RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • 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

  • Authority of Service and Love, The
    Roger Payne
    Praise for Roger Payne's previous title from Christian Alternative:
    A Different Way: A Human Approach to the Divine is extremely readable and offers much to those who are engaging with and exploring personal and corporate faith more critically... it will have a place on my book shelf and it will be recommended often! ~ Rev. John Churcher, Progressive Christianity Network

  • Sing Out for Justice
    Ray Vincent
    Ray Vincent is a master of his brief with a deep knowledge and understanding of the prophets. Not only will we want to look again at the original texts but he brings them to life and ignites our imagination making them relevant for us today. This is an exciting book that at times embraces us and carries us along at a speed that is worthy not only of a scholar but of an award winning novelist! ~ The Revd Lord Roger Roberts of Llandudno

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    With characteristic scholarship, clarity and humanity, Jonathan Clatworthy holds together the rational and the religious and seeks a synthesis. A thoughtful, accessible and hopeful book for our times. ~ Guy Elsmore, Archdeacon of Buckingham

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    The 21st century is not working out so well and this provides the justification for an essay in natural theology. In this remarkable book—sharp but never polemical—Jonathan Clatworthy addresses theism’s cultured despisers and offers a defence of the public force of theism and the moral ‘necessity’ of God. This book will annoy some and intrigue others—but should be read by all. ~ Peter Scott, Samuel Ferguson Professor of Applied Theology, University of Manchester

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    This compelling portrait of Martin Israel's life as a priest, surgeon and counsellor by Philip Pegler is not only beautifully written, but it burns with an empathy and wisdom that is tangible. In the nature of so many world teachers, Israel didn't have an easy beginning to life as his parents, particularly his father, had little time or patience with him. This sense of rejection, together with his early background living in Johannesburg eclipsed by its uncomfortable apartheid regime, must have precipitated his passage into a spiritual ministry.. Despite Israel's depressive breakdowns and despair which were steadily eroding his sense of self, all this served to inform his work as a minister.... Philip Pegler, no stranger to psychiatric problems himself in his younger days, has a genuine empathy with Israel's life which is distinct... yet at all times remains very much in the background of the work. Tirelessly, Israel utilises his own experience of 'Dark Nights' to fashion a light to shine and bring insight to others in their personal and collective struggles. We learn from the author just how courageous this priest was to work so closely with the crushing difficulties we confront throughout our life... Israel never undermines the power and importance of the potential of dark arid times to birth light. In this Israel holds a candle to all that we fear and shows us the way forward. And, that way comes through honesty, forgiveness and love. The thing that stands out more than anything is the intrinsic value of uncertainty, loss, doubt and depression to bring insight to our often inexorable problems... ~ Stephanie Sorrell, New Vision

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In a long and distinguished ministry, Jonathan has interpreted the Christian faith sensitively and wisely to those with liberal and progressive views. This book distils his thinking and teaching in ways that will help any sincere and open-minded seeker after truth. It is the fruit of a lifetime's discipleship, of a lifetime's rigorous honesty and of a lifetime’s prayer. I commend it warmly. ~ Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    At a time when economic, social and environmental crises loom large, and authoritarian Right-wing leaders appear to be in the ascendancy, the future looks particularly bleak. But Jonathan offers hope not just that a better society is possible, but that by working together progressives can achieve it. ~ Jonathan Bartley, Co-leader, Green Party of England and Wales

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Well worth reading and benefiting from its Wisdom

    Jennifer Kavanagh has produced a gem here and I am very glad I purchased it. Anyone interested in the contemplative lifestyle would find this helpful. ~ Ann Taylor, Amazon

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Marvellous.

