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Sources of Inspiration

If you have been inspired by other resources, send us details and a brief review for incorporation into the next Newsletter or publishing on this website.

BOOKS

NEW REVIEWS - February 2008

Word of Mouth: Using the remembered Bible for building community
by Janet Lees
Cover picture of Word of MouthWild Goose Publications, 2007, ISBN 978-1-905010-33-2

How many times have you heard church leaders bemoan the lack of biblical knowledge among church members. This book proves otherwise!

The author describes her methodology and recounts her practical experience of Bible study sessions conducted entirely from the 'remembered Bible'. Not only is it very encouraging, it also reveals the ways in which this approach empowers those for whom the written word is a barrier, how it can help to overcome oppression of poverty, becomes the means of creating learning communities and how it makes the connection between the Bible and the experiences of daily life today.

The author sees that last point as being really vital in a world where biblical scholars have "removed themselves to the academy" and "ceased to engage with the people or the issues of contemporary faith context".

The proof of the efficacy of the method is to be found in the second part of the book amongst the reflections and worship resources which are the product of this way of working.

OLDER REVIEWS

Creating Partnerships: Unleashing Collaborative Power in the Workplace
by Cynthia King
Cover picture of Creating PartnershipsWisdom Way Press, California, 2005, ISBN 0-9766377-0-7

Don't be put-off by the "Workplace" context in the Title. The title of Chapter 1, "Unpacking the Patriarchy" reveals right from the start that this book is hugely relevant to any organisation religious or secular where power-over is the dominant managing culture.

In contrast to the oppressive patriarchial systems based on competition, domination and control, she offers an inclusive system of power-with partnership, where all voices have a right to be heard and where all individuals have full membership in their communities - no matter what their gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation or abilities.

The author draws on a wide range of resources and expertise. The Common Ground Model contributed by W. Mark Porter is particularly helpful in dealing with conflict in organisations. Having noted that conflict either emerges as battleground or goes underground he offers a methodology for finding and working in common ground.

King's models of leadership as partner, servant, mentor, midwife and her analysis of the Soul of Leadership offer a refreshingly alternative to the opprerssive models under which many people life and work. Similarly, she brings insights from the world of intentional communities to provide less hierarchial organisational structures.

This is a really helpful book for anyone working at creating church around the concepts of Baptismal or all-member ministry or struggling with the concept of the priesthood of all believers in institutional churches where leadership and power is held by the ordained.

 

Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community
by William Berry
Book CoverSierraClub Books, 2006, ISBN 978-1-57805-130-4

This is a really helpful book for those seeking to explore the issues of global warming from a religious perspective.

Berry's starting point is that human activity has created mass extinction of life forms on the planet that is irreversible and will lead inexoribly to the end of the Cenozoic period of this planet's evolution and to the start of the Ecozoic Period. He sees the cause as being Industrialisation in which the planet's finite and irreplacable resources of minerals has been exploited to secure human progress and to lift it above the confines of nature but at a huge cost to nature and to human existence.

He poses a challenge to humanity. "The basic question that is slowly emerging is whether human dominance will be asserted as normative over the earth or whether the priority of the integral functioning of the Earth will be accepted by humans." And as a step on the way to answering that question, he asks the world religions to evolve a new Creation Story which takes account of the current knowledge of the birth of the universe and its evolution through five phases each marked by mass extinction of previous forms of life and the emergence of more complex ones.

 

Book CoverThe Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
Bloomsbury, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7475-8726-2

This new account of the Indian Mutiny has been acknowledged as being the first to be written from the Indian perspective. It describes the circumstances of the mutiny, the overthrow of Bahadur Shah Zafar II and the destruction of the Mughal capital, Delhi in 1857.

To read it today, at the same times as we see images of Iraq dissolving into a bloodbath, is to see history repeating itself in a most disturbing way. And the ingredients are same. British governorship of India changed from being tolerant and benign to being arrogant and dictatorial with colonial intent. Religous fundamentalism played its part when an increasing Christian Evangelicalism in the employees of the East India Company met up with a a threatened Moslem dynasty. The result was appalling brutality and wanton destruction: the Harem of the Red Fort destroyed to make space for cavalry stables, just as the site of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon has become a base for the US Army in Iraq.

