Saving Christianity: New Thinking for Old Beliefs by Hilary Wakeman
The Liffey Press, 2004 ISBN 978-1904148326
Hilary Wakeman’s book performs a unique function: it takes the Christian tradition, reflects upon continuity and change and does so in a way that is accessible to a broad audience. Challenging without being destructive, accessible without being simplistic, the book asks how we might offer the gospel of Christ to our present age. Hilary wakeman does not offer a blueprint, for that is not her way. Instead she looks at the issues that surround some of the great doctrines of the Christian faith and asks how we might approach them again for our opwn generation. As Christians, in all ages, we are called to ‘give account of the faith which is in us’. This book does precisely this and it does it in a way that leaves no question unasked. It is the beginning of a discussion and not the end, the Church has always been a forum for vigorous debate – Hilary Wakeman provokes us to enter that debate once again. Rt Revd Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield.
With even leaders in denominations of the church acknowledging perceptible declines in membership and attendances, except in some local areas and churches, on a principle of receiving light from all qaurters, the publication of Saving Christianity – thinking for old beliefs, Hilary wakeman, Liffey Press, should not go unnoticed.
This is a courageous and timely book by an author who is theologically erudite. Where there may be two broad approaches to meet a perceived crisis one perhaps more traditionally vociferous than the other, Wakeman’s book deserves lengthy consideration.
Ms Wakeman sees a cause for decline in “the unwillingness of all the churches in all countries but perhaps especially now in Ireland, tpo look honestly and openly into what we say we believe.
Disillusioned with standard theology in all the denominations, more and more people are ceasing to attend church, while others are prevented by the same from entering. And yet among the self-exiled people there is a widespread sense of loss and sadness. Presbyterian Church Notes, Irish Times, 09 December 2006.
The Ordinary God: Notes from the Far West of Ireland by Hilary Wakeman
Liffey Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-905785-73-5
A bible discussion group, parishioners of various ages, was getting tied up in knots on a rather basic subject – God. In frustration, one woman said to another, ‘But, what sort of God are you talking about?’. The other woman looked puzzled. ‘Just the ordinary, everyday God,’ she said. That is what this book is about. The ordinary, everyday God. The ‘God’ that comes instinctively to most of us. If we’ve had a religious education, from schools or parents, we may need to drop a lot of stuff that has been drilled into us. If what we think we know about God doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t feel true, then it probably isn’t right and isn’t true. Like love, this is a subject where we do better to trust our gut feelings. The essays in this book come largely from that point of view. Most of them appeared in the “Southern Star” newspaper over a two year period beginning in September 2007. They were written for the ordinary people of West Cork, a people for whose down-to-earthness the author has had a huge respect since coming here in 1996 as the rector of the furthest south-west parish of the Church of Ireland. What West Cork people really think about things is often learned from what they choose not to say, but must be read non-verbally. These articles were written for Catholics and Protestants, and the people in-between and outside, for anyone who is interested in the difference between religion and spirituality, or in what our churches are doing…or not doing…or might do in the future. Subjects addressed in this title include: whether it’s right to pray for a parking space; how to celebrate Christmas if you think you’re no longer a Christian; planning your own funeral; nuns celebrating Samhain; charity shops; God and gardens; living in the ‘Now’; sharing the Eucharist; homosexuality; angels; climate change; and, the future for Christianity. Publisher’s notice
Christianity.Women Priests: the first years edited by Hilary Wakeman (Darton, Longman & Todd, 1996 ISBN 978-0232521511
Circles of Silence: thoughts on contemplative prayer edited by Hilary Wakeman (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2002)
Tried for Heresy A 21st Century Journey of Faith by Andrew Furlong
O Books, 2003 ISBN 978-1903816523
Andrew Furlong’s story is a fascinating one. It pits a profoundly honest spiritual search against a frightened ecclesiastical hierarchy that somehow believes that it has to be God’s defender. That hierarchy does not recognize that the timeless experience of God can never be captured in the time warped explanations of human beings, even those human beings who create Bibles and Creeds and who pontificate regularly in God’s name. Andrew Furlong has broken open the faith traditions of yesterday, exposed its idolatry and issued an invitation to his readers to walk beyond the limiting barriers of religious fear into the life giving mystery of God. The Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, 8th Bishop of Newark
Scattering the Proud; Christianity beyond 2000 by Sean O’Conaill
Author House, 2012 ISBN 978-1468585582
In this radically original and optimistic reflection on the future of Christianiy in the Western World, Sean O’Conaill starts from the conviction that the life, ministry and death of Jesus of Nazareth were a deliberate reversal of the human ‘heroic’ journey to adulation and influence, which has caused violence, tyranny and injustice in all epochs. He did not identify with, or seek to emulate, the powerful and the influential; he sought out the sinners and the outcasts and taught that every person was of equal worth in the eyes of God. In the end he exalted the person who was most despised – the victim – by accepting an ignominious death.
O’Conaill argues that, even since the earliest times, Jesus’ followers have been tempted to re-join the ‘upward journey’ towards power and influence – a journey which inevitably creates ‘pyramids of esteem’ or ‘hierarchies of respect’ which glorify individuals and elites at the expense of majorities.
