FIRST WORLD WAR
Imperial War Museum
Open daily with holiday exceptions, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
You first become aware of the popularity of the Imperial War Museum when directions to the museum are announced in the lift at Lambeth North tube station. And it may have been because of the 1914 anniversary but when I went early on a Monday morning the entrance to the First World War galleries was by timed entry. When I left there was a very long and multinational queue.
The press of people made the exhibits hard to see. In fact these galleries, which are the most recently refurbished in the museum, are just too small. They are smaller than the admirable Holocaust Gallery and not much bigger than The Lord Ashcroft V.C. Gallery. This means they cannot deal with the global spread of the War or give much of a narrative. And there is little about naval warfare either. Rather, the exhibits focus on what life was like in the trenches plus aspects of the Home Front. Indeed, to do justice to the War, more of the Museum’s collection needs to be on show, and the Museum itself probably needs to be knocked down and rebuilt three times the size.
In the absence of such a radical solution, what do the galleries achieve? They are clearly labelled. That might not sound much but compared to some of the other galleries it is a major achievement. In parts of the Second World War galleries there is simply no labelling at all; for example, what is presumably a Rolls Royce Merlin engine has no signage, though it is precisely the kind of thing which many visitors will want to know the nerdy details about —this is still a museum where boys of all ages want to pose beside a T34 (to you nonspecialists that’s a Second World War Russian tank and a fine example of military engineering).
The clarity of the labelling also makes clear how simple a message is being put across. Maybe it is inevitable that the complexities of British society in 1914 or the advances in military planning over the course of the war, as opposed to the planning failures, are not explored in anything like the depth of analysis of the Holocaust Gallery. But at least there is no crude Blackadder-style propaganda, though religion comes out badly — the common soldier who reckoned God must be having a laugh is set against Field Marshal Haig who we all know is useless and out of touch because he thought he was fighting for Christ.
Religion aside, the tone is largely spot on. How hard this can be is shown by the Ashcroft Gallery. There the often very moving stories of heroism are simply placed beside pictures of the decorated men. That restraint is undercut by silly Bigglesesque interactive displays. And even if Lord Ashcroft has been a generous donor it does no favours either to him or to a Museum noted for its scholarship to say he is an historian rather than a businessman, politician, philanthropist or Belizean taxpayer.
Of course, the main point of any gallery is what is on show. The First
World War galleries don’t show those photographs of the trenches which are rightly familiar. Rather it is objects which evoke the nastiness of trench warfare. The wall of clubs, knives and knuckledusters, the body armour and the grenade guns hint at the brutality of this war. There is also the contrast between the romantic uniforms of French soldiers in 1914 and the weird all over camouflage of a British sniper two years later. And there is the industrial side of warfare with the not always very effective weight of firepower symbolized by the Museum’s sparkling clean guns and the gas masks and the quaint devices for dispersing gas.
Towards the end of the galleries there is also a faux trench which the visitor passes through to the exit. It is a sanitised mockup and for good Health and Safety reasons the noise is less than in battle, or even a school lunch hour, but a tank looms over the trench to give a feeling of just how frightening that new weapon could be (until the Germans had very effectively worked out how to stop it).
There are all sorts of caveats which go with these galleries, but they tell a strong story and there is enough here to feed the imagination and sadden the heart.
CLIFFORD IN CONTEXT
Anglo-Catholic History Society, 92pp, pbk
Available from the author at
St Luke’s Church, in Clifford, Yorkshire, is an Anglo-Catholic church founded in 1842 and still functioning in the same tradition today. This brief yet detailed history goes back to the time of the founding of St Luke’s and the notabilities of the Oxford Movement Keble, Pusey, Newman and Froude — giving a useful background, which should be of interest to those that find the period a little obscure, even strange, associating it with elaborate church decoration and furnishing and with colourful vestments, all of which has provoked the use of descriptions such as `ritualistic’ and `Romish’.
An incident is mentioned here in which a statue of the Virgin was taken from the church and bundled off to the local Roman Catholic church with the angry message, if you want to be a Roman Catholic go to the Roman Catholic Church’!
Other differences arose, about such things as the reservation of the Sacrament and certain doctrines thought to be implicit in the Book of Common Prayer. Reference is made to the falling attendance at St Luke’s in some periods, attributed sometimes to the growth in attendance at the Roman Catholic Church — thus the judgement, The deficiency of attendance is principally owing to the great increase in Romanism’. On the other hand, Archbishop Garbtt of York insisted, as he always did, that what mattered most was `the quality of ministry —a judgement with which I find it difficult to disagree.
