Vollard Suite , British Museum 3 May–2 September
50 Years of Bond Style
6 July–5 September
Admission £12, concessions available
PICASSO MADE over 2,500 etchings and prints and the Vollard Suite of one hundred prints are amongst his finest. The collection is named after Ambrose Vollard who commissioned the works. Vollard was the most influential dealer and print publisher of avant-garde art in Paris between the Wars. By modern business standards his working methods were eccentric. His contracts were not often much more than scruffy pieces of paper and we do not have precise details of any contract he had with Picasso for these prints. It is likely the set was paid for with a painting each by Renoir and Cezanne but we do not know the purpose or scope of what Vollard wanted. Picasso worked on the prints between 1930 and 1937 but when in 1939 Vollard died in a car crash on his estate of Tremblay-sur-Mauldre it was not clear how he intended to publish them. At one point twenty were to illustrate a poem by André Suarès, but that project didn’t come off. In the end Picasso produced 97 prints which were rounded off by three extras of Vollard himself – Vollard enjoyed having his portrait made – and after Vollard’s death the works finally came to the
Parisian dealer Henri Petiet who began publishing sets from the early Fifties. It was Petiet who gave the works their title, the Vollard Suite, and he paid Picasso to sign off the sheets.
The British Museum was offered the chance to buy the Suite in the Fifties for £1,900 but public opinion led by Sir Alfred Munnings, former President of the Royal Academy, and the watercolourist Winston Churchill was against Picasso and the trustees of the Museum declined the offer. Fortunately the Museum has now been given a set by Hamish Parker in memory of his father and it is a magnificent gift.
The uncertainty about how Vollard intended to publish the works reflects their haphazard production. Scholars, and this exhibition, group the works into seven; Vollard Suite (a hotch-potch group), Battle of Love, Rembrandt, The Sculptor’s Studio, The Minotaur, The Blind Minotaur and the three pictures of Vollard. Picasso meticulously recorded the chronological order of the prints and this shows him working on different themes at the same time. He said they were a sort of diary or commentary on his life over the time in which they were produced. By the end of the series anger and anguish about his native Spain led Picasso to produce works which are the forerunners of Guernica. These works owe some of their inspiration to Goya’s great set of etchings, The Disasters of War. They also ake some of their emotional turmoil from Picasso’s complicated love life – his marriage to Olga Khokhlova was finally collapsing with the news that the muse for most of these pictures, Marie- hérèse Walter, was pregnant with Picasso’s child, though that relationship was now ending and Picasso was soon to replace Marie-Thérèse with the surrealist photographer Dora Maar. These relationships are also reflected in the Battle of Love pictures which show sexual violence if not actual rape. But violent scenes are a minority in this collection. The most striking pictures are the simple and easily readable ones of the Sculptor’s Studio. These are beautiful prints with charm and sinuous lines, a post-erotic calm and the suggestion of a pose or mood by the simplest means. They are nothing like the mess of Picasso’s actual studio. Nor was Picasso much like the large, imposing, god-like middle-aged sculptor. At least the adoring muse Marie-Thérèse is recognizable in her moods,especially as the woman ignored by the sculptor who takes more interest in his work than in the living model. For all the humour and grace in the end immersion in these works brings a sense of ‘Et in Arcadia Ego.’
These studio pictures are a good example of Picasso’s interest in the classicism of Ingres, seen elsewhere in the set, and in the classicism of Greek architecture and sculpture. The Elgin Marbles three floors below, at least until Stephen Fry has them sent back, are just the sort of inspiration which drove Picasso. And the frequent references to the Greek myth of Pygmalion are a shorthand for the artist’s own frustration that his work fell short of the ideal in his head. That doesn’t mean these are poorly conceived prints. The simple composition of the studio prints into three or four squares is both classical and economic. A comparison with some of Ingres’ drawings shows Picasso’s mastery of line. And the great printmaker whom Picasso revered, Rembrandt, not only provided Picasso with some of the subject matter for the Suite, but also a technical standard to pitch against. The British Museum has one of the great collections of Rembrandt etchings and the few in the exhibition show Picasso achieve effects and suggestions with cross hatching or empty space – and he is a master of empty space suggesting classical human forms – which are just as fine as Rembrandt though different.
