RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Psychedelic Christianity
    Jack Call
    Bravo!! Loved it. This book contains marvelous insights. ~ The Rev. Bill Garrison, Rector, St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Whittier, California

  • Psychedelic Christianity
    Jack Call
    . . . a breath of fresh air at a time when many folks are losing their religion. The book offers bold and refreshing takes on age-old questions in a modern context. . . . I highly recommend this book for believers, non-believers, and those that are undecided. The author has built a large tent for all of us to be together in peace. ~ Bruce Olaf Solheim, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History, Playwright, Citrus College, Glendora, California

  • Quaker Roots and Branches
    John Lampen
    John Lampen has a gift for connecting the contemporary concerns of Friends with the rich heritage of the Quaker past. In his latest collection of essays, he shows us how the experiences of Friends like George Fox, William Penn, and Elizabeth Fry offer us wisdom and guidance in confronting the problems we face today. ~ Thomas Hamm, Professor of History, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, U.S.A.

  • Christian Middle Way, The
    Robert M. Ellis
    ...a densely argued book, needing, and deserving, time to digest; and to work out, with the author’s help, the implications of approaching religion in general and Christianity in particular, in terms of the Middle Way. ~ Edward Walker, author of Treasure Beneath the Hearth

  • Authority of Service and Love, The
    Roger Payne
    The Authority of Service and Love: A Recovery of Meaning
    by Roger Payne

    All eight definitions of 'authority' in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary contain the word ‘power’. This ineluctable association of ‘power’ with ‘authority’, frequently unhelpful and potentially harmful in a religious context, is at the core of this book.The author’s preface states:

    ‘The aim of this book is to show that our perceptions of the word “authority” must change if we are to be true to the message of Jesus. In particular we need to go back to the message of Jesus that “authority” should be about “service,” not “power.”’

    The opening chapter - What is religious authority? - examines origins of the word ‘authority’, seeking to determine its originally intended meaning in the term ‘religious authority’. Payne concludes, from his review of numerous sources that ‘the etymology of the word “authority” is not straightforward.’ The etymological complexity associated with ‘authority’ and resultant confusion emphasise the importance of achieving a ‘recovery of meaning.’ This chapter concludes:

    ‘This brief review … reveals the potential for tension between those who promote the different sources of that authority. It also exposes the danger of its misuse as authority becomes power.’

    The next two chapters - Who exercised authority in the early years of the Christian Church? and Who or what exercised power from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century? - provide a historical narrative. It is in the following chapter – The ‘crisis of authority’ in the Christian Church – where, starting in the febrile year of 1968, challenges to authority within the Church are set alongside those within society and politics. Almost half a century later, the socio-political landscape remains volatile and unpredictable, as recent events attest. . Authority as a whole – let alone religious authority – has never had it tougher. Time, perhaps to pursue ‘a different way’ - the title of Payne’s earlier book, to which this book is a sequel.

    The book concludes with the proposition that ‘Service is the key to authority,’ supported by this quotation from the works of Jack Dominian:

    ‘The more each person realizes his potential, the more he achieves autonomy, self-acceptance, inner-directed purpose and a love of self which is not a reflection of selfishness … but … is available to others in and through love. Such a concept of growth, personal or spiritual, owes nothing to the need to hold on to a “significant other” for survival, as Freud postulated, but an identification with a significant other called God, who invites us to realize our potential and become like him, not in absolute power and authority, but in absolute love, which is his nature’.

    This is a well-written and stimulating book, citing 123 references, addressing a complex and important subject with exemplary clarity, and is highly recommended.

    Dr Malcolm Purbrick is a research scientist who has been working with the European Commission at the University of Naples since his retirement. He was a member of St James' Church, Bushey.

