IN THE 1950s and again in the 1970s, the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the U.S.A. commissioned two series of books to explore and teach the Christian faith. Now, a third, The New Church's Teaching Series, is being produced. The first four volumes were published jointly by the Anglican Book Centre and Cowley Publications. The remaining ones are published by Cowley alone.
The Practice of Prayer, by Margaret Guenther, is a down-to-earth guide to personal and common prayer. An Episcopal priest and spiritual director, Guenther draws on the riches of Christian spiritual writings as well as on her own experience of prayer. She speaks frankly of the difficulties and discouragement we encounter and suggests many practical ways in which we might grow in the life of prayer. Her topics include a good introduction to the different kinds of prayer (petition, intercession and so on) to classical models of prayer (Ignatian, Lectio Divina, and the Jesus Prayer), to helpful practices like retreats and journalling.
Part Two speaks of the challenge of praying "in the midst of life" -- finding God in the ordinary, prayer and parenting, learning simplicity, prayer through desolation, and praying in community. There is a detailed resource list of books both classic and contemporary. This is an excellent exploration of the nature of prayer, both as an introduction for those who are beginning to discover the way of prayer, and a rich resource for those farther along this path. It is clearly written and full of helpful examples and suggestions.
Living With History, by Fredrica Harris Thompsett, is a fascinating book, not of the details of history but of how we interpret and use it, how we remember past events in order to deal with present questions. Thompsett reminds us tradition is not static but dynamic and changing.
She chooses to explore as touchstones 10 achievements in the history of the church, ranging from the development of theological concepts such as covenant and incarnation to structural changes like the full inclusion of laity and of women in the life of the church. She looks at the importance of biography, at the lives of some 20th-century lay people, as a way' of understanding history and exploring our changing understanding of ministry.
She looks at three ways in which Anglicans have handled conflict: compromise (the Elizabethan Settlement), ignoring conflict (the church's role in the U.S. Civil War), and welcoming conflict (the dialogue with the "new science" in the 19th and 20th centuries).
Thompsett speaks of "recycling" tradition -- how can lessons of history help us to deal with today's new issues? -- and uses such diverse examples as the Bible, Richard Hooker, and the Caroline Divines to provide useful insights on today's ecological questions.
She concludes with seven helpful guidelines for discussing controversial matters, seeing Anglicanism as "a dialogue that searches faithfully for comprehensive understanding."
I think this is an excellent book -- clear, easy to read, thoughtful, suggesting ways in which history might help us to live responsibly now and in the future.
Early Christian Traditions. In the first chapter, Rebecca Lyman describes discovering the early church in a college class. "I fell in love with its questions, heroism, and passion for God," she says.
This book is a clear exploration of the people and ideas of the time, the heresies and doctrines. It shows how the traditions of the church developed from the simple proclamation of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection to the complex understanding of the nature of God the Trinity that we find in the historic creeds.
The introductory chapter shows how the tradition fits into the development of Anglican theology. As we struggle today to define Anglican identity in a time of theological diversity, Lyman reminds us that diversity was part of the apostolic church, and shows how the tradition of the church can be a model for unity in diversity. …