviews, and his plain grasp of the subject means this is a better work than just that of a waspish commentator. To take the example above, Bates must be right that Venables seems to be punching wildly above his weight, through his status as primate, when, say, the Archdeacon of West Lewisham ultimately has greater pastoral responsibilities.
By opening out his personal bias (when the congregation bursts into applause at Gene Robinson's consecration, "for the first time in my professional life at a meeting, I did the same"), Bates unlocks a new level of wisdom about the saga. Yes, of course, the reader needs to recognise where he is coming from, but it's not a covert agenda, and it's from a man who ultimately does care.
Eventually, you just get the sense that his revelations have the ring of truth:
"Akinola will not speak to Griswold but would trust (Drexel) Gomez, who in turn trusted Rowan Williams, who could speak to Griswold and so forth." (p282)
This may be a depressing way for a communion to run, but it sort of sounds about right.
His key thesis is that the homosexuality debate has been one targetted and brought about by conservative evangelicals and carefully prepared for. I am not sure I am as cynical as he is: hasn't it been precipitated more by societal change in the West wrongfooting the Church than by the desires of any one lobby group? At the same time, his is definitely a voice worth hearing.
As the Anglican Communion struggles forward to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, this book is definitely worth reading if you want to be informed about the debate.

The World of Wine: Flavours and Styles from Grape to Glass
The World of Wine: Flavours and Styles from Grape to Glass
by Andrew Jefford
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wine guide for 'intermediate' wine drinkers, 16 Nov. 2007
Andrew Jefford is a brilliant wine writer and in this latest work, he offers his take on the 'welcome to wine' kind of book.
Because it's Jefford, it's somewhat more than a 'here are the basics'. So I would say it's ideal for the person who's got some clue as to what differences might be: i.e. already knows that Burgundy hosts the pinot noir graple, but probably couldn't tell you that the Northern Rhone grapes are different from the southern Rhone.
I, for one, found it excellent.
He starts with a basic definition of wine in six words: "the fermented juice of fresh grapes" and then goes into three processes towards flavour: grapes (e.g. describing the characteristics both of classics like merlot and of minor grapes like cinsault); places (e.g. how would a chardonnay from Burgundy be different from a chardonnay from Chile or Australia); and finally winemakers: what processes can you do to influence things e.g. the easy bits - bottling etc. - and the more complex bits- malolactic fermentation etc..
Then he links different things across 'wine styles' e.g. valpolicella is made in Italy from the corvino grape and others, whilst beaujolais is made in France from the gamay grape, but both are 'light' red wines. Whereas, Crozes Hermitage and Burgundy and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo are all 'medium' red wines. And then Barolo, Ribera Del duero and McClaren Vale Shiraz are all 'full' red wines.
This bit's very helpful for thinking through what you might want at or before a meal and for thinking what you want to buy in the supermarket or wherever.
And the book is full of gorgeous turns of phrase that genuinely illuminate what he's describing. For example, on a general level: "White wine implies a special moment...: Red wine, on my drinking map, surrounds white as the ocean surrounds islands. Red wine is always first choice; red wine, in the end, IS wine. It's what I like to drink every day, what I like to drink on Sundays, and what I like to drink on Christmas Day, too."
He's got this gift so that you just get what he's talking about.
Or for a more minor example: "A bright, brash Australian white can taste superb for the first half-dozen mouthfuls, then may become a monotonous, crashing bore as you struggle to finish the rest of the bottle."

It's not a detailed work, so it doesn't have the florid prose passages that illuminate his "The New France" for example, but it does very well what it attempts to do.

Pastoral Services (Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England)
Pastoral Services (Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England)

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only new authorised version for the major services, 22 Oct. 2007
If you're ordained in the C of E, you already own this book. If you're about to get ordained into the C of E, you're about to own this book.
What's in it?
Well, the bits you will use the most are the Marriage service and the Funeral service.
The versions are given in full here including the alternatives: traditional language vs modern language (e.g. key difference in preface to marriage: "sexual union" vs "bodily union" in traditional language, and all that kind of thing)

They also print out likely scripture passages for funerals and weddings, which is useful.

As for the rest of the book, well, what you might not expect are quite a lot on healing services. This is useful, and practical and there's an interesting little theological introduction.
Other oddments; an order for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage and also "thanksgiving for the gift of a child" (whilst baptism is in the "Christian Initiation" book).
I wonder how many people use "order of prayer at the home for before the funeral". But it's good that it's there, I suppose.