    ~ Dr Malcolm Purbrick

  • Shaken Path, The
    Paul Cudby
    Cudby points out where commonality may emerge in dialogue, as well as matters of difference. The book can be recommended to tho those who would wish to be better informed of an important aspect of spirituality in contemporary society, but is also a moving account of the change in attitudes of the author and his wife. In the fields of concern for justice and peace, and for environmental morality, Christians may find that pagans are not people to be feared. They may indeed be a stimulus to our conscience in some areas of life, and offer insights that bear witness to neglect in current mainstream churches. Your reviewer can highly recommend this book. ~ Kevin Tingay, The Christian Parapsychologist

  • Quaker Roots and Branches
    John Lampen
    This exploration of Quaker identity shows how modern Quaker ways have developed out of, but are clearly rooted in, the lives of earlier generations. It is engaging and very readable. John Lampen gives frequent examples of real Quakers seeking to follow ‘guidance’. There are some familiar stories, and some quite tantalising glimpses into less well-known characters which left me wanting to know more. They illustrate how today’s Quaker practice is frequently on a continuum with the past, but at other times breaks significantly with tradition – and it is helpful to be aware of which is which, and why. A worthwhile read for anyone wanting to understand early 21st century (British) Quakers! ~ Helen Rowlands, former Head of Education, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, UK.

  • Quaker Roots and Branches
    John Lampen
    From his insight that modern-day Quakers are the product and carriers of an inspiring tradition, John Lampen paints a compelling picture of the Quaker character: clear intellectual enquiry, resolute moral integrity, and quiet, unsung heroism. The lives he describes are led by the guidance emerging from silent worship. In describing the resonance of these Quaker lives with his personal experience, John makes these stories relevant for us today.   ~ Gerald Hewitson, author, Journey Into Life: Inheriting the Story of Early Friends

  • Shaken Path, The
    Paul Cudby
    As a pagan, I was interested in reading this book, but I had serious reservations. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, and my beliefs haven't always been met with open minds or hearts. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was written by a very open-minded priest, and instead of deriding pagan beliefs, simply discussed them in a Christian context.
    ~ Liliyana Shadowlyn, NetGalley

  • Shaken Path, The
    Paul Cudby
    I knew, from the moment I started reading ‘The Shaken Path,’ by Paul Cudby, that I would be in a danger zone, not because I consider myself Christian, but the whole opposite: My mind is more than fine considering Pagan oriented ideals and ideas.
    There was something that told me I should read this book, and I kind of knew this could be a comparison between the two faiths, but there was still the fear, the doubt. Would I be facing an egocentric priest that wanted to tell me that Paganism was only a misunderstood Christianism? Not at all.
    What I discovered was that there something in common between the Gospels and the Pagan believes, more than what I would have ever thought. Uncomfortable experience, yes, but who said that learning would be an easy process?
    We live in a world where everyone thinks it is their path the right and only one that is meant to exist, even I tend to think this would be a better planet if we all started learning about Paganism, but that exactly when Cudby comes: Nothing could be more wrong than thinking that.
    Is not like Christians and Pagan are two halves of a whole, or that where one fails, the other prevails, but about the fact that we can all learn from each other, that Christ can teach the pagans and that Nature can help the Christians. Seems we often forget this.
    Mr. Cudby goes to the most known branches and concepts related to nature-based religions, explaining them to a Christian reader, but even if that same reader is a Pagan or an interfaith, they can still discover a few interesting things just as I did.
    There’s no point in denying that sometimes we all wish to ‘transform’ the other person and make them part of our religion, I think humans need to feel safe in an environment they can identify with, but ‘The Shaken Path’ proves more than once that differences and challenges work way much better than comparing two things.
    However, I won’t lie telling that this an easy and light book, as it took me a long while to read it; the Animism and Shamanism sections were hard to swallow, each page a challenge, and I’m most likely to think that this is because of the amount of information and (shame on me) my lack of interest in those areas.
    I would only prevent a reader from taking this books if they want to see a religion being ‘better’ than the other, to be more ‘correct’ and more ‘true,’ as if there could be only one faith in the whole world. Such a closed minded creature would not enjoy to discover that those ideals should be dead by now.
    Thsi is a book for those who are interested in learning, exploring and discovering about different faiths, about that that coudl sound alien and supernatural, that that seems to be different and, therefore, dangerous.
    If this seems to be more an extensive praise than a review, it is only because Paul Cudby was brave enough to open his mind, and so should we. May Nature never turn their back on him now that he realized that the Divine is in all things and that we can live and let die in peace. ~ Alan D.D., GoodReads https://tintanocturna.blogspot.com/

  • Friday's Child
    Brian Mountford
    Brian Mountford has written a short reflection on each poem in this wonderful collection - insightful, often understated and spacious so as to encourage our own response. What a clever idea and so beautifully done. This is an anthology that will feed the soul throughout the year. ~ Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury

  • Different Way, A
    Roger Payne
    There is an urgent need for more debate and discussion in our churches
    because the integrity and credibility of our faith is at risk [ ... ] We need to
    engage more actively at the intellectual level and to be willing to examine
    the fundamentals of our faith more critically. And such discussion must
    start with a human rather than a divine perspective.

