How do I Look? Theology in the Age of the Selfie Dominic White SCM 2021 £25
At the time of reading this book there is some measure of ongoing uncertainty about Covid and how far it will continue to impact on daily living as the summer draws to a close and autumn brings its colours and changes. At one level nothing changes as the machinery of modern life continues to move and sustain us. The mobile phone, our laptops, and the availability of Wi-Fi in these pandemic times have all been an essential part of our toolkit for survival.
In all this what do we think it means to be human? Where is God to be found, if at all, in these fragile times? What might we have learnt about ourselves, what is important and how we relate? There are many who might wonder what these months will bring and what we need to recover to flourish. There are some who point out that the poverty of modernity exposes fault lines, idols and even Demons that we need to deal with if life is to have purpose.
At Sarum College we believe that theology has a generative place in enabling us to understand who we are and what kind of world we live in. Dominic White, a scholar, pastor and musician is a friar of the Order of Preachers. This book is a craetive contribution to a theology that invites us into reflecting on how we relate within the context of our call to participate in the divine nature.
Some say that the pace of life has accelerated to such an extent that we are less inclined to be able to stand still and attend to the moment. In this moment we might ask ourselves what it is that captures our attention and how we nurture the gift of presence and being omits such hyperactivity. White argues that in the age of the retouchable selfie the impact of this culture on young people is deep and far-reaching. The obsession with how we present ourselves is a constant challenge to those of us who seek to navigate the world of social media.
In these eight chapters (note some of their titles – How do I look? Seeing and (not) being seen; The face of God and the gaze of Jesus; Seeing God, seeing our neighbour) the reader is invited into an exploration of the long tradition of the Christian gaze, found in scripture, art, theology, and philosophy speak into this selfie generation? Grounded in the doctrine of humankind’s creation in God’s image and the Incarnation we are taken beyond the masks we wear into an invitation to participate, to know and to be aware of what limits and diminishes us in the selfie culture. In short, we are asked to consider what it means to be transfigured.
This is theology at its best – deep, wide, engaged and nourished by a tradition that is both orthodox, creative, and progressive. If you want to find our more look at the recording of the launch of the book from the Margaret Beaufort Institute.
Grace is not Faceless: Reflections on Mary, Ann Loades DLT 2021
Ann Loades is a theologian of rare skill. Her career has been characterised by a commitment to scholarship and learning. At a time when I am ready to thin out my shelves of ‘redundant’ theological dross her books Feminist Theology and Searching of Lost Coins remain and need to be revisited and reread! She has been a tireless advocate for social justice. She names the misogynism that has often characterised British theological life. Loades has also nurtured generations of young scholars who have been indebted to her wisdom and knowledge.
She expressed this in a Church Times interview in February 2016 ‘I’ve tried to encourage my students to look widely for resources for reflection and illustration: novels, poetry, politics, how people use and develop emotional intelligence. I wanted them to have a generally omnivorous interest in whatever turns up under their noses, and cheerfully to get their hands mucky.’
This book captures the trajectories of Loades’ distinctive writings on Mary. The place of the mother of Jesus in piety and theology is a complex one and much contested. Into this area we are offered nine chapters which have been carefully edited. They represent the original, creative theological reflection on Marian theology. There is an integration of head and heart, of scholarship and devotion, of history and practice illustrating the centrality of what Mary represents for the vitality of the Christian tradition. This is a readable book of scholarship by one of the greatest theologians of the day. It is to be hoped that it might find appeal to the widest possible readership. We need more theology like this.
The Spring of Hope Sermons for the Seasons of Faith Douglas Dales Sacristy Press 2021 £12.99
Douglas Dales is a scholar priest whose learning is grounded in the soil of pastoral ministry. He has written widely and lucidly about Dunstan, Alcuin, Bonaventure, and Ramsey. His commitment to informed, reflective and grounded theology shines through this meticulously organised collection.
Five Parts (Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, Trinity and Transfiguration and The Communion of Saints) contain fifty-three pieces that invite the reader into a deeper engagement with the cycle of the Churches year and the gift of asking the right questions about God, the faith and Christian witness.
It is impossible to know how the reader might use these reflections. The preacher might turn to them for inspiration and guidance. It might be a trusted companion for a retreat or Lenten discipline. Students will be both reminded and challenged to think beyond the vicissitudes of present times to know more about our history of Christian witness in the company of Saints and those who have mined deeply for truth and love. Hope, a longer view and a resistance to take refuge in easy or trite theology characterise these pages.
For those who might imagine that what we have in the volume is what a Sarum ministry student once described in a conversation about theology as ‘dislocated intellectualism’ beware! Dales inhabits a wider view of the Kingdom that includes a heart for all and a commitment to a bigger, fairer, and more loving world.
In a Church where preaching is not always and art and craft for the pulpit or pew Sacristy press are to be commended for publishing these pieces. The wise and distinctive voice of Dales deserves to be heard.
Imagining the Church; Keeping Faith in a Fragmented World Tim Gibson Sacristy Press 2021 £9.99
This is a short book, carefully written which invites its readers into an imaginative and reflective and deeper relationship with the church as a means of our flourishing through and attentiveness to imagination. Part biography, part theological reflection, part narrative theology it is a passionate and persuasive defence of the place of the Church of England within the richness and complexity of contemporary society.
There is a course and acknowledgement of the complexities facing today’s church. We are statistically in decline. There is a sense in some quarters of panic and anxiety. Friends outside of the ‘ecclesiastical garden’ view both the identity and activity of the Church of England as lacking some measure of credibility. Clergy are stretched and often weary especially in these post pandemic days. Gibson names much of this and invites the reader into a renewed confidence in relevance of Church and its wisdom, its life and service.
Chapter 1 deals with place and identity followed by a chapter exploring time and eternity. Chapter 3 examines parish in particularity followed by a chapter on unity and diversity. Chapter 5 is a reflection on growth and glory. Chapter 6 examines seasonal worship in the book is completed with an exploration and reflection on mission and ministry. All of this is shaped by an awareness of the particular context of the covert 19 pandemic. Gibson shows his reader why we should keep faith with the gift of the local as it seeks to serve and celebrate the riches of the Christian traditio
There is a careful balance between the ‘why’ of faith and the ‘how’ of Christian practice. The vision of God expressed here is both compelling and exciting. The interweaving of literature, place, theology, culture and art with experience makes this volume and extended example of how to theologically reflect in the light of our identity and belonging.
There is also something deeply Anglican about the book – influenced as it is by C S Lewis and Michael Mayne. The quality of the text and its rhythmic cadences draws this reader in and deeper.
Ponder this – ‘we’ll manage for now with the disembodied body made manifest on our screen. And when the service ends and all we are left with is a flashing cursor on the logout page and an odd feeling of both emptiness and joy, that’s when we will know for certain what matters most of all: that we are faithful people, called to be Christ’s presence in the midst of our communities, no matter what. So here now is our ending, which is also are beginning, our past and our future, mediated through the present. We keep the faith. And we make ready, always, to share it with the world.’ (p124)
This volume will find its place on students’ core reading here at Sarum and deserves a wide readership. It is a gift !
One Reply on “Late Summer Theological Reading- Dominic White, Ann Loades, Douglas Dales, Tim Gibson.”
Many thanks for your very kind and generous review of my most recent publication – ‘The Spring of Hope.’