A11 this sort of thing is the `context’ of Stephen Savages subtitle. The records of the comings and goings of clergy, and periods of expansion and apparent decline at St Luke’s constitute the other main interest for local people.
At any rate, this noteworthy church is still there, and on friendly terms with other parts of the Holy Catholic Church.
AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES
Prayers and Readings for Themed Celebrations of the Eucharist
Canterbury Press, 190pp, hbk
978 1848250437, £25
Simon Jones is the leader of a new generation of liturgists and liturgical scholars. Through his work at Merton College and indeed in his writing he has shown what can be done with Common Worshïp. Whilst some may criticize the liturgical style displayed here as rather long-winded, there is no doubt that he knows his brief. Jones is what I think would once have been called a cathedral Catholic’ or perhaps a `Prayer Book Catholic (indeed it maybe that he is the first of a new generation of `Common Worship Catholics’). His writing exemplifies the sort of good liturgical practice our cathedrals used to be known for. That of course is a cue for people to write in and tell us that cathedrals are full of good liturgical practice. This maybe the case, but as has been pointed out in the Church press recently, people of our constituency cannot worship with confidence in our cathedrals unless the name of the celebrant is listed. As long as cathedral chapters continue with such policies we cannot hope to be allowed to flourish as part of dioceses and to see the cathedrals as `our’ cathedrals — they will be forever the home of Affirming Catholicism.
That being said, I do hope cathedrals and churches up and down the country buy and use this book. It should not simply be relegated to the study bookshelf but used at times of need. There is great power in the votive mass when praying for particular needs and situations in our church and in the world. Prayer is powerful, there is no doubt, and this volume helps us to focus our daily devotions at the altar on prayer. Helpfully it also includes relevant readings. These appear in the New Revised Standard Version, which again may not find favour in traditional circles.
Divided into three areas, The Church and Its Life’, The Global and Local Community’ and, `Pastoral Ministry; the volume allows for a wide range of liturgical celebrations and is easy to use, although I for one would have liked more ribbons! There is a bit of a feeling of reinventing the wheel: these votive masses do after all appear in Roman Catholic liturgical books; but for those who cannot or will not use such texts, there is no doubt that this is a valuable volume. Jones shows himself not only to be a good curator and compiler of liturgical texts but also a good liturgical writer himself. His prayers are powerful and relevant.
CREATING A LIFE WITH GOD
The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices
BRF, 192pp, pbk
978 0857462112, £7.99
Books that ask you on the back whether you’re longing to take your relationship with God to a new level more often than not provide a charismatic quick-fix, but this one suggests a menu of `ancient prayer practices’. The author has worked in Christian spiritual direction for 30 years, knows his subject and commends twelve practices of which he has firsthand experience. He does so with an emphasis on the empowerment of grace in a very readable style so his being an American pastor is unusually incidental to the stories told and disciplines of prayer commended.
`Creating a Life with God’ looks down through the Christian centuries at, among others, Anthony, Benedict, Francis, the lay women Beguines, the
author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Julian of Norwich and Ignatius of Loyola. These were illuminated by solitude, Lectio Divina scriptural prayer, the Jesus Prayer, seeing God in nature, journaling and use of the body in prayer. The book looks at individual and corporate exercise of each discipline and provides step-by-step instruction for the use of each in an appendix. The trajectory of our prayer practices is slowly and inevitably drawing us out into the world around us; from the silent, solitary reflection upon scripture to the dark cloud of unknowing to the gentle resonance of the name of Jesus, we are led into an examination of the traces of God in our lives. This is the nature of a life with God: our experiences of the Holy naturally lead beyond ourselves, as God seeks to use us to show the power of divine love to others:
I particularly valued Daniel
Wolpert’s presentation of the Examen of Ignatius and the insight about how reviewing our lives employs the vehicle of time to show us our deep-seated needs and strengths. `Just as an aeroplane leaves a vapour trail in the sky, Ignatius realises that God leaves a trail of experience in our lives. The key to finding the path that God leaves through our empire is to search for the evidence of that trail of experience. This search is the practice of the examen’. In presenting this and other disciplines Wolpert majors on the struggle we face in facing ourselves and how these several disciplines help us humble ourselves, that is to know, love and forget ourselves. The dramatic effect of tithing in its challenge to self-interest was helpfully spelled out, as was the impact of the Jesus Prayer. The practice of the repetitive prayer acts like a magnifying glass held up to the sunlight: it focuses an intense beam of spiritual energy on one point….slowly burns a hole… and we `pop out to the other side — into the kingdom of God’. This description rang true to my own experience of the Jesus Prayer and built the author’s authority in my mind as I read on
through the variety of God disposing prayer practices which he presents ably and convincingly.