    So states the back cover of this book, and the first few chapters make the case clearly and strongly. Churches often claim that certainty is a virtue and doubt is a sin. Instead, we need more debate. Too many church leaders stifle it. Few churches are intellectually stimulating. In approaching the divine, the starting-point must be the human because this is what we are.

    After these introductory chapters, the bulk of the book consists of short chapters on a variety of virtues, beginning with the seven traditional Christian ones and then adding others such as goodness, truth, beauty and mystery. Payne writes with an easy touch. There is no theological jargon. There are lots of fascinating short stories, and biblical stories woven in with them. The language is gender-exclusive.

    It is a book for Christians seeking to get away from negative and other- worldly versions of Christianity and instead integrate their faith with a positive approach to life. Given how successfully hard line dogmatists have dominated the airwaves in recent decades, we need more such books offering open and creative approaches to faith.

    Weaknesses? Most of the chapters describe their respective virtue attractively but, given the promise in the subtitle, say little or nothing about approaching the divine through it. A short section about God offers a good, though brief, account of what we can and cannot know of God, and the problem of holding together both transcendence and immanence (pp. 39-40). This is then followed by a brief resume of the theologies of John Robinson, Paul Tillich, Don Cupitt and Jack Spong, leaving the impression that they were all saying much the same thing. The common theme, we are told, is 'that we need to see God as a subjective not an objective reality' (p. 46). Yet Payne soon bounces back from the subjectivism, telling us, for example, that 'God does not invest in man for himself but to enable him to extend that investment to others. And so man is not only not man without God, but is not man without man' (p. 73).

    Readers of Modern Believing looking for a human approach to the divine may be disappointed. The book works better as a work of popular ethics for Christians who do not want to get into theological detail but who want an encouraging, non-dogmatic and readable account of what it means to live a Christian life. At a time when so many church leaders are agonising over declining numbers and wondering how to persuade more people to attend church services, here is someone who gets straight to the point and offers a more positive account of Christian living. ~ Jonathan Clatworthy, Modern Believing: The Journal of Theological Liberalism Volume 58 Issue 2 2017

  • Death of the Church and Spirituality Reborn, The
    Reverend John
    This is an unusual text from an Anglican priest identified on the cover as ‘Reverend John’. The title indicates the extensive ground
    covered. It is an easy read, with short chapters of only a few pages; the extent of the ground covered means few ideas are developed and the reader is left breathless. The book examines first the state of the Church, focusing on the Church of England rather than the wider world Church. He sees the Church as no longer relevant and suggests its future death stems from its failure to speak on spiritual matters, in particular about life after death. From this dying Church spirituality must be reborn.

    In the second part he introduces a variety of alternative spiritualities exploring the Kabala, psychic phenomena and other approaches to spirituality. The reader is led into the esoteric world as he urges that psychic abilities, including dowsing and magic, should be fostered. He advocates meditation but with no reference to its Christian forms, such as the groups linked with the World Community for Christian Meditation. His focus is on individual spiritual development and says little about how this might lead to engagement with the wider world. ‘Belief systems do not control the subconscious’ which is where, he says, religious symbols belong. Throughout he refers only to the subconscious, and doesn’t explain how he defines this, or how it relates to what analysts and therapists refer to as the pre-conscious and unconscious. ~ Peter Varney, Progressive Christianity Network, issue 21, June 2017

  • Friday's Child
    Brian Mountford
    Brian Mountford’s engagement with religion, and with the world, and with the human aspects of them both, has been something I’ve long admired. In this inspiring collection of poems and readings for Good Friday he brings all his experience of literature, and of the needs of readers and listeners both young and old, together to create a tapestry of great brilliance and a commentary of calm wisdom. ~ Philip Pullman

