Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review


Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review


Article excerpt

Regular reading and, for this writer, daily reading is part of the survival manual for parish ministry. Reading is not only recreational but necessary, in that I am truly fed by it and even sustained by it. Moreover, I live under the compulsion, from what feels like an inward necessity, to search out parables of God's grace, in fiction, the arts and biography. I am on the lookout, both for myself and for the parish, for references and insights concerning redemption, especially in its Christian models and most especially in terms of the Cross.

The Arts

The Episcopal Church played a decisive role in the life of Thomas Cole, the 19th-century American landscape painter. His cycle of paintings, The Voyage of Life is a must-see when you visit the National Gallery of Art in Washington. I have just finished a beautifully illustrated study of Cole by Earl A. Powell (Thomas Cole. New York: Abrams, 1990). Cole was baptized into the Episcopal Church in 1842, only five years before he died. Powell documents his life and shows paintings that startle with their quite sublime images, such as his unfinished landscape The Cross at Sunset. Thomas Cole was the exact American equivalent to the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

A very recent book on an artist whom Anglicans would see as "one of us" is Derek Wilson's Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man (London: Phoenix, 1996). Wilson settles the question as to whether Holbein, who spent years at the court of Henry VIII, was a "Catholic" artist or a "Protestant" artist. Study of his whole output, especially his works on paper, reveals he was a convinced Protestant. His painting of the resurrection, now at Buckingham Palace, was new to me and Wilson shows it in full color. This is "popular" art history with a theologically friendly attitude.

The English Connection

My wife and I get many of our books from reviews in Church Times, which is one of two weekly newspapers covering the Church of England. Church Times, which we are able to receive via air mail for $115 per year and which just about makes our week, can be ordered by calling the subscription office at Beccles, Suffolk (011.44.1502.711171). We cannot recommend this highly enough! It presents Anglican affairs in worldwide perspective, offers outstanding book reviews, and publishes delightful columns on the arts, both "high-brow" and "middle-brow."

Also, for ordering books that are not or have not yet been published in the U.S., you can get anything sent to you by calling Blackwell's Book Shop in Oxford (011.44.1865.792792).


Church Times had so bruited the new book by Jim Crace, who is somewhat of a cult novelist in the U.K., that we pounced. The book is a novel called Quarantine (London: Viking, 1997) and was nominated for Britain's highest literary honor, the Booker Prize.1 Quarantine concerns five pilgrims in the Judaean Wilderness around 25 A.D.-and a sixth, from Galilee. While he puts in just a few direct appearances in the book, Jesus' presence in a cave near the pilgrims creates the tension, and the resolution, of the piece. Crace said in an interview that he was surprised himself how much his elusive sixth character came to govern the plot. I found the book riveting and original, although the ending is weak.

An essay by the poet Donald Davie, who died in 1996, has set me onto the novelist William Hale White. White wrote terse, under-appreciated novels during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, one of which, The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990-the original, 1881), is now available in paperback. This is the account of what is now called a "spiritual journey." It is the story of one man's slide from orthodox and evangelical English Nonconformity to a general disillusioned agnosticism. But there is a thorough and sympathetic grasp of theology here, and a spare, consciously "Protestant" style which Andre Gide praised highly. …

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