This volume, then, is the part of the authorised book of prayer for the Church of England today, now extended over several volumes.
No doubt it was painstakingly argued over and debated at General Synod.
Whatever one thinks about it, it's indispensible to any ordained minister in the Church of England.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2011 12:27 PM BST

For All the Saints?
For All the Saints?
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise, important, also flawed, 17 Oct. 2007
This review is from: For All the Saints? (Paperback)
The trigger for the book is shown on p47:
"The last two churches where I have worked have organised a "Commemoration of All Souls" each 2 November. After attending several of these annual evenets, I got to the point a few years ago where I decided that, in conscience, I could do so no longer. The commemoration makes all the wrong points. Worse: its very existence pulls All Saints' itself out of shape."

This is a timely book. Tom Wright is here attempting to slice through a lot of the sloppy thinking underlying Anglican practice around All Souls Day. It's timely because All Souls services are becoming ever more popular in the Church of England and there are real theological problems with them.
Essentially, his argument is this:
a. every Christian, alive or dead, is a saint. It is wrong to create a category of "saints" through canonisation or whatever.
b. All Saints Day should be about all Christians, not just the beatified few.
c. Therefore, one or other of All Saints Day and All Souls Day should be made redundant. Because they are about the same thing.
d. The celebration for this festival should emphasise Christian hope not despair (symbolised by black altar frontals etc.)
(In the book, he also deals with a couple of sub-issues. First, there is a diatribe against the Kingdom season and the dating of the Festival of Christ the King to just before Advent. This is largely convincing.
Second, there is quite a lot on 'purgatory', which pervades a lot of the arguments around this. And while he is against it, he's not against praying for the dead per se.)

Certainly, this is a worthwhile book. Wright draws well on the New Testament to substantiate his arguments, with his typically strong command of books like Revelation and Hebrews which many of us dip into all too tentatively.
And there's a sense in which his basic 4 point argument is correct. Moreover, he's also right to say that a lot of Anglican practice here is a slurry of sentiment ungrounded in theological clarity.

Yet where I take issue is that actually he's not so theologically clear himself.
This is most clear in the section on hell (p41-46)
First, he derides the univeralist cause (which "turns on God having all the time in the world, after the death of unbelievers, to go on putting the gospel to them from different angles until at last they accept it") because it allows people to defer decisions into the future.
Yet then he picks up on Romans 5 and 8:
"This (great promise of salvation) doesn't sound like a small group of people snatched away to salvation while the great majority faces destruction."
He follows with a classic fudge sentence: "Somehow we have to hold all this together without cutting any knots."
He continue: the Bible is against universalism: in Revelation 21 there are 'idolators' on the outside. But he's also against too limited a net for salvation: in Revelation 22, there's a river of life and a tree of life for the healing of the nations. (p43)
Again, he sticks in a classic liberal fallback:
"There are mysteries here which should not be reduced to simplistic formulae."
Finally, he adds "The question of who should be saved is ultimately up to God and God alone."

So, if you actually push his arguments to their conclusion, what he seems really to be saying is that somewhere between 50 and 90% of England's population are likely to be saved at the last day. But that somewhere between 10 and 50% are likely to hold fast to their evil ways and refuse the Gospel.

Of course, he would rile at numbers being presented. And fair enough. But I suspect that deep within, that's what he really thinks. And, God knows, he may be right. But you can't criticise people for slurry type vague argument only to do the very same yourself. At least, universalists and penal substitution salvationists have a clear view, a view that they can hold with conviction not out of sentiment but because it ultimately makes sense of their interpretation of the Gospel.

At this point, I ought to 'come out'. I actually have deep sympathy with him in this chapter on hell. In fact, I think it's a balanced and nuanced bit of writing. The problem is "heaven" and "praying for the dead" is a complex subject about which we can pronounce little with certainty. It's not just 'sentimentality' which makes us hesitant in our pronouncements: it's a genuine theological difficulty. Hence, The Arminian/ Calvinistic predestination controversy which basically continues unabated in many churches.

But once you've admitted that actually it's a bit harder to make clearcut pronouncements, then doesn't that mean that it's harder to be so prescriptive about what should or shouldn't make up the liturgical practice of All Saints/ All Souls?

And surely you can celebrate the Saints (meaning those the church has recognised as particularly "holy") on All Saints Day and give due honour to their inspiring relationship with God, without also taking on the caricature he presents of the Saints being in the Kings' court as opposed to the rest of us being in the outer circle.

So, in summary, this is a really worthwhile book. It's short, it's in clear language unlike the over-academic stuff that fills so many theological books, and it will help you think about what really goes on at All Saints and All Souls. But as a rallying cry to get rid of one or other of the festivals, it hasn't ultimately convinced me.

