Book Reviews

Book Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary

Liturgy of the Ordinary:
Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
Tish Harrison Warren, IVP, 2016

Liturgy of the Ordinary could become a contemporary classic. It was the Christianity Today Book of the Year in 2018. As a staff team we look over this annual listing and pick one book each as a summer read. This was my pick and it was surprising, refreshing and renewing. I’d go so far as to say it was the best book I’ve read in years. The concept of the book is unique and the writing is beautiful, honest and theologically rich. Being on holidays I read a chapter a day and it was a rich experience. None of that getting the book out with good intentions and finding oneself asleep an hour later!

Tish Harrison Warren is an Anglican priest (in the ACNA), a writer, a wife and the mother of two girls. When she wakes up each morning she faces a formidable to-do list. How does one find time to pursue holiness amid the rush of responsibilities?

The answer comes in this, her first book. Chapter by chapter, she explains how the most routine tasks, if done with an eye on the eternal, become extraordinary. ‘We are shaped every day, whether we know it or not, by practices—rituals and liturgies that make us who we are’, she writes. And that makes the ‘small bits of our day . . . profoundly meaningful because they are the site of our worship. The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines.’

The opening chapter begins with getting out of bed and then proceeds to look at the seemingly ordinary things that make up our lives. The chapter headings could make it all seem very mundane, covering topics like ‘Losing keys’ or ‘Fighting with my husband’. But this is what makes it so refreshing. Each day we see that everything in life is touched with holiness. Warren’s writing is very personal, honest and fresh, and each chapter takes you to surprising places. Some might be tempted to think this is a woman’s book. Presumably many women will find this especially refreshing, seeing she is a young mum. However it shouldn’t be boxed. It helped me to see my daily chores with fresh eyes and lifted my mind and spirit into new places in order to reflect on the extraordinary in the ordinary. I can’t recommend this book more highly.

Stephen Hale, Vic

Book Review: People of the Risen King:

People of the Risen King:
A History of St Jude’s Carlton, 1866-2016
Elizabeth Willis, St Jude’s Anglican Church, Carlton, 2017 

Encouragement and gratitude to God and his faithful servants: it was with these emotions that I closed this skilful interweaving of church and society through 150 years at St Jude’s Anglican Church in Carlton. Carlton’s socio-economic conditions and demography, clerical and lay personalities, theological emphases, liturgical practice, the Melbourne Diocese, and national and international affairs are colourfully integrated. Through testing times, diverse personalities and ever-changing ministries, the life and mission of the ‘People of the Risen King’ at St Jude’s Carlton is brought to life. Carlton larrikins blocking the entry of worshippers, the decline in attendance following the First World War, the depression, bulldozing to ‘clear the slums’, the building of Housing Commission estates, the opportunity to welcome New Australians, university ministry, discipleship training, parish partnerships, new congregations and relations with the Diocese of Melbourne: throughout it all we see the faithfulness of men and women to the work of God.

The ethos of the times is well captured. By way of example, the loss of faith following the First World War is highlighted: ‘subdued and grieving at the end of a horrible war when people were picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of a world where old certainties about progress and security had been shaken’ produced stark challenges for the church. A ‘Come to Church Sunday’ in 1919 seemed to miss the mark when it ‘exhorted people to go to church because it was a good thing to do, because it was a duty owed to God, and because their mothers would be pleased!’

Anecdotes tell amusing incidents and memorable characters. Vicar Lance Shilton in the early 1950s was challenged at his first Women’s Guild meeting: ‘We’ve heard that you don’t believe in gambling. We want a “yes” or “no” answer. Can we have raffles at our fete?’ The vicar concluded his ‘no’ with, ‘I am confident that by not having raffles at the next fete, you will make more money than you would ever have made before.’ The President replied, quick as a flash, ‘Would you like to bet on that?’ This reader could not help but laugh!
The parish’s social work encompasses the ‘free seats’ of the nineteenth century and the Debt Centre of the twenty-first century: a wide embrace of society that is at no time loosened.