Readers of the Munnings/Churchill persuasion may see some of these prints as proof that Picasso like so many modernists could have been a good artist if he had stuck with the traditional ways of doing things. But time spent with these etchings points to another conclusion. Taken together they convey a powerful artistic and human personality. Not an easy one, but one strong in sympathy with the great tradition and which shares some of the preoccupations and the technical flair which marked out the great printmakers and draghtsmen of the past.
The genius of Picasso is made clear from a visit to the Barbican’s ‘Designing 007’. This exhibition celebrates the fifty years of the James Bond film franchise. The genius celebrated here is a genius for publicity – Skyfall opens on 26 October. What the Bond films do not have and what Picasso did was a genius for reinvention. Blue, Rose, Africa, Cubist, Neo-Classical, Late periods, collage, constructed sculpture, Picasso is protean. By contrast Ian Fleming wrote when Her Majesty’s subjects proudly carried a stiff black passport. The film franchise has struggled to cope with the change to citizens who carry pliable purple Euro passes.
The show makes this point through clothes. Bond’s suits began in Savile Row. They end up as product placement for international labels. But Fleming might not have minded. He loved America and he coped with the proletarianization of Bond from Old Etonian killer to Connery’s man-of the-people killer.
The show contains a lot of tailor’s dummies, not as an ironic nod to Roger Moore or George Lazenby, but to showcase Bond’s evening and tropical wear and some of the Bond girls’ frocks. Ian Fleming was an habitual wearer of bowties so he might have been annoyed by the number of clip-ons, but that just reflects that what is celebrated here is the props and the costumes and the stunts. The iconic Bond, the Bond of Goldfinger, only features at the start of the show. In the entrance there is an Aston Martin DB5, but not the DB5, with an unconvincing Bond dummy. The following room devoted to gold has a much more lifelike Shirley Eaton dummy painted in gold and draped over a bed. The show then tails off. Little boys of all ages only.
Until 9 September 2012
Admission £14, concessions available
Richard Norman takes a second look at this controversial retrospective
MY UNDERGRADUATE Aesthetics paper asked questions such as, ‘What is Art?’ No comprehensive definition has yet achieved universal currency, but I am of the belief that art is created in part to deepen our appreciation of the beautiful, and to exercise our capacity for its re cognition. The primaryproblem with the Damien Hirst exhibition is that for the most part it fails to do this. Perhaps in this way it is a clever critique of a bourgeois opinion on the place of art in society: if so, however, this hints at a further level on which one can quickly become dissatisfied with Hirst’s work – namely, its reliance on the sagacity of its message and meaning at the expense of the quality of the medium through which these are presented. Art (I think) somehow embodies its meaning in its medium. Hirst’s oeuvre is in contrast often a clumsy marriage of banal aphorisms and vulgar rhetoric. For the Love of God, a diamond-encrusted skull, is the only piece which one does not have to pay to see. The art critic Richard Dorment wrote that ‘[if] anyone but Hirst had made this curious object, we would be struck by its vulgarity. It looks like the kind of thing Asprey or Harrods might sell to credulous visitors from the oil states with unlimited amounts of money to spend, little taste, and no knowledge of art’. And that is precisely one’s first impression on seeing it, an impression which was not for me much altered by knowledge of its provenance. Its message, of human reluctance to confront death undisguised, is important but not ground-breaking. The sensation of the piece lies more in the information that it cost £14 million to produce, and one can marvel at this simply on the page. Hirst’s artwork has become a commodity, his techniques an industry. Nothing is gained by exhibiting multiple Spot Paintings: the production of so many was doubtless simply to maximize profit as the Hirst ‘brand’ became ever more desirable. For many of these pieces Hirst was simply the source of the concept, and had no hand in their manufacture. Of course, it is not unknown in the history of art for masters to delegate aspects of production to apprentices, but rarely has an exhibition demonstrated so little evidence of an artist’s individual technical skill. There are, for all this, some pieces worth experiencing. Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Left) and (Right), which consist of fish suspended in formaldehyde in individual cases and then arranged in a shoal formation, are beautiful in more than a natural-historical way. A Thousand Years, in which live maggots hatch within a glass case, develop into flies and then feed on a severed cow’s head, is genuinely shocking, and plays cleverly on the notion of aesthetic distance. The butterfly collages, reminiscent of stained-glass church windows, are again very beautiful, as is The Incomplete Truth, a dove suspended in formaldehyde as if in flight. Unfortunately, Hirst appears to have had too few original ideas to make for a good exhibition. Fourteen rooms in Tate Modern are in factjust aprocession of various beasts trapped in chemical coffins, and a near-obsessive compulsive display of different objects arranged in repeating patterns within shiny cabinets. These works cannot sustain the weight of interpretation Hirst and his curators would have us make of them: a large beach ball hovering in a jet of air above a coloured box simply does not speak to me of ‘love and desire’, as the exhibition notes suggest. I suppose it was only my susceptibility to the ‘art-market’ mentality which convinced me I ought at least to have seen the shark, the skull, the cow and its calf… But I was left feeling that the main respect in which Hirst can claim to have changed the world through his art is in the sums he has extracted from the moneyed classes in exchange for a series of glorified colour charts.
ADOREMUS IN AETERNAM
Michael Overbury – Organ £10, available from Worksop Priory, Cheapside, Worksop Notts S80 2HX
THIS RECORDING offers two excellent opportunities: the first is to listen to some little performed organ music for the Mass and Benediction, and the second is to hear the organ of Worksop Priory. The music selected by Michael Overbury, Worksop Priory’s Director of Music, is taken from the sixteenth century through to the present day and includes a composition by Overbury himself for use at Benediction. This piece reveals a deep understanding of the liturgy and an appreciation of the beauty of the Benediction. The music rises to crescendo as the monstrance is lifted in blessing and then subsides as the priest returns to kneel and adore the sacrament. It is stirring and moving music which should be more widely heard and as with all recordings of liturgical music this reviewer was desperate to get to a church to hear it performed live and in context.
The range of music on this recording reflects all of the different responses one might have to sacred mysteries, from the grave reflection on sin in Couperin’s Qui tollis peccata mundi to the triumph of Gigout’s Adoremus in aeternam which allows the listener to hear the cymbelstern being played, a sound which always raises the spirits. This recording brings to the listener a raft of interesting music. I had not previously come across the concept of ‘alternatim’ performance, where the organ movements replace the alternate phrases ofthe chants thatwere normally sung. The recording of this type of
setting by Scheidemann makes for interesting listening, and again I would value experiencing this liturgically performed. Much, if not all, of the music on this CD was composed not only to give glory to God but to express a theological idea and to educate the listener; to explain, if you like, what was happening during the Mass. Adriano Banchieri’s Elevation Toccata is one such piece. Banchieri was a Benedictine monk and in this organ piece seems to express in music the wonder of the miracle of Transubstantiation. The chromatic chords speak of the wonder and amazement of a man adoring his Saviour at the elevations during Mass.
Michael Overbury is to be congratulated on bringing together this excellent collection of pieces of music which speak deeply about the Catholic faith and the love of the sacraments. The booklet which accompanies the CD is well written and highly informative and should be read alongside listening to the pieces. The notes reveal a deep understanding of why the pieces were written and how they speak to composer, performer and listener (or should that be worshipper) alike. The cover photograph shows how in Laurence King’s renovations of the Seventies the organ was placed at the east end of the Priory. This is not always a popular innovation but seems to work and certainly if this CD is a reflection on the worship at the Priory, then clearly it in no way detracts from the worship of God in the beauty of the holiness.
