HOSE LAZY DAYS of summer when it is possible to settle down with a good book seem to be fewer and further between as the demands of work never seem to slacken as they once did. Nevertheless, here are some that could be read for both enjoyment and profit.
Vision Fulfilling is the story of the faith, vision, and hard, practical ecclesiastical politics that created and still drive ministry in rural and small communities. Written primarily as a history of the Town and Country church movement in the United States, this book is also studded with references to similar movements and their leaders in the Anglican Church of Canada. This is because there has long been a North American common market in concerns about rural and small-town ministry between Anglicans in Canada and the United States. In 1997, Canadians chaired both the Rural Workers’ Fellowship and a spin-off group, Living Stones, which explored innovative forms of ministry. This valuable piece of history, combining anecdotes and thorough documentation, reveals the whole church now drawing on the heritage of imaginative ministries first developed to serve the more isolated of our fellow Anglicans.
An American Apostle is the life of Bishop Stephen Bayne, first executive officer of the Anglican Communion. He brought to the job a solid Anglo-Catholic theology, diplomatic skills and sound political instincts combined with a driving vision of what world Anglicanism could and should be. His preparation was intensive: professor of theology, parish priest, Bishop of Olympia, Washington, where he became known for his statements on social issues, the Lambeth Conference 1948, co-ordinating discussion groups at the 1954 Anglican Congress in Minneapolis, and at Lambeth 1958 steering a ground-breaking report on family life and planning, through a body uncomfortable with the issue and divided in outlook. His greatest achievement was the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto and the declaration, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, which changed forever the way we view – and do – mission, and once and for all demonstrated that we are not an English church but Anglican.
Anglicanism in the Ottawa Valley was compiled in honour of the 1996 centenary of the Diocese of Ottawa. The 12 essays, plus a foreword, introduction and with an epilogue by the Primate, trace the evolution of Anglicanism in this part of Canada through the century, taking a then – now – and what of the future? – approach. The topics – all of continuing concern to those beyond the Ottawa Valley – include Christian interfaith relations, music, architecture, changing emphases, the role of women and social justice. The issues seem not to change; how we handle them does. As one contributor wrote, “God now seems to have many prophets and they all have access to the people of the world … But if there are doubts and questions, there is also evidence of a growing desire for faith and understanding. Anglicanism has its own ethos and may indeed point the way to a new and renewed Christian witness.”
The Inside Story is the spiritual odyssey of an ex-Jesuit of 25 years, and then a Montreal radio talk-show host for 20 years, as he coped with sex, celibacy, drinking and depression that almost ended in suicide. Crippled by what he calls toxic religion: a strict small-town Irish Catholic upbringing feeding a strict moral code, structure and discipline as an adult, Neil McKenty endured years of inner turmoil until he found himself through psychiatric treatment and a 12-step program of spiritual rehabilitation similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. “I was helpless,” he writes, “I reached out and there was someone there. In that very act, totally honest and real, healing began … For the first time in my life the ball was hitting the glove.” Key players in the story are people who – sometimes unwittingly – helped him on the way to self discovery and new spiritual awareness. William Portman is the book review editor for the Anglican Journal.