    Not as wonderful as meeting and chatting with Jennifer in person, but pretty impressive all the same. She continues in her books to nourish both the spirit and the ever inquisitive mind with ease and panache. So many of the insights ring true. Highly recommended. ~ simon, Amazon

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    Small Outing with Big Result - Woolbeding Concert and book reading

    The 17th September saw me peddling precariously to All Hallows along the back road from Easebourne to a special afternoon event, not knowing quite what to expect. On arrival there was just a handful of people in the church, but as time passed more members of the community arrived.
    The whole experience was both profound and delightful. The music chosen was performed by two highly professional and wonderful musicians and suitably complemented the readings from Philip Pegler's 'Meeting Evil with Mercy'. Having read the book, it was not difficult to become absorbed by the proceedings and appreciate the messages contained with the writings.
    The afternoon proved to be an unexpected delight. Thank you to all concerned. ~ Jean Hicks, Envoy - Midhurst and Woolbeding Parish Magazine

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In this thought-provoking and timely book, Jonathan Clatworthy makes the case for a reasoned and reasonable faith in a world that is both troubled and fascinated by religion. ~ Elaine Graham, Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology, University of Chester

  • Sing Out for Justice
    Ray Vincent
    The Old Testament prophets are little read and poorly understood, yet we need their teaching for the 21st century. Ray Vincent introduces them with a story-teller's eye and shares their heart for justice. ~ Dr Tim Bulkeley, Honorary Lecturer in Theology, University of Auckland

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    Jonathan Clatworthy argues that belief in God can provide a better foundation for ethics than a wholly secular approach can. The argument is developed through careful historical study of how such beliefs have evolved and presupposes the importance of a liberal and non dogmatic understanding of religious beliefs. ~ Paul Badham, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales, Lampeter

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In this extraordinarily wide-ranging study, Jonathan Clatworthy presents the case that ethics, taken seriously, requires monotheism as its foundation. He surveys various kinds of theism and atheism, and shows that monotheism makes more sense of the world than any variety of secularism. A challenging and important book, accessible to anyone interested in ultimate questions. ~ John Barton, Oriel & Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (Emeritus), University of Oxford

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    A clear and thoughtful defence of Christianity, liberalism and progress – at a time when all are under threat. ~ Linda Woodhead, Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University

  • Sing Out for Justice
    Ray Vincent
    The Bible next to me has 300 pages’ worth of prophetic writings, from Isaiah to Malachi. They are some of the least read pages in the book, apart from a handful of familiar, glowing passages, almost always taken out of context. Ray Vincent gives us the whole of the prophetic literature back as scripture, bringing each prophet’s voice to life within a beautifully concise overview of their settings and situations. He enables each to speak anew by drawing parallels with challenges we face today. The result is a dynamic encounter with some of the most passionate religious insight ever put into writing. ~ The Revd Roberta Rominger, United Church of Christ Pastor, Former General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, UK

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    Once in a while a book comes along that is so profoundly out of the ordinary that it lends valuable support to a reader's spiritual quest along life's pathway. This biography outlines the absorbing story of Martin Israel, a Jewish doctor turned Christian priest, who always emphasised the sanctity of life and the sacrament of the present moment. His quietly forthright message of reconciliation, first articulated 40 years ago, still holds great relevance in today's troubled world as we face up to the dark menace of violent religious fundamentalism not just in far-off countries but in our very midst...
    In Martin Israel's presence there was a feeling that he was 'fresh' in every moment - pure, clean and uncluttered - and this brought a sense of freedom of spech and open-mindedness to any conversation. His piercing blue eyes locked in and he listened without a grain of judgement, simply with a pure, open heart and with the tenderness of a new-born baby... it was all-encompassing.
    How fortunate we are to have people in our midst who have dared to serch for the meaning of life... they are tose who have taken responsibility for themselves and have been curious enough to want to know that life may not be all that it might appear.
    Author Philip Pegler has taken extracts from Martin's talks, which re valuable pointers and may navigate us towards understanding our essential self. How few people there are who dare to look within and go to those darkest places where there is not a trace of light but where there is a sense of uncertainty, where the pain is so immense and unknown. Pegler understood it perfectly and conveys it with strength and understanding. He too has known what it feels like to be in despair and he understood Israel, who had experienced so much pain and loneliness throughout his life...
    We are all part of the conditioned mind - but Martin merged with the pain and love where the ground was neutral and nothing existed other than the moment. This book reveals profound truths that can open the mind to new understandings. By changing your mind, you can open yourself up to new horizons. This book is full of gems and treasures. ~ Marina Cowdray, Caduceus Journal