MARY FOR THE LOVE AND GLORY OF GOD
Essays on Mary and Ecumenism
Edited by Maura Hearden
and Virginia M Kimball
AuthorHouse / Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 272pp, pbk
978 1456756673, £15.95
FR AUGUSTINE Hoey (then of the Community of the Resurrection, now a Roman Catholic priest in the Westminster Diocese) used to tell his penitents that the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (ESBVM) was the one and only society to join. Reading this well-produced collection of essays demonstrates why. In my years-long membership of the Society I have been very poor at attending Branch or National meetings. What have fed and sustained me are the essays and papers which one regularly receives. This collection stems from the Society’s International Congress held in Pittsburg USA in 2008, at which members of a wide range of denominations gave talks varying from the academic to the devotional.
The Orthodox priest Fr John Behr gives an in-depth historical study of Mary and the Church that seems exhaustive in its biblical and early Church references. Dr Virginia M. Kimball, an orthodox theologian and the American ESBVM’s president,
takes a scholarly look at Mary and the Judaic roots with especial references to the Temple. Anyone interested in Jewish relationships, or indeed who has been to the Holy Land and walked upon the temple mount, will be deepened by this.
Two Methodists give reflections and impassioned calls for all Christians to revisit devotion to Mary moving on from past arguments and differences. Indeed, one of the secondary outcomes of this volume is what we learn about the beliefs and customs of other denominations, in relation to Mary, but in a much wider context too. It is also good to be reminded that we Anglicans are not special in being the only ones in ecumenical dialogues. All the other churches have their equivalent of ARCIC, and some of them are progressing far more quickly and smoothly.
Having studied, read, and even been on a course on, the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission document Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ, I was delighted with the reflections on the Immaculate Conception. In a plain-speaking way the author sheds much light on the possible points of convergence between Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant perspectives.
As a new venture reaching out to other faiths and increasing our understanding of them there is an excellent talk on ‘Mary and Islam: a sign for all the world, a model of salvation’. The author takes her inspiration from the Second Vatican Council documents stating ‘the church has a high regard for Muslims’ and seeks to help Catholics and Muslims to fulfil the injunction to seek mutual understanding. There follows an excellent review of how Mary is depicted in the Qur’an, some of the images given there, and how she is a sign for all peoples (Sura 21:91), for which the reader needs no previous knowledge of Islam. The author concludes that Mary can be the ‘Golden Bridge’ between adherents of the two faiths.
I will finish with words from the Revd Dr Edward J. Ondrako in the foreword to this fine volume, where he takes inspiration from Archbishop Rowan Williams’ and Cardinal Cassidy’s Lourdes pilgrimage in 2009, which he calls ‘a clarion cry to take time to study in a calm, hope-filled manner that gets beneath the historical controversies about Mary’. This book will certainly help with that.
MARY IN PILGRIMAGE
Edited by Peter Marr
The Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, 108pp, pbk
£8.50 including p&p (further copies £7.50 each), available from 31 Kingsley Road, Plymouth PL4 6QP
THE ECUMENICAL Marian Pilgrimage Trust was formed as an offshoot of The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since 2003, the Trust has held biennial pilgrimage-cumconferences; and this volume contains most of the papers and homilies given at the 2011 pilgrimage to Walsingham. As such, it is a rich repository of learned theology and practical wisdom, from a wide range of experience and denominational backgrounds. Bishops Robert Ladds and Lindsay Urwin offer short homilies on the Holy House as a home, and the central importance of Incarnation and Atonement respectively. Kallistos Ware reflects on the meaning of the title 7heotokos and with typical grace and style concludes that it embraces a threefold truth: Christ is totally human; Christ is totally divine; Christ is one and not two. Margaret Barker, well known for her work on the Temple, draws out Temple allusions and wordplay in Christian texts relating to Mary and Jesus, for example in Luke’s nativity narrative and in the Presentation of Christ, which she portrays as Mary’s triumphant return to the Temple. Hers is a learned essay, which requires close and careful attention. Some parts of it are not directly relevant to the broad theme of Mary in Pilgrimage, but this is not to detract from its worth.