In the 1890s wealthier people moved away from Carlton and the Depression hit Carlton and the parish hard. ‘In the winter of 1892 St Jude’s began a twice weekly soup kitchen . . . On one Wednesday seventy-six families representing over 300 people were provided with forty gallons of soup . . . and 140 loaves of bread, as well as tea, sugar and a large quantity of clothing.’ These impacts of changing demographics bring their own demands to parish priorities and possibilities. Hardly imaginable in 1866 would be the translation of sermons into Mandarin and Farsi in 2015!

The issue of liturgical changes and their cost to parishioners and clergy is not avoided nor the struggle to settle the culture of a congregation—and indeed of the parish. Would a congregation’s services have robed clergy, hymns, public prayer, charismatic expression, expository sermons? Would it be family/children friendly, welcoming to the outsider, have lay or staff leadership or some combination thereof? (And all in ninety to a hundred minutes.) Change is costly: the cost not always appreciated. A gracious and poignant reflection in 2004 from a now senior member runs: ‘Us young things took little notice of the cost of all this to the older parishioners, who had continued faithful through the hard times, and to whom we owed the continued existence of the church. We failed to respect the work of the Spirit of God amongst them.’

Insight is given to the significance of the gifting and emphases of the clerical leadership on the life and ministry of the parish. I appreciated the honesty of the personal challenges faced by clergy and the conflict within the life of the parish. In particular, conflict between staff is acknowledged without assigning blame or descending into a ‘tell-all’ narrative. This history is no hagiography, and praise be to God for that!

Photos add to the narrative. After viewing the impressive 1905 St Jude’s Football Team, I looked in vain for recent vicars Boan, Adams and Condie in the football team pose of crossed arms, attired in football shorts and sleeveless footy jumper!

A deftly placed photo of a fully robed bishop, robed vicar, two women wardens in smart casuals and a male warden in shorts and thongs, delightfully illustrate the Vicar’s words to the 1988 AGM, ‘I think that St Jude’s still retains a great deal of its off-beat, imaginative and risk-taking style. It is still fun to be part of and, despite the apparent order and sameness of our life, the erratic, the irregular and the very funny still occurs!’
The relationship between St Jude’s and the diocese of Melbourne is honestly traced with its ups and downs - and current healthy state.
The irony of writing of the seemingly endless struggle to maintain the parish buildings fit for purpose at the very time it is uninhabitable due to a deliberately lit fire in 2014 is not lost on the author. A multimillion dollar building project is currently underway.

This truly is a stimulating read! Do leave time for reflection along the way, for this history is a reminder that through the changing circumstances of parish and societal life the church is the ‘People of the Risen King’. Thank you, Elizabeth Willis, for your fine work in bringing this parish history to us, and to the faithful saints of St Jude’s Carlton. Copies are available via St Jude’s website. An insightful and inspiring history!

Bishop John Harrower, Vic.

 

Book Review: All Things Made New

All Things Made New
Writings on the Reformation
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Penguin, 2017 

Alongside his larger works on various aspects of the Reformation, MacCulloch has also written smaller pieces, book reviews, and occasional lectures. Some of these are gathered together in this volume. He has a few themes which run through the collection. His common sub-theme of sexuality is a very minor part of this book. One of the bigger ones is his crusade against the rewriting of Reformation history by the Oxford Movement

The first part concerns the Reformation in Europe. He has excellent chapters on Calvin, the Virgin Mary, Angels, the Spanish Inquisition and a very thoughtful book review of John O’Malley’s Trent: What happened at the Council. He regards this as the best history of the Council yet written.

The English Reformation is the second part and includes chapters on Tudor image making, Henry VIII, Tolerant Cranmer, the Prayer Book, the two Tudor Queens, and the King James Bible. A lot of helpful and new insights in all of this.