The section on Lectio Divina scripture prayer makes one analogy with hypertext on a text-filled website providing access to new depths and another one using dance. Any good conversation consists of both listening and speaking. In a natural rhythm — a dance — both partners move and respond to each other in time to the music. This is no less true of the process of prayer. After a time of listening to God in the stillness, we are moved to respond. Yet we must remember not to do this too quickly or impulsively. Wait for the words to arise from deep within’. Yet another analogy he cites from tradition is that of a spiral staircase of ascent to God similar to Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28.12).
Daniel Wolpert has written a book that is evidently the fruit of a life immersed in the faith and prayer of the Church through the ages. It is both inspirational and practical through its excellent appendix.
John Michael, Hitt IC
Gracewing, 304pp, hbk
978 0852/1 18311, £20
The author is a member of the Institute of Charity, the order founded by Antonio Rosmini, who is portrayed here as a major philosopher ranking with Augustine and Aquinas but as yet hardly known in the Anglo-Saxon world, though respected, even revered, nearly everywhere else.
The book has a good, stirring title, and we must wonder who persecuted Rosmini and what makes him a prophet. Both questions have intriguing answers. He lived in a disunited Italy, a member of a prosperous family in the northern part of the peninsula under the rule of the Austrian emperor; and he lived under a succession of popes, who appeared well disposed towards him. He was a brilliant pupil and student, living in a world of thought, and he wanted Italy to be free and united. He knew, and was esteemed by, leading figures of the Risorgimento; yet he was a quiet, philosophical man who was drawn into disputes and divisions in the Church, being taken up and then put down by popes acted upon by the hostility of some (not all) Jesuits. This puzzled him, as he believed that all Christians were supposed to love one another, and his replies to criticisms and accusations of heresy were couched in moderate terms and patient reason.
Rosmini objected to the nomination of bishops by the secular powers and was regarded with deep suspicion by those powers (Austria and the neighbouring Italian state of Piedmont). At one time his passport was withdrawn, so that it was difficult for him to oversee and communicate with his own people. He survived a poisoning attempt by what we would call a hit-man.
At one time his writing was placed on the Index, and his enemies plotted to have him condemned as a heretic: a pantheist, a denier of the patrimony of Peter, a liberalizer, willing to consider the works of Protestant theologians, and an advocate of the vernacular in liturgy as a link between clergy and people. All such charges were eventually refuted on examination (though it seems there might have been some truth in the last one) and his loyalty to the Church, and his orthodoxy, were recognized by the Vatican and by scholars of various orders. He saw his orders grow in many parts of the world.
This book is a most interesting work as a biography, a history of the Risorgimento leading to the unification of Italy and the preservation of Rosmini’s beloved Italian language the language of Dante. It appears to me that he was a liberal and believed that bishops should be chosen by people and priests together. He believed this while remaining true and obedient to a series of vacillating popes. One can speculate that he was a prophet of a movement that culminated in Vatican II in the Sixties.
What I find most useful in the book, however, is a substantial appendix setting forth Rosminïs philosophy; and what I find most endearing about that is his assertion that what is certain to be true in philosophy is what leads the profound thinker to what we can ascertain of the teaching of Jesus; for that is divine. In this I believe that he can indeed be ranked with Augustine and Aquinas.
I hope the book will achieve the author’s aim to make Rosmini better known in the Anglo-Saxon world.
RICHARD HOOKER AND THE VISION OF GOD
Exploring the Origins of `Anglicanism’
James Clarke & Co, 350pp, pbk
978 0227174005, £25
The author begins with a trenchant explanation of why this book is necessary. Dr Miller says there are four reasons why studying Hooker is worthwhile: he encourages us to think theologically; he `exemplifies how Christians should comport themselves in religious controversy’; he has a `dialogic’ approach to theology, using sources as wide, as ancient and as modern’ as he could make them; and he understood the interplay of theology and spirituality, that is the fact that knowledge of God and love for God (and thus also Gods Truth) go together.