The same might be said of two other contributions: Mark Woodruff’s learned and frequently entertaining paper on Irish devotion to Christ in his Passion (which begins with a wonderful description of the perils of so-called ‘Celtic Spirituality’ in the modern Church); and Abba Shenouda’s enlightening piece on the Coptic Church both past and present. This includes an enjoyable list of the Titles of Mary, and a fascinating insight into the various visions and miracles associated with Mary in Egypt. Shenouda’s wise contribution ends with observation – poignant given the current state of affairs for Christians in Egypt – that of all the Beatitudes, faithfulness in the face of persecution is unique in being the one which we might reasonably expect to attain.
Michael Rear, who recently wrote what is likely to become the definitive history of Walsingham, writes here on the Image of Our Lady of Walsingham. He observes that the familiar image has its origins in tenth-century France, and as such stands in a long tradition of Marian imagery. However, three things make the Walsingham statue unique. First, the rings on the side of the chair, which he suggests pick up the on the theme of Wisdom and Mary’s reception of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, on the original Priory seal (though not on our modern statues),
Mary is shown sitting in front of what appear to be open curtains, but is in fact the veil of the Temple torn in two. Mary is thus revealed to be the Ark of the New Covenant. And finally, there is the Toad Stone at the bottom of some statues of Our Lady of Walsingham, which Rear also considers in his book. This may be a very early statement of the Immaculate Conception, and is certainly a more general sign of the subjection of evil.
Camilla Oberding, the founder of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, asks what Walsingham has to say to the world today, and concludes three things: Walsingham stands for and offers healing at every level; it is (or should be) a vocational centre for young people as they make important life choices; and it reminds us of Mary’s silent surrender to God’s will, thus being a place of inspiration for all Christians and yet-to-be Christians.
Finally, an unexpected highlight of this volume is the Bishop of Coventry’s examination of Evangelical Mary. Christopher Cocksworth argues that Mary can show us what it is to see Jesus and be seen by him; to love Jesus and be loved by him. She can do this in a unique way for she was the first human being to do so. Mary was also to be found precisely where all Christians are called to be situated: at the foot of the Cross, witnessing to the cost of standing with Christ. Finally, if the job of an ecumenist is to show Christians of different traditions how they use different language to approach the same truths, then Cocksworth fulfils this role admirably. The Grace of God transformed Mary, and it is precisely this transformation which lies at the heart of Evangelical theology. Not only this, but (Cocksworth wonders aloud) since the Immaculate Conception involved the prior choice of Mary by God, is not this an example of the Evangelical belief in predestination?
This essay possesses both the ability to pose important questions and the humility of not presuming to know all the answers. Is not this precisely the frame of mind with which we should all approach pilgrimage to the places made holy through Our Lady’s miraculous work?
THE GREAT TRADITION – A GREAT LABOUR
Studies in Ancient-Future Faith Edited by Philip Harrold and D. H. Williams
Lutterworth Press, 124pp, pbk
978 0718892678, £13.50
FOR AN Anglo-Catholic priest with an aversion to oxymoronic compound adjectives and descriptions of the Church which fail to include the definite article, the phrase ‘Ancient-Future faith’ is a problematic one. No doubt this instinctive distaste was nurtured during those formative years at theological college, when visiting (and sometimes resident) Fresh-Expressions-merchants would inflict upon us ‘Ancient-Future’ liturgies. These normally entailed the use of a data-projector (future) and a bowl of incense and some tea-lights (ancient), in much the same way as a bucket of water and some pebbles is mysteriously assumed to be evocative of ‘Celtic spirituality’ by too many people in the contemporary Church of England.
This book, intended largely for (and mostly written by) American Evangelicals, thus serves a valuable need in explaining clearly and logically what ‘Ancient-Future faith’ is all about. In a nutshell, it is the name given to the discovery by Evangelicals (within and without the Anglican Communion) that the patristic period may have much to teach us in our own day. Thus Evangelicals are discovering now what the Tractarians discovered almost 200 years ago. Participating in this ‘Great Tradition’ of common faith is not easy, one of the editors acknowledges in his contribution; it is in fact a ‘Great Labour’ – words borrowed from T.S. Eliot, who is frequently quoted here.
