I thought it’s about time I joined in again with Miz B’s Musing Mondays over at Should be Reading. But, just for a change I thought I’d blog about a few ‘vicar-ish’ books. Regular readers will know I’m a vicar who loves reading, but you wouldn’t always know it from the books I’ve written posts about so far.
I’ve mentioned the Bible before and that’s still a daily read. But I also read other books that connect with my Christian faith and ministry/work. As it happens, I have several books on the go at the moment that fall into this category:
Michael Moynagh Being Church Doing Life: Creating gospel communities where life happens. This book, published last year, is aimed at helping Christians learn new ways to connect their faith to everyday life (according to the back cover blurb). I’m still in Part 1 (of 3), looking at Why Communities in Life? with chapters considering what missional communities can and do look like, and why they are a good thing to set up and be part of. It’s already given me, as a church leader, lots to think about, particularly the emphasis on the visibility and activity of the community.
Eugene Peterson’s hope for The Contemplative Pastor is to offer words of wisdom and refreshment to enable busy pastors caught up in preaching, teaching and ‘running the church’ to get back to some spiritual basics and focus on what really matters. He had me hooked with his first chapter: ‘The Unbusy Pastor’ and I’m currently considering a better way to live and minister ‘Between Sundays’. A really good read and much needed as I seek to find a better balance between work and rest.
And, lest I get it all wrong, at least I’ll know how to go about Leaping the Vicarage Wall once I’ve finished reading Ronni Lamont’s study of leaving parish ministry! It’s a mix of her own personal experience and also draws on conversations with others who have left the vicarage behind, as well as making some sound recommendations for changes that might stop clergy doing the leap at all. The title grabbed my attention – at any clergy gathering, there are always stories being shared that could so easily have been slotted into the narrative of this book. But, for now at least, I’m staying inside the rectory walls!
I’m still making my way through Brian McLaren’s We make the Road by Walking one week at a time and I’m about to enter the season of Lent. The book has a great structure and pattern to it. The weekly themes are gathered into several seasonal groupings and each one begins with several Bible passages and a highlighted verse. There’s then a reflection, just a few pages long, on the main overlapping themes from the Bible readings before each chapter ends with some thought-provoking questions arising from the themes explored – there’s even a question for children to join in with. It’s a wonderful book – and its open and exploratory style would, I’m sure, work well for people of other faiths or no faith as well.
And then I’ve just got hold of On Rock or Sand: Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future edited by John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. This should be an interesting read, from a Christian perspective, in this UK election year. And I’m especially motivated to read a book, whose dedication page reads: ‘For hard-pressed families on poverty wages’, because that’s certainly the reality for many in the urban priority areas of significant deprivation where I live and work.
Lent begins in just over a week’s time, so I’ve stocked up on a couple of seasonal books too. I’m looking forward to both and the different perspectives I think they will bring to my Lenten journey this year. John Pritchard (now retired from being Bishop of Oxford) writes in his introduction to The Journey: With Jesus to Jerusalem and the Cross just how much he’s always loved the phrase ‘Let’s go’ with its implicit promise of anticipation and adventure, and action ahead. Definitely a man after my own heart, so I can’t wait for the journey to begin next week.
I expect Tim Muldoon’s The Ignatian Workout for Lent will offer me a much slower and more contemplative pace for quieter and more reflective moments on the journey – plenty of space for prayer, as well as action, through the 40 days of Lent
And then for the end of the working day, I love to lose myself in a story. At the moment, that story is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s brilliant Half of a Yellow Sun, which I’m racing through on my Kindle. I know I’m probably a few years late to this particular party, but she’s an author I only discovered last year through her Purple Hibiscus and Americanah, two of my favourite novels of 2014. Half of a Yellow Sun is similarly superbly well-written with strong and believable characters. It’s pretty harrowing in parts but fills a gap in my knowledge of Nigeria/Biafra back in the 1960s and so helps me to see some of the historical and cultural reasons why places like Kano are cropping up in the news from that country even today. It even creeps onto the ‘vicar’s work/ministry’ book list too because the congregations I serve have people from many different African countries, including Nigeria.