The problem is that a recent proliferation in Hooker studies (in itself a good thing) has seen this founding father of Anglicanism studied increasingly by professional academics — experts who know more and more about less and less and decreasingly by clergy and other church folk. Hooker has moved well and truly out of the assembly and into the academy, whereas he himself would have recognized no such distinction. In this book, Charles Miller (the Rector of Abingdon) seeks to redress that imbalance, and does so admirably. The complex nature of his subject means that his book is not always easy reading, but Miller does justice to the complexity of Hooker’s thought whilst simultaneously rendering it accessible to an intelligent, but not expert, readership. He achieves this first and foremost by the deceptively simple method beloved of homiletics tutors — of identifying a small number of points or themes which summarize the point under discussion: three working principles to explain Hooker’s understanding of Reconciliation; three aspects of worship (imitation, iteration, sensation); three ways in which a sacrament has integrity; four couplets to elucidate Hooker’s ecclesiology (visible and invisible, natural and supernatural, necessity and freedom, particular and universal); and so on.
And why is all of this so important? Not merely because Hooker is of fundamental significance to the development of what came to be known as Anglicanism, but also because he continues to speak to us and our problems today. There are many ways in which this is true, Miller suggests, so I will briefly outline just two of them.
First, Hooker’s political theology continues to have much to teach us. Miller points to four ways in which this is true. First of all, Hooker insists on the essential connection between personal belief and public policy `how religious and political convictions coexist and interact within and therefore between people’. Secondly, Hooker understands politics in terms of the good’ — that is to say, the striving for virtue. Thirdly, he maintains that the public good has a transcendent goal. Furthermore, the positive laws of a Christian Commonwealth coincide with the laws of revelation and reason. And fourthly, Hooker insists that matters of personal religious convictions are only tenable to the extent that they offer a suitable focus of public devotion. In other words, spiritual truth is authenticated in large part by the extent to which it enhances the good life’ of all. The relevance of this today in our own country and beyond hardly needs explaining.
The second way in which Hooker continues to speak with particular force to us today is more narrowly ecclesiastical. Miller shows cogently and compellingly how Hooker took the nascent Church of England, still very much a Church in search of self-knowledge and understanding, and by the influence of his writing turned it into what became known as Anglicanism. That settlement has in recent years been so disrupted that we may wish to speak instead of `classical Anglicanism,’ but Hooker’s role in shaping and forming it must not be forgotten. He did not create this identity on his own, but Miller is adept at showing that Hooker was not merely a functionary of the lords temporal and spiritual who had their own agendas at the time he was writing. Inspired by the great minds of classical antiquity, the Church Fathers, Aquinas and the Thomists, the magisterial reformers, Renaissance Humanism and Scripture itself, Hooker created something new and unique, and in so doing rose above the partisan squabbles of his own time to create something lasting. As Miller says, `Hooker constructed an ecclesiological vision that effectively extracted the Church of England from a simplistic alliance with Reformed continental theology and located it somewhere else. That `somewhere else has been negotiated and debated by Hooker’s successors ever since’.
That is precisely why Ho oker remains so important, and why this book is a welcome addition to the canon of Hooker studies.
Theology Explained in Diagrams
DLT, 159pp, pbk
978 0232530766, £9.99
A picture book of theology is something quite out of the box. It is in the style of the thirteenth-century Trinity triangle about who God is or is not which the book includes in amusing parallel with Doctor Who! I liked the page on revelation and natural law, with three diagrams capturing how reason, revelation and life impact decision making and 100 clear words on ethics across the page.
Diagrams are succinct ways of communicating as long as you know literally the main lines and the author seems to. He is an Anglican priest with a sense of humour (which I chimed in with about half the time), clarity of thought and a passion for illustrating paradox. We have washing lines for the mysteries of Christs two natures and what happens in preaching held up by truths at logical loggerheads. Five overlapping circles illustrate what Anglicans believe happens at Communion ranging down from transubstantiation. Life after death again captures theological pluralism with a graphic of the resurrection of the body parallel to that of the immortality of the soul and 100 or so words explaining the difference.
Theologygrams is a colourful coffee table book set to amuse, bring literacy to theological illiterates and aid teachers of Christian faith in their ongoing quest for simple, clear and direct teaching.