A description of ‘Ancient-Future faith’ such as the one given above is a simplification, of course. There is, for example, a hotly contested debate as to how far we can speak of a ‘golden age’ of undivided Christendom at all. This and other debates are surveyed here.
The challenge which the book sets itself is to move the appreciation and appropriation of ‘Ancient-Future church’ beyond the merely liturgical; the faults of which approach were summarized in the first paragraph of this review. Yet ironically, several of the essays are concerned in one way or another with matters liturgical.
Toby Clark asks how we might inhabit the Great Tradition of Anglicanism authentically, and concludes that it is by participating deeply in the practices that constitute the tradition ahead of consenting to every detail of the creedal statements which nonetheless continue to be the essential way in which the grammar of the faith is passed on (a rather shorter chapter might have consisted simply of the words lex orandi, lex credendi).
Edith Humphrey calls for a resurgence of awe and wonder in liturgy. In this her contribution is similar to others in the book: what she calls for is right and just, but hardly innovative, at least to a catholic reader. D. Stephen Long’s insistence, inspired by John Wesley, that ‘Christianity is essentially a social religion’, seems to me to be similarly uncontroversial. George Sumner, a Canadian conservative evangelical Anglican, issues a call for ‘Apostolic convergence’ as a way forward as the divided Church struggles against a common enemy in the form of an increasingly secular society. Once again, his account of community and apostolicity is not new, but his description of a possible way forward is challenging and stimulating, if not without problems from a catholic perspective.
Simon Chan’s contribution is rather different. He argues that the liturgical tradition of the West is strongly Christological but insufficiently pneumatological, and he also calls for a convergence between sacramental and Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions. But while the rediscovery of sacramentality among Protestants is encouraging, the basis of Chan’s argument is systematic of an increasingly worrying trend: the equating of sacramentality as a general outlook on life and church (sic) with The Sacraments of The Church, which rely for their very existence on the presence of Holy Order.
This is an American book, consisting of papers from an American conference, and intended primarily for an American audience. Sometimes this matters more than others. Much of the discussion is relevant to an English setting; some of the specific problems addressed (such as the admission to Holy Communion of everyone, regardless of baptism and Trinitarian belief) are not – yet – widely problematic in this country. And there are some mistakes: for example in the assertion that only one of the modern Roman Eucharistic prayers contains an epiclesis. Nonetheless, this is at times a challenging and stimulating book, emanating from an important reawakening within Evangelicalism. But it does not convince me that the ‘Ancient-Future’ movement has great new things to teach the wider Church on earth, whose primary moment of operation is not so much the past or the future but, as it always has been, the juncture between time and eternity: ‘the intersection of the timeless moment’, as the poet wrote.
A PHILOSOPHICAL GUIDE TO CHANCE
Cambridge University Press, 260pp, pbk
978 1107607354, £17.99
OLDER READERS will be familiar with the disparaging phrase ‘the God of the gaps’. The picture it conjured up was of frightened Christians holding onto God’s existence only in the ‘gaps’ in scientific knowledge, a rather pathetic God of the remnants, who once ruled the universe but now inhabits only the last pockets of the unexplained.
Many of us now feel that atheists use Chance in a similar manner, as an increasingly desperate and implausible backstop. Einstein asserted his unshakeable conviction that ‘God does not play dice’, and that was taken by many as a defining characteristic of the twentieth-century intellectual struggle. The universe can contain God or Chance but not both. In the Sixties, under the populist leadership of Jacques Monod, Chance seemed finally to be triumphing over God. Fifty years later, as God refuses to die, it is Chance that seems a little pale and sickly.
What is this key concept? And what does it mean, for us as Christians, when tackling the ever more strident claims of the new atheists? Does Chance exist, and if so what is it? I was looking forward to the publication of this book: its title promised so much. I now find that it answers a quite different set of questions to the ones I wanted answering.