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    It would be impossible to give justice to the book under review in the space of one page. This is a book that would interest lapsed Christians for its subject: the life of a Jew born in South Africa in 1927 is revealing as to how a Christian life can be lived and what it means to be a Christian in an age where religion is openly disparaged in the West...
    The bare bones of his life are unusual and he was an unusual man. He was that rare creature: a person of his convictions. He was intellectually acute and not at all naive about the world and its challenges. His integrity was unquestioned and his ability to reach out in compassionate understanding were superlative. He was a doctor of the soul.
    The book is ostensibly about Israel's life and his spiritual evolution. One of the principal themes of this book is about evil, what it is and how one faces it in all its unalloyed virulence. In this modern age we ridicule the idea of evil as an independent force but recent events with the rise and imminent fall of ISIS reveal our so-called enlightened view is negligent to say the least. There is evil in the world and before we can overcome it we are obliged to recognise its potency to harm and destroy. Martin Israel does not dismiss evil but embraces it knowing that truth will prevail... For those of us who cannot quite comprehend why there is evil in the world, this book is a finely written account of one who was fearless in the face of darkness and understood its power.
    ~ Christopher Quilkey, Mountain Path Journal

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    I read Jennifer Kavanagh’s book A Little Book Of Unknowing in the course of a long train journey from Edinburgh and was so engaged by it that by the time I had reached London I had finished it in its entirety. As the title indicates it deals with our human urge to know, not just about the date of the Norman invasion or how metal expands when heated but also the deep existential questions: how did the universe come into being, how can we lead a good life, and what happens when we die? The author considers different ways of knowing, of searching for truth, and briefly looks at the relation between science and religion. She goes on to deal with the reality of not knowing the ultimate answers and not being able to control our own lives or predict the future. Kavanagh continues with some proposals about how to live in the state of unknowing and uncertainty, how to trust, how to have faith. Much of the rest of this book is about prayer, meditation, mindfulness and ‘letting go’. There is a chapter devoted to darkness, ‘the visual equivalent of silence’ and a further few pages on acceptance. The writer’s style is fluid, articulate and sensitive. Although she draws on a wide range of sources, this is by no means a purely academic treatise and she bravely draws on her own life experiences to illustrate her points. As you might expect from the title, the Bible gets little or no attention; this is written in true modern Quakerly fashion where nothing is accepted on authority and all conclusions reached are from the here and now of existential experience.
    25

    I particularly appreciated the comments on human subjectivity and the related issue about the impossibility of universal agreement about the certainty of ‘facts’. It seems that recent research (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/365} confirms that individuals experience different physical realities at a neural level. ‘We cannot say (what individuals)… hear when they listen to a song of a thrush’. She adds (I paraphrase here) that every person forms his or her own provisional model of reality which is updated in the light of his/her own experience; she makes the obvious link with science and research, roundly doing away with the proposition that science and religion are implacably opposed. I found myself endorsing her view of prayer, which to me seems not the attempt to control the future by drawing the attention of an absent-minded or forgetful deity to a matter needing his assistance, (my words, not hers) but rather as silently orienting our attention, of opening ourselves up, of leaving room for the spirit to work. She attempts to define spirituality by quotes and this is one I preferred: Rowson and McGilchrist “Spirituality is simply a question of having an open enough mind to see that there are things in the world that transcend what we can know and fully comprehend, that are not fully accounted for in a reductionist, materialist account.” That’s socked it to Dawkins and co., I thought! Particularly challenging (personally, not theoretically) was the passage about our need to control the future, to be in charge of our own lives. “I found that the way forward was not about making decisions, but of allowing things to unfold realising that matters would become clear”. For me the most powerful passages were firstly, the account of the author’s own life; following a practical and spiritual crisis she gave up the day job, as it were, and began to follow the practice of opening herself to what might come, leading to consequences that surprised her. Secondly, I was surprised to learn that our ‘modern’ unknowing can be sited within the tradition of the via negativa dating back to the fourth century.
    26

    I’ve struggled to find any negatives in this small book. My only caveat, a small one, is that there are questions for discussion at the end of chapters. I understand that these are intended for discussion groups, but dislike them as it gives an impression of labour, duty, homework almost, instead of an intensely absorbing read that speaks to us of our condition. This is a deeply felt, deeply personal account of the author’s spirituality. It could act as a kind of position statement for many modern Quakers and I see it as a must-have for Local Quaker Meetings’ libraries.
    ~ Jackie Bedford, The Universalist

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