JOURNALLING THE BIBLE
40 Writing Exercises
BRF, 159pp, pbk
978 1841017365, £7.99
In the Bible, history is God’s biography’ is the perception behind an imaginative invitation to follow a biblical 40 days of spiritual journalling. Using the variety of writing that makes up biblical texts, Corin Child sets out patterns of writing useful for responding to these whilst engaging with what God is doing in our lives. The challenge to go beyond reading and discussing the Bible into writing about it is true to the educational saying `I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand’ Writing is less than doing but we are talking creative writing with 40 examples which make for a proper schooling by an author who is herself accredited as a writer. For example, we take Samson’s riddle (Judges 14.14), Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet’, and think of and then write up a paradox in our own life where something pleasing was found in the midst of something threatening. There is the option of sharing our riddle and how we work through any associated personal dilemma in a group. Or John 7.1-10, `my time is not yet here’, brings the invitation to ponder and write creatively about the struggle to find the right time for things and the tension between God’s pace and the world’s. The 40 exercises touch on a wide variety of writing styles. Ruth meeting Boaz (Ruth 2.3) is pretext to find a photo that depicts a decisive moment in your life to share about like a news reporter. Paul’s crescendo at the end of Romans 8, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ’, invites use of a rhetorical writing style to present a strongly held belief with schooling also from Winston Churchill’s rhetoric about a rise in government spending. This well-written book has been tested in workshops around the country and is a resource to foster both individual and group interaction with Scripture.
The Voice that Makes Us Turn
David Wilbourne and Simon Stanley
York Courses, Booklet, CD and transcript
£17.65 for 1 of each, or available separately, from
Readers who have previously encountered material from York Courses will notbe surprised by the style and substance of their latest offering. Jesus: The Voice that Makes Us Turn is offered as a four-part course for Advent or any other time of the year. The four sessions feature David Wilbourne, Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, in `relaxed conversation’ with Canon Simon Stanley, co-founder of York Courses. The titles of the four sessions, which follow chronologically the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, are probably self-explanatory: A Crying Voice’, An Other Voice’, A Dying Voice’, A Rising Voice’.
THE EVANGELICAL UNIVERSALIST
The Biblical Hope that God’s Love will Save Us All
SPCK, 29Gpp, pbk
978 281068753, £ 14.99
Can an orthodox Christian be a universalist? Is it possible to believe that salvation is found only by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and yet to maintain that in the end all people will be saved? Could universalism be consistent with biblical teaching? Gregory MacDonald is convinced that the answer to all these questions is yes, and in the second edition of this groundbreaking book seeks to justify his belief. That he does so from an Evangelical perspective is what makes the book distinctive.
CREATIVE IDEAS FOR FRONTLINE EVANGELISM
WITH YOUNG PEOPLE
Canterbury Press, 128pp + CD Rom,
978 1848252769, £23.99
Simon Rundell has a talent for presenting the Christian faith in fresh and innovative ways which make the most of new forms of media and so potentially open the joys of the faith to new generations who otherwise would not encounter the Lord Jesus and his Church. He comes from a liberal catholic perspective, but that should not dissuade readers of NEW DIRECTIONS from looking seriously at his work with a view to making use of it in their churches. In this book (with accompanying CD Rom), Rundell seeks to equip the church in the twenty-first century for the vital task of mission to the young. Chapter headings include: `Who is This Jesus’, `Miracles and Revelations; ‘God’s Saving Acts; ‘The Spread of the Good News; `Change and
Transformation’, `Victory and
Time Wisdom for Ministry
Sacristy Press, 112pp, pbk
978 1908381057, £8.99
Time Wisdom in an Hour
Sacristy Press, 56pp, pbk
978 1908381132, £4.99
The second of these two books from Stephen Cherry is a summary and distillation of the first. Ironically, it would seem that people were too busy to read the full version! But we should not be facetious, as there is much wisdom in these two short books, which seek to help explain how clergy (and others) can — to some extent — succeed in being both priests as the Church Universal has always understood the role, and managers as the contemporary Church of England seems increasingly to demand. I’m too busy’ is just an excuse, the author insists — though one which is perhaps heard increasingly in parishes up and down the country.
LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL MONASTERY
The Monks of Durham Cathedral
Sacristy Press, 6Opp, pbk
978 1908381149, £9.99
This book, first published in 1975 and republished last year by Sacristy Press in partnership with Durham Cathedral and Durham University, seeks to bring to life the daily routine of the monks of Durham. It begins with the story of St Cuthbert and his Shrine, before looking at the life of the monastery up to and including the Dissolution. Well written and beautifully illustrated, this is an excellent beginner’s guide. Like many Cathedrals, Durham is proud of its `Benedictine values’. As one of the few that does not charge for admission, the claim here is more authentic than in many other places!
Priest, Mystic, Father
St Pauls, 434pp, pbk
Fr Divo Barsotti was a mystic and theologian, who experienced `spiritual intuitions’. He is not well known in this country; a fact which this book seeks to remedy. There is much of interest here, but the text is densely presented and not always well translated from the Italian. The author is a member of the Community of the Sons and Daughters of God founded by his subject.