Book CoverPersian Fire by Tom Holland
Abacus, 2005, ISBN 0-349-11717-9

A wonderful overview of Middle East history, written from two perspectives, those of Greece and Persia. The book begins with rise of Persia to overthrow the Assyrian Empire in 615BC and ends around 450BC with the Greeks turning back the Persian Empire's attempts to enter Europe. On the way it takes in the great leaders, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius and Xerses and battles of Niniveh, Thermopylae and Salamis.

This is a fast moving yet detailed historical account of global politics which resonates with current events and enlightens them. It also adds a degree of continuity and a breadth of perspective to biblical accounts of events which, written through the eyes of the prophets, can seem disconnected.

 

God in all Things coverGod in all Things by Gerard W Hughes
Hodder, 2003 ISBN 0-340-86151-7

I imagine most of you have already read God of Surprises. I was 'surprised' recently to find the above on the book shelves and to see that it is titled as a sequel to God of Surprises.

I have found it to be exactly as The Tablet states, "packed with wonderful, almost visionary insights". Gerard Hughes writes widely about a divided spirituality which can affect every aspect of our lives. This is explained as he reflects on signs of the immanent God and of the transcendent God amongst his examples. Unknowingly this can affect us all. As usual, at the end of each chapter are a set of exercises to think and work through.

Much of this book will resonate with those who are interested with New Way, ecumenism and issues of justice and peace.
Eileen Stephenson


Going to Church in the First Century coverGoing to Church in the First Century by Robert Banks
SeedSowers, 1990

This delightful little paperback, just 50 pages long, is a fictional account of an evening gathering of 1st century Christians at the house of Prisca and Aquilla in Rome. It is told by Publius, a Roman soldier. He is staying with friends in Rome who take him along as a guest.

He notes the warmth of welcome to himself and another stranger, the presence of both slave and master who sit next to each other at the meal and who serve each other and converse as equals. He is moved by the relaxed sincerity of the worship. The honest and direct quality of discussion, the shared provision of food, with plenty spare for the unexpected guest, all speak to him of a remarkable group of people and of a message worthy of serious consideration.

This book is a must for anyone committed to Small Christian Community, or to anyone wanting to re-think what House Group or Cell Group might become.

Copies are available from New Way (see Publications Page)
Stephen Rymer


The Complex Christ coverThe Complex Christ - Signs of emergence in the urban church by Kester Brewin
SPCK, 2004 ISBN 0-281-05669-2

A fascinating book which weaves a variety of themes together from a blunt start, "What is patently clear is that the church is experiencing separation, delamination, marginalisation, trivialisation and exile from the world it seeks to serve. And it is therefore experiencing these things from God too, for if the Church is not connected to its host culture and society it is not where God wants it to be, therefore it is not where God is..." Only grief permits newness so we need first to take time to weep; then to remember our stories, for they, alongside our present give us a bearing on the future. Next we must become "wombs for the divine" and completely rebirth the church into a host culture. His chapters on 'Gift' and on 'Dirt' are immensely helpful; the latter breaking open the subject of clean / unclean, boundaries, and rules.

Do explore the website www.thecomplexchrist.com which has ongoing open debate about the ideas.
Stephen Rymer

Transforming Communities coverTransforming Communities by Steven Croft
DLT, 2002 ISBN 0-232-52456-4

I re-read this book recently and saw things which had been missed at the first attempt. It is strong on small groups and brings together ideas from the 'church planting' movement as well as from the Base Community movement recognising the importance of evangelistic focus as well as the social focus; also the merits of top-down direction as well as bottom-up evolution in the creation of future church.
Stephen Rymer


 

Hope for the Church coverHope for the Church - Contemporary strategies for growth by Bob Jackson
CHP, 2002. reprinted 2004 ISBN 0-7151 5551-2

Not particularly a New Way of being church, but rather encouragement to look carefully at the old way and to renew it by careful attention to the things that, if done well, at an appropriate time, and in the right place will bring new life to church.
Stephen Rymer


 

book coverThe Dignity of Difference - How to avoid the Clash of Civilisations by Jonathan Sacks
Continuum 2002, revised 2003 ISBN 0-8264 6850-0

The Chief Rabbi pleads for tolerance in an age of extremism. "For too long. the pages of history have been stained by blood that is shed in the name of God." Sacks shows how his own faith can e.g. answer the question of whether religions can become a force for peace rather than a source of conflict; how by qoing back to the roots of biblical monotheism we may all find, maybe to our surprise, a theological basis for respect for difference; how our common religious tradition speaks of human solidarity, of justice and compassion, and of the non-negotiable dignity of individual lives. (Reassuring, to members of New Way!)