Celebrating the Eucharist
Celebrating the Eucharist
by Benjamin Gordon-Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the best sense, the Delia Smith guide to presiding, 9 July 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As someone about to be ordained priest and wondering how to preside (in a broadly catholic tradition) and what was the theology underlying different possibilities, I absolutely fell on this book.
You won't agree with everything they say but they are clear, informed, concise and surely right about most things: certainly, (as with a Delia Smith recipe) you would vary at your peril, as these guys have probably thought about most things more than you.

It's mainly a "how to" and "why to" guide, that combines liturgical knowledge with good sense. For example, "However the confession is introduced, it should be followed by a time of seilence which should never be shorter than the time taken to introduce it." (p34) Obviously, there's no authority for this, but it's good sense, isn't it?
Crucially, they are bang up-to-date and they make helpful reference to "Common Worship", including page references, and they also make comments of relevance that note the Roman Catholic tradition, and ARCIC documents.
Every now and then, they stay awhile on a topic: for example, there's a balanced, well-informed discussion on concelebration in the light of Vatican II and the House of Bishops' own "Eucharistic Presidency". All this is great.

However, there are a few weaknesses. For example, it's noteworthy that neither author is involved in parish ministry. Thus, the silence after communion should be "a minute at the minimum" because "silence takes time to settle". In a parish, where babies and toddlers have been silent for an hour already, it's asking a lot to have a clear minute's silence, however well that may work in Mirfield or Merton College chapel. Or again, after the service, they say the President should give thanks at the altar before going to tea or coffee. That's a lovely idea, but what will the congregation think? And how's he/she going to welcome the newcomers in that crucial minute before they leave the church? Gordon-Taylor and Jones would I guess say that that's not as important as completing the sacrament with reverence. Well maybe.
Also, there are a few omissions e.g. what gesture would you use for "Send the Holy Spirit on your people..." Are we still in "orans" or should we make a gesture? They don't say, let alone specify.
Yet that's a cost of keeping the book short and concise, which is to be welcomed. I would definitely recommend this to people about to preside for the first time, or who just want to rethink how they currently preside, and why they do what they do.
It achieves what it sets out to do brilliantly.

Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop
Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop
by Stephen Cottrell
Edition: Paperback

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely lovely look at the gift of stepping back, 9 July 2007
Many of us today are bowed down by our need to be busy, productive people. In hurrying around, Cottrell (the bishop of Reading)'s thesis is that we miss out on being the complete humans God wants us to be. Rather, if we chilled out more, we'd be happier as a result.
So far, so obvious, you might say, but Cottrell makes his points with choice stories, depth of understanding and yet a light touch, which make this short book a delight, and a much-needed prompt. Superficially, he's just saying "take it easy once in a while"; at a deeper level, he's saying that God is present to us, if we'll only stop to take him in.
If you're an agnostic or atheist, enjoy this Christian take on how you might approach life in a different way (and really suck the marrow out of it.)
If you're a liberal Christian, take this as manna from heaven, reminding you of what you've always guessed about God's purpose for each of us.
If you're an evangelial Christian, read this to understand where liberals are coming from, and why they too want to share Jeussu Christ with the world.
Sure, it isn't perfect; it's a bit vague and waffly towards the end, but there's so much good here, that's a tiny quibble. When I put the book down, I sat still in a chair for 15 minutes and prayed. It was wonderful.

Oxford Apostles: A Character Study of the Oxford Movement
Oxford Apostles: A Character Study of the Oxford Movement
by G. C. Faber
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid recreation of Newman and his friends, 25 Jun. 2007
This is an account of the early years of the Oxford movement, and its protagonists, right up to the time of Newman's conversion to Catholicism. It is strong on the atmosphere of 1820s and 30s Oxford, and the motivations - desire for God, personal ambition, animosity, friendship - of what drove the members of the Oxford Movement forward.

It was undoubtedly an extraordinarily religious time. Parishioners packed into St Mary's church on Sunday afternoon to hear Newman preach (and he could hardly be accused of offering a dumbed-down version of the Gospel); collections of sermons would go into several editions; the Tracts themselves sold brilliantly: Tract 75, for example, on the Roman breviary, sold astonishing numbers of copies, despite costing more than two shillings. So too the Tract on baptismal regeneration. Who today would care?

Faber's book is strong on all the personalities. Essentially, Newman is the focus, but he also touches on others: Pusey, Froude and Keble for example. From an Oxford academic family, Faber understands the mechanisms of the Oriel common room, and such, but is also quite distanced from his subjects. He finds their obsessions rather weird. Who are these people who read the Church Fathers for 14 hours a day in the long vacation; who feel they have ruined their 24 hour fast because they spent an hour playing cards toward the end of the evening (its frivolity ruining their spiritual progress); who look down on those undergraduates who would consider profaning a Sunday by reading the newspaper?

