This little book, by Ian Stuchbery, a retired Anglican archdeacon who has served in several dioceses within the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada, reflects on the personal experience of a sensitive pilgrim and priest since the Second World War. Indeed, it begins with recollection of staying in his uncle’s vicarage in the country when his house was bombed, and ends in the present.
For Stuchbery, it is useful and important to identify the dominance of secularism in postwar society and the accompanying assumption that religious faith is at least irrelevant and probably misplaced. It is also important for him not to demonize secularism but to watch it. He applauds the work of a long list of late-20th century authors, mostly within the church and mostly of some sort of liberal and prophetic bent, who have advanced church understanding of the Christian proclamation and the problems of society.
Neither otherworldly piety nor intellectual fundamentalism will do. To those who find the Christian gospel irrelevant, Stuchbery offers his own personal and community experience of what he calls the “something more”-a “golden thread of experience” of God in the world and in his own life.
The book is reassuring and attractive in its disarming optimism in the face of so many grave challenges over the last 60 years. It may not speak broadly to those who have come after and who have found the church and its message irrelevant, except perhaps to show that the current and fashionable caricature of Christian leadership as venal or even wicked is mistaken. But it can certainly support and encourage those who have not given up on Christianity or on our society.
The Rev. Canon David Neelands is dean of divinity at Trinity College, University of Toronto.
Experiencing God in a Secular World
Hamilton Books, 2011
81 pages, $17.95