Einstein is not cited here; nor to my amazement is the fascinating (mathematical) question of the random and pseudo-random, which I have long thought to be crucial. Instead we have a formal exposition of the issues that surround this central question – does Chance exist in the world, or is it all in the mind? Or, in more formal terms, should one give a ‘realist’ or an ‘anti-realist’ account of Chance?
My initial disappointment at the narrow scope of the argument of the book was immediately tempered by the clarity with which Handfield unfolds the themes and disagreements. He is a natural and engaging teacher, who makes one believe one understands more than one imagined possible. Exciting stuff; but I still think he is missing the main point. However, he is the professional and I am not, so I dutifully followed his exposition.
The value of the book? If, as I believe, Chance is a challenge to theist philosophy, and likely to become still more so in the coming decades, then this is an admirable intellectual run-through of the core arguments and positions. His analysis of quantum mechanics (a subject that makes its appearance in many a theology book) is both clear and rigorous, and for the non-specialist extremely helpful.
All the same, I came away thinking, ‘If that’s the best they can do, we are still in with a chance’. There’s a lot more to work on yet.
AT THE HARBOURSIDE
Considering Christianity Anthony Buckley
Highland Books, 119pp, pbk
978 1897913888, £4.99
Anthony Buckley is chaplain to Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, and on the dust- jacket of this modest volume we learn that it was ‘born out of his contacts with seekers and candidates for baptism and confirmation’. Reasonably priced and accessibly written, it would make an ideal gift to a young person preparing for confirmation. Over seventeen short chapters, Buckley explores the image of the Christian faith as an embarkation on a sea voyage. At times, and as the author admits, the limits of this image are somewhat strained; nevertheless, it works well as a vehicle for a concise and thoughtful introduction to the essential questions of faith. Despite its moderate evangelical churchmanship, it is likely to appeal to catechists of all traditions. The chapters conclude with ideas for reflection, meaning that At the Harbourside could profitably be used as the basis for further extended class discussions. Buckley captures some of the most important ideas in the Christian faith with beguiling simplicity. Early on in the book, the demands of love are contrasted with targets and tick-boxes, and defined as ‘relentlessly wanting the best for [a] person’; and an acknowledgement of the relational nature of love underpins an explanation of the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity: ‘the early church taught that in the very being of God there is community and fellowship’. One chapter gives a wonderful commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: a second reflects – in a gently sacramental way – on the centrality of repentance and baptism to Christian initiation. The Mass is discussed alongside the Bible (the acted word and the written word, in Buckley’s terminology): although this discussion lacks something of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, it makes for a perfectly adequate starting-point for consideration. An evangelical take on lectio divina commends the ‘PTP’ pattern – reading or hearing the Scriptures prayerfully, thoughtfully and purposefully. This is in many respects a thoroughly practical book. Buckley employs a number of beautiful and memorable turns of phrase: ‘God… has more ambitious plans for us than we do’; ‘God enjoys our company so much that he wants to spend eternity with us’. Part of the attraction of this volume is the evident pastoral heart behind its production: this in turn complements a strategy of evangelism shot through with positivity and affirmation, which is no doubt an excellent way to interest the young in the claims of the Christian faith.
There are similarities to more traditional catechetical resources, such as a chapter on the Ten Commandments at the heart of the book. In its later chapters At the Harbourside adopts a more apologetic tone, competently rehearsing the arguments for faith and sensitively contributing additional ideas, for example, ‘If there is not a God of love, why does suffering matter so much?’ The idiom in which Buckley writes is clear and engaging, and there are only occasional lapses into the twee, such as (in a penultimate chapter suggesting images other than the sea voyage) the idea of Jesus as ‘Caller at the Barn Dance’! At the Harbourside ends with a list of suggested further Bible readings. A small number of theological differences aside, this book is well worth its price-tag, and Anthony Buckley is to be commended for a beautiful and important contribution to the catechesis library.
Richard Norman ND