What is exceptional is how Sacks argues his case, brilliantly and persuasively, from the basis of Judaism - in a way that for me, a Christian, makes so much sense of our common Jewish heritage. He maintains that at heart monotheism is not what it has often been taken to be: one God, therefore one path to salvation. To the contrary, it is that unity is worshipped in diversity. The glory of the created world in its astonishing multiplicity... in most of which, if we listen carefully, we will hear the voice of wisdom telling us something we need to know... is what he means by the dignity of difference. (I couldn't help thinking of the Holy Trinity!)

And it is not just the content, but his easy style, the way Sacks writes, that makes this book so compelling. I learned so much about Christianity, and its Jewish roots, and my own understanding of the Bible, from his opening up of the Stories and the Scriptures of Judaism.

"Once in a rare while a book comes along that is so powerful and so earth-shattering that we want to get atop the highest mountain and shout its praises", wrote one (American) reviewer. I say. Amen to that.
Michael Bridgwater

A Churchless Faith coverA Churchless Faith by Alan Jamieson
SPCK, 2002 ISBN 0-281-05465-7

A Churchless Faith follows the lives of people who have left the church after much soul searching. No! They are not the 'back-sliders' who cannot stand the pace; rather, they are the people whose faith journey has outgrown an unquestioning church. No! They do not give up on religion, they continue to sustain and develop their Christian faith in other support networks. Ultimately, Jamieson concludes that the church should enable such people to leave with dignity, help them to find soul-mates, and recognise that their ministry is 'beyond'.

This book has implications for New Way, because a number of workshop participants fall into this category of seekers.


book coverThe Spirited Business by Georgeanne Lamont
Hodder & Stoughton, 2002 ISBN 0-340-78637-X

The Spirited Business is at first sight another business management book BUT a glance at the bibliography reveals another perspective: Lionel Blue, Dalai Lama, Naomi Klein, C S Lewis, Thomas Merton, W H Vanstone, Esther de Waal.

This is a New Way mixture of theory and stories, practical suggestions undergirded by spirituality and some kingdom values. It begins with 12 principles, amongst them 'Be in the Here and Now', 'Stand in your Values and Visions', 'Human Beings Matter', 'Treasure the Marginalised', 'Draw on Diversity', 'Build Community'. This is a New Way for business and it can inform our thinking if we want to reach out to the spiritual people beyond the church.

Liquid Church coverLiquid Church by Pete Ward
Paternoster Press, 2002 ISBN 1-84227-161-X

Another book seeking a new way forward for the church but, unusually, this one has more vision for the future than analysis of the past. Pete Ward's concept of 'liquid' church, released from containment by structures of buildings and organisation, flowing with the Spirit and embracing social, caring activities currently seen to be secular, is really helpful.

He manages to embrace some of the aspects of modern society in a positive way: the current trend to Believing without Belonging is one such. Also the concept that the church of the future will have to accept that 'one size and shape no longer fits all' and that the Market economy does have things to tell the church.

I've some unease about his concept that Grace; is manifest in two degrees Common grace being God's ongoing activity in creation, and Salvic grace being God's redemptive work of re-creation, but nevertheless, this is a useful book which reflects some of the ethos and experience of New Way.

Having just imbibed this concept of liquid church, I was fascinated to hear a preacher, remark that, to a Jew, 'water' was associated with chaos and that Jesus and Peter walking on water had to be seen in that light. Will Liquid Church bring chaos, or might it enable faith in those engaged in the chaos of the real world?


MAGAZINES

Cover of Resurgence magazineResurgence, published bi-monthly is a thoughtful journal of ecology, the environment, new economics, and spiritual values. It is dedicated to spreading 'good news' and it always contains a number of book reviews covering an eclectic range of books.
Subscription Office: Rocksea Farmhouse, St Maybyn, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 3BR.





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