It was a true delight to meet the inestimable poet, priest, and pastor, Jim Cotter, guest lecturer and worship leader, all the way from Wales. Although deeply rooted in the Anglican tradition and the practice of daily prayer through the prayer book, he is known for his innovative and creative wordsmithing, experimental liturgies, and Biblical re-tellings.
His famous book Psalms for Pilgrim People (Morehouse; $17.95 but now $5.95 sale-priced) has been popular here for years---it re-works the Psalter in creative and intriguing ways, drawing forth contemporary and theological nuance from the classic Hebrew texts. Some like this volume for it's ease of use; just 150 prayer/poem/psalms followed by a line or two refrain. And a great introduction to the project in an opening chapter.
The psalms and prayers in that book have now been incorporated into a major release, a remarkable new hardback prayer book, organized as prayer-books are, full of readings, antiphons, collects, sung responses, and such, useful for private or corporate worship. It is called Out of the Silence...Into the Silence: Prayer's Daily Round (Cairns Press; $32.00; sale priced at $25.)
We are, at this point, one of the very few North American bookstore stocking Out of the Silence... Into the Silence and are newly enthused after hearing him at the ECAP retreat. Regularly $32.00 we have them here, now, on sale, for just $25. Jim was delightful to listen to as he told of his commitment to good book-making, from the quality of the ribbon marker to the two-color pages (appropriate rubrics in red) and a binding that allows it to lay flat open (essential for a useful prayer-book!) The gold impression is nice, and the sturdy cloth cover is top quality. Importantly, the prayers and services are contemporary, classy, yet a bit edgy, poetic and pregnant, energizing and honest. I trust he wouldn't mind me saying that he is open-minded and big-hearted, hoping for church renewal in small ways as folk pray with regular honesty and creativity, in small groups or alone. (He serves a parish on a remote island in the Welsh village of Abadaren.) He isn't fond of rigid dogma and wouldn't be considered a theological conservative, so his words are free to move in ways that are unexpected and exciting. (I am, most BookNotes readers know, a fairly conservative evangelical in my own doctrine, but a huge and important step in my spiritual journey came when a camp friend gave me Malcolm Boyd's Are You Running With Me Jesus? in 1972 or 3. So I'm appreciative of the iconoclasm of liberal Episcopalian poets...) Why not order one of the new Cotter book, Out of the Silence... to give to someone with an eye and ear for open-minded prayers and who might be inspired by a serious alternative prayer book?
We have the collection of re-worked Psalms by Cotter, too, Psalms for Pilgrim People ---while supplies last, at the sale price of $5.95. They are usually $17.95 but are going out of print, so we got them cheap. Let us know if you'd like one or two.
There is another fabulous new book I enthusiastically noted at the event which I highly recommend here as it might be useful for more conventional Episcopalians, or anyone who wants either a solid introduction to the Book of Common Prayer or who may just suspect that these ancient prayers, rhythms and cadences could be formative in helpful and faithful ways. Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer by David A. DeSilva (IVP; $18.00) is a splendid new guidebook to the doctrine of the prayer-book, but, more, an introduction to it's deep themes of spiritual formation. No lesser master of the spiritual life than Richard Foster has called it "Expert guidance and wise counsel." It is commended by respected Biblical scholars like Ben Witherington III and by the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, Frederick Borsch. Even Methodist Bishop Will Willimon has a rave review. "I hope," DeSilva writes early on, "that, as you read and pray through this guide, you will discover afresh the ways in which the rites contained in the Book of Common Prayer facilitate a genuine encounter with God, a transforming experience of grace." He does this by especially focusing on the four sacramental rites of baptism, Eucharist, marriage, and burial. That, friends, is a good step towards what we often refer to as a Christian worldview, or, as Lutheran worship scholar Gordon W. Lathrop calls it, a "liturgical cosmology" in his exceptionally interesting and important text, Holy Ground (Fortress; $29.00.) That is a book I should have highlighted at the clergy retreat--- theological, poetical, liturgical insights for a worshipful worldview. Wow.
Curious about how liturgy and regular rituals are important to us all? Explore Foundations in Ritual Studies: A Reader for Students of Christian Worship edited by Paul Bradshaw & John Melloh (Baker Academic; $22.99.) I promoted this last year at the Episcopalian gig, and it sure would have fit this year, too...from Romano Guardini to Mark Searle to John D. Witvliet, with authors as diverse as cultural anthropology to liturgy.
Curious about other trends in the Church of England, progressive theology coming out of Great Britain? Sharing Jim Cotter's eagerness for innovation and celebration of creation-based common grace, yet perhaps more intentionally post-evangelical (rather than merely
non-evangelical Anglican) the controversial Dave Tomlinson just released Re-Enchanting Christianity: Faith in an Emerging Culture (Canterbury Press; $18.99.) The blurb by Tony Jones puts it well, "Cuts through the pap and pop that has infected the church for decades." Deeply informed by thinkers such as Moltmann and Ricoeur and David Tracey, and citing folks as diverse as Madeline L'Engle and Nick Cave, this is an extraordinary call to new ways. Hmmmm. His book The Post Evangelical was considered by many to be the first salvo in the debates about the emergent movement, so he's an important writer.
Two books showed up the day I got back from the retreat. I would have highlighted 'em both amongst by Episo-pals, so if any are reading, consider these part of my up-front book announcements. I'll plug 'em here, now:
Signs and Seasons: A Guide for Your Christian Journey Graham Kings (Canterbury Press; $22.99.) This is a collection of fresh stories, inviting us to use the image of journey, and openness to the arts, to nurture new ways to pray and live out contemporary, engaged faithfulness. It includes poetry and reflections, helping us be more intentional about the shape of our journey by reminding us of the centrality of the Christian year. He draws upon examples of art installations, poems, innovative worship experiences and, if I may suggest, it all strikes a healthy balance between creativity and playful allusivity (Seerveld's word) and orthodox sanity. I like N.T. Wright's endorsing blurb, "This book will open the mind to fresh truth while opening the imagination to glimpses of glory." Kings is Vicar of St. Mary's Islington, one of London's most vibrant churches, and the founder of Fulcrum, a network committed to renewing the evangelical centre of the Church of England and the world wide Anglican communion. This would be a great refresher for those needing a bit of a blast, although it may be most useful for beginners, those unfamiliar with the church calendar, and how it shapes our unfolding discipleship. Check out the book's website here, watch the author video, and come back here to order.
Another book I wished had arrived in time to share at the retreat may interest some readers here: it is gloriously produced as a simple hardback with a rich paper jacket and glorious Hebrew lettering on each facing page. A Jewish Woman's Prayer Book edited by Aliza Lavie (Spiegel & Grau) is stunning, weighty, imported from Israel. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind collection, it draws from a variety of Jewish traditions, through the ages, to commemorate every occasion and every passage in the cycle of life. Wondrous.
Prayers for a Pilgrim People $5.95
Out of Silence... $25.00