Yet he empathises enough to offer you an explanation for their phenomenal seriousness: Newman once wrote in a letter,

"We are playing with edged tools: [Errors in astronomy or chemistry] are unattended with danger to the person who maintains them. [ But errors in the faith render a man ] incapable of moral excellence and so exposed to the displeasure of God... I should be grieved if you thought I was desirous of affecting superior wisdom, or gaining converts to a set of opinions."

The Oxford apostles are all driven out of a fantastic fear of sin. When Hell lurks at the door, things can easily become very puritanical. Pusey, convinced of his own sin after the death of his wife, turned to using hard chairs and a hard bed, abstaining from alcohol and only taking such food as was strictly required. When he loooked at a fire, he was to remember "the type of hell" and out walking, he had to keep his eyes on the ground. In conversation, he was never to jest (except with children).

Faber also intimates (in a decorous 1930s way) that some of the passion for God might also be connected to semi-repressed homosexual desire. Not that anything 'happened', but same-sex erotic feelings best explained the pattern of the intensely close all-male friendships, the exaltation of celibacy among the priesthood and such.

Newman himself emerges as far from a hero: Faber portrays himself as brilliant, serious, with deep religiosity, but fundamentally self-centred, ultimately weak, and something of a drama queen.

Yet while it can all seem weird, one looks at a 'middle of the road' Anglican church today, and you can see just what an impact Newman had. A weekly parish eucharist, vestments, facing East to say the Creed, kneeling at times, fasting during Lent... all these were part of an utterly radical approach to the Church in the 1930s. Their aim was to recreate the Church of the early Councils (Chalcedon etc.). Yet while this hardly happened, and while the Church Fathers are (regrettably?) largely fading back into the oblivion from which Newman and co rescued them, and while their puritanical desires seem so weird today, the impact of those 'Oxford apostles' into what is now 'normal' in the Church has been colossal.

This isn't the seminal work on the Oxford movement and it doesn't delve too deeply into the theology: just enough to keep the characters on track. Yet it provided me, a newcomer to the topic, with a brilliant introduction and a stimulating guide to a type of religiosity that is latent now, but is surely going to make a potent return.

Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Mark D. Chapman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, concise, informative and witty, 26 May 2007
Chapman takes a basically historical path into explaining Anglicanism, starting with Cranmer and the Reformation and then tracing other themes over the centuries (e.g. chapters on each of evangelicalism and AngloCatholicism), finishing off with a big chapter on the worldwide Anglican communion.

Chapman's account is brief but he always picks up on choice examples to illustrate his points, e.g. the changes in the wording of the eucharistic prayer between the 1549 and 1552 prayer book, to show how Anglicans moved away from the real presence, or on the hymn "The Church's one foundation" was written to bulwark one side in the Colenso controversy in the 19th century.

So while it remains an introduction to Anglicanism, he's also got enough detail to interest those who are more familiar with the subject. Indeed, most of the chapters are weighty enough to form the first chunk of reading for someone doing an A level or undergraduate essay on anything from the Reformation to the Oxford movement.

His overall thesis is that Anglicanism started as primarily a Crown-based denomination: loyalty and faith in the Crown was at its core. It is therefore struggling still to define itself now that the Crown and English state no longer give it its natural definition: within England, a key point of departure was Catholic emancipation in the early 19th Century, formalising Anglicanism as one denomination among many; within the world, the change has been the end of empire, meaning that England no longer has meaningful authority.

His explanations shed great light on the current difficulties within the Anglican Communion: why should each church agree on everything? when was that ever the expectation?

In summary, this book fabulously achieves what it sets out to do: to provide a brief introduction to Anglicanism. Because the author is so in control of his subject, he has done more than that: it's a real insight into the Anglican denomination: its blessings and its problems.

Cold Spring Harbor (Rmst)
Cold Spring Harbor (Rmst)

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and surprising, 18 May 2007
A bit of a curiosity this one - it's the album Joel made before he got his major recording contract, before he settled on his main band, and before he had his first hit, Pianoman.

So what do you find?

It's a bare production, led by the piano (there's one straight piano instrumental), a bit like the earliest Elton John albums, and it's got some beautiful, beautiful tunes.

Joel's voice has yet to reach proper maturity, both in terms of the way he sings and the lyrics he writes, but it's often touching as a result.

Everybody Loves You Now is great, though the live version on Songs From The Attic is better, but other highlights are Turn Around, Tomorrow is Today and the closer, Got To Begin Again.

It's basic and naive, but really attractive.


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