The third part is a look back at the English Reformation. It includes a number of chapters critical of modern studies on the Reformation. He critiques what he calls the “hegemonic narrative” of the twentieth century. The hegemony was Anglican – but specifically High Church Anglican. There had once been another narrative, the Evangelical Anglican Narrative but this had been lost in the Victorian era. So the “adherents of the Oxford Movement, or the wider world of Anglo-Catholicism, were dominant in the practise of religious history at university level ...” (240). This first chapter provides an excellent overview of the progress of historiography in the last century. McCulloch gives an example of the mythology of some history by recounting research into the removal of rood screens in certain parts of England. 30 – 40% disappeared in Norfolk churches in the nineteenth century, and 40-50% in Dorset, the work of High Churchmen who wanted the congregation to be able to see the consecration on the High Altar.

He has a similar critique of Thomas Cranmer’s biographers. Perhaps the best chapter is the 42 page essay on Richard Hooker, and the various people who hijacked him for their own purposes, not least John Keble. This chapter I think is worth buying the book for.

MacCulloch’s penultimate chapter concerns two reformation myths. He calls it a cautionary tale. One concerns the sermon Cranmer preached at Edward VI’s coronation where he referred to the King as like King Josiah. The other is the story of Queen Elizabeth berating the dean of St Paul’s for giving her a copy of the Book of Common Prayer adorned with devotional pictures. MacCulloch, says neither of these things happened although they have become part of the legend of the Reformation.

His last chapter is a potted summary of the history of Anglicanism underlining that it is really a Reformation church, but that in the face of too much dogmatism, it should be recognised as a “trial-and-error form of Christianity”. And we should keep on debating in public and allow ourselves to change.

One doesn’t need to agree with everything MacCulloch says to benefit from his many helpful insights and research. One of the great benefits of his writing is that he has challenged the narrative that the Reformation in England didn’t really happen. And has provided lots of new evidence not just that it did, but what actually went on between 1533 and now.

This is a fascinating book and worth reading. It also contains eight pages of colour plates with important images to go with the text.

Dale Appleby, WA

 

Book Review: Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians

Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians
Second Ed. Revised and Enlarged. 
Kevin Giles,Wipf and Stock, 2017

I sometimes lament the scarcity of good theology in the field of pastoral studies, but I am pleased to say this book is an exception. The  book's purpose is to evaluate the emergence, development and shape of leadership and ministry in the first and second centuries. From a contemporary and practical perspective, he is exploring the question: is the way our church is governed God ordained? In particular Giles evaluates the ministry patterns of the major denominations against those of the Bible. He questions the assumption that what we do and experience today is what the first century church did and experienced. Not because he believes there is a prescriptive pattern to be found, but rather to call into question the claims of these denominations accurately to reflect the patterns of the early church.'

He concludes firstly, there is diversity and development in church order in the first century and beyond; secondly, the patterns that emerge were driven by ‘the need of the hour’; and thirdly, there is little correlation between church in the first century and church in the contemporary context. The book examines ministry and leadership in Jesus and in Paul; noting Jesus is far less concerned to institute leadership positions in his church than he is about defining the nature of leadership in his community, defined by costly service and not authority and control. The bulk of the book examines the biblical and patristic teaching on the major church offices: bishops, deacons, elders, apostles, prophets and teachers.  

One of his most significant contributions is to carefully delineate the types of elders that existed in the Jewish diaspora of the Hellenistic period: the elders who had responsibility for the entire Jewish community of a city and the elders of each local community who were not office bears in any synagogue. So, in Alexandria and Antioch the Jewish community in its totality was governed by a council of elders, presided over by a ruler, while the synagogues were overseen by a ‘synagogue ruler’. Giles demonstrates  this same pattern was evident in the more mature early church. Initially, house churches were led by the wealthy home owner, who had both the large house and the social status necessary to have the credibility to lead. But as the number of Christians and house churches in a city like Ephesus or Rome grew, the Jewish system was adopted and elders were appointed to oversee the Christians in the whole city, as distinct from those who led the house churches. So, the Ephesian elders who come to Miletus in Acts 20 to meet Paul are the city elders. This has significant implications especially for those who try to emulate a biblical pattern of ministry. Apart from the question of whether such patterns are prescriptive anyway, there are several evolving patterns that were not settled for centuries (so which biblical pattern should we emulate?), and what we see in the Bible is more subtle and nuanced than we might think. 