The development of the relationship between Christianity and the political establishment, in the fourth century, soon associated Christ himself with coercion and led, in the end, to the schisms between East and West, Protestant and Catholic, and between Christianity and liberal secularism. It is also at the root of the ‘silent schism’ within the Catholic Church.
The future of Christianity then lies in its willingness to abandon this ‘upward journey’ and to return to the essence of the gospel message, not only institutionally but personally in the lives of all Christians. This return to a counter-cultural stance will aim to raise the disadvantaged and to secure the future of the global family and its environment. Publisher’s notice
The Chain that binds the Earth by Sean O’Conaill.
Author House, 2015 ISBN: 9781504942287 Also available as an ebook on Amazon
Johnny Mullan wants to understand why bullying happens –and not just in school. Margaret Phillips is troubled by the threat to the Earth environment, and wonders what to do about that. Eddy Li is fascinated by crime of all kinds and wants to be a detective. Mary McNevin wonders why there are so many different problems, and wants to write songs that will help.
When these four meet in their first year at their second-level school – Iona College – they come to the conclusion that all of the major problems that interest them have a common cause. When they argue their case in a school debate they find themselves opposed by a senior teacher, and are threatened with censorship or expulsion. They discover that their school is itself divided, and are faced with an important choice.
Challenged to abandon their own deepest convictions, Johnny, Margaret, Eddy and Mary stand firm – not knowing how this will affect their friendship and the rest of their lives. Publisher’s notice
“A remarkable book with a vision for the future
…If it was ‘merely’ a novel dealing with four young people starting a new school and the issues of transition, friendship, relationships and challenges then this work could be deemed an unqualified success. Yet it is so much more than that.
The author leads the reader into deeper reflection on fundamental issues that face society – and the Church – today; including the environment, fractured relationships, reconciliation, power, freedom of expression, justice and truth…
The Jesus who is revealed in this work is one who refused to embrace power and wealth, and who preferentially reached out to those in need. And for that he was put to death by the rich and powerful – the Roman political authorities and the Jewish religious elite.
O’Conaill does not shy away from the claim (made by those such as Archbishop Oscar Romero and those of the liberation theology position) that the compromise and identification with the powerful since Constantine has undermined the mission of the Church and ‘made Jesus safe’ to follow.
The book strongly suggests that in order to restore its mission, the Church (as the people of God) must renounce wealth, privilege and authority. Only then can it truly be faithful to the mission to create the Kingdom of God on Earth which the young rabbi from Nazareth set out to announce 2,000 years ago. Only then can we truly be considered to be true disciples of Christ.
This is a wonderful book that is deserving of the widest audience and consideration. Extract from Aidan Donaldson’s review in The Irish Catholic. See more at: http://www.irishcatholic.ie/article/remarkable-book-vision-future
Season of Snow by Tony Devlin
Fionn Uisce Books, 2014 ISBN: 978-1908559883 This book is also available from: www.eprint.ie
Season of Snow is a story of the 13th Century Crusade against the Cathars of the Pays d’Oc (the area known today as the Languedoc in Southwest France). The Crusade, initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1209 was the first to be conducted on the soil of Europe and directed against a Christian people. The book is a work of Historical Fiction, though extensively researched, based largely on factual events, and including many real historical characters.
In the Pays d’Oc in the early years of the 13th Century, there flourished a heretical sect known to history as the Cathars. Its adherents however described themselves simply as the Good Christians and such was their impact on the region and such was the challenge posed by their beliefs and their way of living that the Church of Rome launched a Crusade against them.
Season of Snow concerns one family, shepherds of the High Pyrenees, who embrace the faith of the Good Christians and hold fast to it in the teeth of persecution, and in the ultimately doomed struggle against the overwhelming power of the Crusade. Jean Maury, his wife Esclarmonde and their four sons, the strong and steady Robert, the warlike and feral Jacques, the pious and ascetic Pierre and the impulsive, childish Bernard are the fulcrum on which the story turns.
As the dark shadows of approaching war gather on the borders of their peaceful and pastoral world the famille Maury are drawn inexorably into the pattern of unfolding events. The murder of a Papal Legate on the edge of the mountainy territory of Foix in the early days of the year 1208 is the spark which ignites the conflagration. The events which follow, the massacre at Beziers, the siege of Carcassonne, the burning of heretics at Minerve, the dramatic intervention of the mysterious Templar Knights before the gates of Toulouse, are all prominent episodes in the bitter contest for the land and the souls of the people of the Pays d’Oc.
Characters such as the charismatic Good Christian pastor (or parfait) Guillaume Authié, the saintly Roman preacher Dominic de Guzman (better known to us as Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers known today as the Dominicans), the ruthless Crusader knight Simon de Montfort, and the temporising Count Raymond of Toulouse are all enmeshed in an epic struggle based on fundamentally opposing ideas of good and evil.
Through all of this the members of the famille Maury thread their different paths, becoming influential participants in the events of a turbulent time at the end of which, though scattered and bereaved, they have been ultimately redeemed.
The climax of the story is played out against the backdrop of the protracted siege of the mighty fortress of Peyreperteuse, where the outnumbered and encircled defenders hold out in diminishing hope of relief. The Good Christians of the Maurys’ home village of La Cerisiére, meanwhile, risk a terrible punishment as they speed the flight of their hunted parfait pastors, across the perilous passes of the High Pyrenees, deep in the cold silence of the Season of Snow. Publisher’s notice