  • Heart of Oneness
    Jennifer Kavanagh

    "A wise and welcome reminder of the mutuality and interconnectedness
    at the heart of the universe." ~ Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Jennifer Kavanagh is a Quaker and a retreat leader. In this little book she writes from her own experience, but also draws on the works of well-known spiritual writers, Julian of Norwich, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, and Evelyn Underhill to mention a few.
    She points out that Homo sapiens means 'wise man' not 'Homo omnisciens', 'man all knowing'. However we often behave as if we are the latter when really we are the former. She explores what it is to 'know', in the sense of know someone. Can we really say that we fully know anyone, even a life partner or close friend ? If we cannot say that, how can we say that we 'know' God?
    She then takes the reader through a series of interlinked chapters to show a way of 'unknowing'. I think many Julians, as I did, would find this a helpful and encouraging book, as we try to 'be still and know'. ~ Anne Stamper, The Julian Meetings magazine, April 2017 issue

  • Christian Middle Way, The
    Robert M. Ellis
    The recognition of the different functions of the brain’s two hemispheres provides a whole new approach to thinking about the meaning and values of human life, that can be applied in the context of every philosophy and religion. Robert M. Ellis here uses it to distinguish between abstract left hemisphere belief and live embodied faith in the Christian tradition: an important consideration for anyone influenced by Christianity. ~ Roderick Tweedy, editor of Karnac Books

  • Christian Middle Way, The
    Robert M. Ellis
    The author describes the aim of this book as being to present “the case against Christian belief but for Christian faith”. In my view his aim is amply fulfilled in its ten chapters, which begin with a discussion of “faith without belief” and end with a discussion of Christian ethics and politics. Reflecting the author’s sojourn in Buddhism, there is much talk of “The Middle Way”. Jesus, enlightened like the Buddha, is no absolutist; rather, in his life and teaching he provides an example of a wholesome balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. As the Christ, he is “the balancer, the mediator, the transformer, the bridge-builder that we find within ourselves. This is a densely argued book, needing, and deserving, time to digest; and to work out, with the author’s help, the implications of approaching religion in general and Christianity in particular, in terms of the Middle Way. ~ Edward Walker, author of Treasure Beneath the Hearth

  • Friday's Child
    Brian Mountford
    It was interesting having poems that you wouldn’t normally associate with Good Friday; yet including them made you reflect on them in a different way. It’s good not to compartmentalise religion or to say only ‘religious’ things can be spiritual. (Jerome Gasson)

    Reading these poems on Good Friday was always an important part of my year. They opened up discussions about doubt, religious doctrine, and human nature for me. This is how young people want to be treated; we never felt patronised, but our voices were, in every sense, heard. (Aphra Hiscock)

    Saying poetry aloud and thinking how you are going to make it sound (or how others might hear it) makes you think much more about what it might be trying to say. (Julius Gasson)

    Being part of the group gave a chance for us to offer something to a wider community. We liked the way visitors chancing by might stop and be moved to listen. (All) ~ Teenagers who originally read these poems in public on Good Friday

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    If you have not read the Quaker writer, Jennifer Kavanagh, then you must. In all her previous books she displays such wisdom and spiritual insight and ‘A little book of Unknowing’ is no exception. Literally a little book of only 56 pages it is easily read, but don’t be put off by the size in the thought that it cannot contain much - it is full of insightful gems. Kavanagh will always push the boundaries of our spiritual assumptions and expectations and challenge our long held certainties.
    This short book looks at how we can let go of our knowing and our certainties and in so doing have a fuller spiritual life. It is a book that is written for anyone who is exploring their spirituality; in true Quaker style it is totally and refreshingly inclusive.
    There are lots of quotes from spiritual writers which provide all sorts of connections that can be followed up and cross referenced. The opening quote in the book invites you in; “help me to be quiet, to sit here...slowly unknowing everything, becoming dark, becoming yielding, just sitting.” Gunilla Norris. It is described as a ‘little book about a particular way of being in the world’, I found myself excited by the concept of unknowing and wanting to explore it more. A great read.

    ~ , Magnet magazine

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