In this kind of work method is everything. The book may be less than 250 pages, but his work is detailed and thorough. Where identified patterns and trajectories are broken, he offers a detailed argument to account for the anomaly and is judicious in making conclusions. He understands the sociological nature of institutional development, and his use of church history is critical to the success of his endeavour. Understanding how and when we arrived at certain ministry patterns is vital to our ability to evaluate them. Giles’ use of second and third century sources is necessarily limited, but it is certainly sufficient and provides an invaluable perspective and more complete picture. His use of history is not confined to the patristics. He offers some engagement with Reformers, especially around their contribution to our ideas of elders. No one pattern of church leadership is spelt out or prescribed in this book. Giles is reluctant to identify a singular, consistent pattern of ministry in the early church that might be emulated. He recognises the patterns are dynamic and as such are never prescriptive.

Considerable attention is given to the ministry of women, especially in the Pauline Epistles. The particular contribution of this book is the reframing of ministry roles and how they were occupied, which renders much of the contemporary debate anachronistic. Giles shows the way the contemporary debate is framed makes all sorts of unwarranted assumptions about leadership, authority, ordination and pastoral offices such that the answers are not just wrong, but meaningless.  

As someone who teaches in the field of Pastoral Theology I am acutely aware of the dearth of books that address these foundational questions. Not only are there very few, but  of these, very few do so with the kind of biblical scholarship of Giles who is not merely descriptive, but analytical and critical. . He will greatly assist our reading of the New Testament by alerting us to the many missed nuances, helping us see a more sophisticated picture of the life of the earliest Christian communities. In our own context, where much is disputed and many claim to have the biblical model, Giles has provided a rich resource to inform our thinking and practice.                                 

Tim Foster, Vic

 

Patterns of Ministry Among the First Christians

Second Ed. Revised and Enlarged.

Kevin Giles,Wipf and Stock, 2017

 

I

sometimes lament the scarcity of good theology in the field of pastoral studies, but I am pleased to say this book is an exception. The  book's purpose is to evaluate the emergence, development and shape of leadership and ministry in the first and second centuries. From a contemporary and practical perspective, he is exploring the question: is the way our church is governed God ordained? In particular Giles evaluates the ministry patterns of the major denominations against those of the Bible. He questions the assumption that what we do and experience today is what the first century church did and experienced. Not because he believes there is a prescriptive pattern to be found, but rather to call into question the claims of these denominations accurately to reflect the patterns of the early church.'

He concludes firstly, there is diversity and development in church order in the first century and beyond; secondly, the patterns that emerge were driven by ‘the need of the hour’; and thirdly, there is little correlation between church in the first century and church in the contemporary context. The book examines ministry and leadership in Jesus and in Paul; noting Jesus is far less concerned to institute leadership positions in his church than he is about defining the nature of leadership in his community, defined by costly service and not authority and control. The bulk of the book examines the biblical and patristic teaching on the major church offices: bishops, deacons, elders, apostles, prophets and teachers. 

One of his most significant contributions is to carefully delineate the types of elders that existed in the Jewish diaspora of the Hellenistic period: the elders who had responsibility for the entire Jewish community of a city and the elders of each local community who were not office bears in any synagogue. So, in Alexandria and Antioch the Jewish community in its totality was governed by a council of elders, presided over by a ruler, while the synagogues were overseen by a ‘synagogue ruler’. Giles demonstrates  this same pattern was evident in the more mature early church. Initially, house churches were led by the wealthy home owner, who had both the large house and the social status necessary to have the credibility to lead. But as the number of Christians and house churches in a city like Ephesus or Rome grew, the Jewish system was adopted and elders were appointed to oversee the Christians in the whole city, as distinct from those who led the house churches. So, the Ephesian elders who come to Miletus in Acts 20 to meet Paul are the city elders. This has significant implications especially for those who try to emulate a biblical pattern of ministry. Apart from the question of whether such patterns are prescriptive anyway, there are several evolving patterns that were not settled for centuries (so which biblical pattern should we emulate?), and what we see in the Bible is more subtle and nuanced than we might think.

In this kind of work method is everything. The book may be less than 250 pages, but his work is detailed and thorough. Where identified patterns and trajectories are broken, he offers a detailed argument to account for the anomaly and is judicious in making conclusions. He understands the sociological nature of institutional development, and his use of church history is critical to the success of his endeavour. Understanding how and when we arrived at certain ministry patterns is vital to our ability to evaluate them. Giles’ use of second and third century sources is necessarily limited, but it is certainly sufficient and provides an invaluable perspective and more complete picture. His use of history is not confined to the patristics. He offers some engagement with Reformers, especially around their contribution to our ideas of elders. No one pattern of church leadership is spelt out or prescribed in this book. Giles is reluctant to identify a singular, consistent pattern of ministry in the early church that might be emulated. He recognises the patterns are dynamic and as such are never prescriptive.

Considerable attention is given to the ministry of women, especially in the Pauline Epistles. The particular contribution of this book is the reframing of ministry roles and how they were occupied, which renders much of the contemporary debate anachronistic. Giles shows the way the contemporary debate is framed makes all sorts of unwarranted assumptions about leadership, authority, ordination and pastoral offices such that the answers are not just wrong, but meaningless. 

As someone who teaches in the field of Pastoral Theology I am acutely aware of the dearth of books that address these foundational questions. Not only are there very few, but  of these, very few do so with the kind of biblical scholarship of Giles who is not merely descriptive, but analytical and critical. . He will greatly assist our reading of the New Testament by alerting us to the many missed nuances, helping us see a more sophisticated picture of the life of the earliest Christian communities. In our own context, where much is disputed and many claim to have the biblical model, Giles has provided a rich resource to inform our thinking and practice.                                  Tim Foster, Vic

Book Review: Together Through the Storm

Together Through the Storm:
A practical guide to Christian Care
Sally Sims. Matthias Media, 2016

The book is just as it is described in the sub-title: it’s ‘a practical guide to Christian care’, in three parts. Part 1, ‘Suffering and the God who cares’, sets out the reality of suffering in this world and points us to the God who not only understands, but who can be trusted. According to Sims, Christian care aims to anchor the person in these truths as they deal with suffering. Part 2, ‘Biblical Foundations for Care’ explores how as God’s people we share life together in all its suffering and joy, and how we are called to love one another. It then looks at what makes our care Christian, and finally turns to how Christian care can be structured across the church. Part 3 is about Christian care in action, with lots of very practical guidelines for visiting people, finishing with the specific context of visiting people in hospital.
Sims has achieved what she has set out to achieve: a practical guide to Christian care which is also well grounded theologically, and not afraid of using insights from the helping professions. This work would be useful for a care team in the local church as a basic training tool, or for any Christian keen to be better equipped for caring.

I think the title ‘Christian care’, rather than ‘pastoral care’, is helpful in practice, especially when the term ‘pastoral care’ is too open to the misunderstanding that all or most pastoral care should be done by the pastor. Also, as Sims points out, it helps us to hold onto the distinctiveness of Christian pastoral care, when the term is often used of general pastoral care in hospitals and schools and other settings.
This is a balanced book, encouraging the use of the Bible and prayer in Christian care while also underlining how we demonstrate our love by the way we listen, are sensitive to people’s needs and provide practical care and support. The practical section, the last section of the book, covers some areas that those who are new to Christian care will find helpful—everything from how you might prepare to visit someone, what you need to keep in mind with hospital visits, to what to review when you come back, including discussing and praying about this with your team so you are encouraging each other in the work.

Overall this is a good and useful book. At times I wanted a bit more depth, but as a basic tool it is great. I especially appreciated the reminders about the importance of listening as a way of demonstrating love. These were repeated throughout the book, and I think Sims is right to imagine that we need to be reminded to listen. Her repeated reminders helped me finally to hear what she is saying, and—hopefully—correct the tendency to come up with a quick answer, seeking to solve people’s problems. (See pages 66-68 and 92-93 on listening).

Chapter 8 on the body of Christ working together gave a helpful basic outline and description of how a church could provide structure to the ministry of caring. I’m always struck by how Christian care happens (without much organisation by a leader) as people are motivated by God’s grace in their lives to reach out to love and care for others. Much of this is encouraged and furthered through small group ministry in a church. However, when circumstances are overwhelming or someone has long term needs, they may need additional care that’s part of a more structured and planned approach, including a care team of people who provide care at various levels and care leaders who co-ordinate care and who equip people for this ministry.

Together Through The Storm will help the reader to grow in their capacity to care for others, especially if Christian care is either new to them, or they need some basic training or a refresher on the basics of Christian care. Chapter 8 will also help pastors who have not thought through how to structure Christian care in a church, by providing a basic structure and description of that structure. Finally, there is a helpful reflection at the end of the book about how pain and suffering is often ‘where the real work of life takes place’, and thus how God uses our own pain and suffering to change us for the better and make us better carers. That’s something every pastor or Christian carer ought to reflect on and give God thanks for, whether we read this book or not.

Roger Morey, WA.

Book review:Reformation Anglicanism

Reformation Anglicanism:
A Vision for Today's Global Communion.
Edited by Ashley Null and John W. Yates III, Crossway, 2017

Michael Nazir-Ali’s excellent opening chapter, ‘How the Anglican Communion Began and Where It Is Going’ is worth the price of this worthy book. Starting with the Roman occupiers Nazir-Ali traces the spread of the gospel at first through Celtic Christians and later by the Roman mission. There were differences, and clashes until the Roman church got the upper hand. Ali comments, ‘In short, the Roman missional strategy was to stress founding structures capable of shaping a message, whereas the Celtic way was to proclaim a message with the power to create a community.’ He continues with terrific thumbnail sketches of the Reformers (who wanted to evangelise whole nations), the Evangelical revival, the spread of the gospel through missionary societies (a big section), and the various issues in church state relations. Anglican ecclesiology and unity are discussed and finally a proposal about the way forward. He says, ‘Once again, it is very likely that the renewal of Anglicanism will come about not through the reform of structures (necessary as that is) or through institutional means but through movements, raised up by God.'

Ashley Null provides an overview of the Reformation in his chapter, ‘The Power of Unconditional Love in the Anglican Reformation’. He traces its beginnings back 200 years and locates its power in the new desire to read and listen to the Scriptures, which led people to believe the promise of justification by faith and so to experience the love of God. The chapter gives a good picture of what Null calls a six-act drama: the pre-Reformation Scriptural meditation reform; an underground evangelical movement in the 1520s and early 1530s; an independent Church of England under Henry VIII from 1534 to 1547; a fully Protestant church guided by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer under Edward VI (1547–1553); the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church under Mary (1553–1558); and the restoration of Cranmer’s Protestant church under Elizabeth (1558–1603). Like the first chapter this is a masterful summary of a complex picture.

The next four chapters pick up the four big themes of the reformation: sola Scriptura (John W. Yates III), sola gratia (Ashley Null), sola fide (Michael Jensen), and soli Deo gloria (Ben Kwashi). Each of these is full of interest and insight, and is made more interesting because of the use of original sources and quotes. They are not dry expositions of doctrine but a kind of devotional historical theology embedded in real world issues of the time.
In the final chapter Ashley Null and John W. Yates III offer ‘A Manifesto for Reformation Anglicanism’. The foundations are in the nature of Anglicanism: it is apostolic, catholic, reformational, mission-focussed, episcopal, liturgical, transformative, and relevant. All very good. But my reading of it was that it was written from inside the reformed walls. Many of us live outside the walls in an Anglican church which ignores or denies these Reformation themes and practices. Although the keys are there for a new reformation of a captive Church, some further application to that context would have been good.
Dale Appleby, WA