As we enter lent, millions of Christians around the world take time to draw closer to God and reflect in the lead up to Easter. Below is a selection of books that may be of interest to those who wish to take to reading and draw further inspiration into their lives throughout this time.
Rooted in Love
Lent Reflections on life in Christ
Edited and introduced by Sarah Mullaly
Published by SPCK
Rooted in Love brings together 40 passages from the New Testament, drawing on the teachings of Jesus and the advice given to the early church, with personal reflections from the six Area Bishops within the Diocese of London which explore what it means to be the church in this new season. ‘It is when life is most strained that the strength of our faith shines through’, writes Dame Sarah Mullaly, Bishop of London. In the midst of the trauma and challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, she writes that ‘Christians are called to continue living together in the hope of the gospel’ and to ‘seek to serve those in our communities with practical care, wise words and loving dispositions.’ Such challenges raise the question ‘How do we keep going?’ – and also, ‘How do we do more than simply cling on to our faith but grow in it?’ Bishop Sarah points to the letter to the Ephesians as a rich resource for us at this unsettling time, addressed as it is to a community where ‘living out the gospel in a fractured world was hugely challenging.’ Only a deep understanding of what God’s love is really like will help us to continue to trust in God and to persevere in these difficult times – and harnessing wisdom from other Christians can help us to achieve this. Full of Biblical insight and theological wisdom, Rooted in Love contains a Bible passage, reflection, prayer and a suggested action for each of the 40 days of Lent.
About the editor: The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE is the Bishop of London. Before her ordination, she was Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health. She was awarded Honorary Doctorates of Science from Bournemouth University (2004), the University of Wolverhampton (2004) and the University of Hertfordshire (2005) and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2005 for her contribution to nursing and midwifery. Her previous books include A Good Advent (SPCK, 2018).
The contributors are: The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham; the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden; the Rt Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney; the Rt Revd Dr Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington; the Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington; the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton.
A Lent course based on the Elton John movie Rocketman
Published by DLT
Rachel Mann is the first to acknowledge that Rocketman might be seen by some as ‘at best, a surprising and, at worst, an outrageous choice’ as the basis of a Lent course. At a time when many people pledge to give up something or to find ways to go deeper with God, the biopic of a musical sensation who appeared to embrace the temptations of drink, drugs, sex, adulation and a wild lifestyle of excess appears completely at odds with the traditional Lenten message. Yet Rachel believes that ‘God is always waiting to meet us and sometimes this place of encounter lies in the oddest of places’. Ultimately, she believes that Rocketman is a story of redemption and that the film ‘provides an extraordinary leaping off point to explore what redemption, friendship, love, identity and hope mean in a compromised and compromising world’ and ‘has the power to speak into the wider ups and downs and twists and turns of life’. Still Standing is a five-session Lent course, which is suitable for people to follow either by themselves or as part of a socially-distanced group in these lockdown days (ideally linked by a screen to watch the film excerpts and to take part in discussion of the issues raised). Each session contains an introduction, an opening prayer, an icebreaker, film excerpts to watch and discuss, Bible passages to read and explore, ‘going deeper’ and ‘thinking ahead’ sections, and a closing prayer. Themes explored include love and affection, relationship with God, the importance of connection, the power and price of friendship, betrayal and reconciliation, success, fame and wealth, confidence, falls from grace, self examination, responding with grace not judgement, victims and survivors, redemption moments, resurrection stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Revd Rachel Mann is a parish priest, poet, theologian and broadcaster. She has written eleven books, including the bestselling Lent course, From Now On, and the Michael Ramsey shortlisted Fierce Imaginings, both published by DLT. Her work has been called ‘exceptional’ by Rowan Williams, ‘astonishing’ by Michael Symmons Roberts, and ‘lucid and stimulating’ by the TLS. She regularly leads the Daily Service on Radio 4 and contributes to Pause for Thought on Radio 2, and she has appeared as a panellist on The Moral Maze, Beyond Belief and other programmes. More information can be found at www.rachelmann.co.uk.
The Way of Julian of Norwich
A Prayer Journey Through Lent
Published by SPCK
In this book, Sheila Upjohn explores the ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ alongside passages from Scripture. As part of SPCK’s ‘Prayer Journey Through Lent’ series, The Way of Julian of Norwich reveals how Julian’s fresh perspectives on sin and judgement, anger and forgiveness, the Incarnation and the crucifixion can challenge and enlighten us, 600 years later, in a world so badly in need of the assurance of God’s unconditional love. This inspirational book will serve as a guide to Julian of Norwich that will deepen the reader’s prayer life during Lent and throughout the year. Upjohn transports the reader back to the middle ages in this book about ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ and Julian of Norwich to give a deeper understanding of Julian who was so often perceived as an outsider. As a foundation member of ‘Friends of Julian of Norwich’ and having first read ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ almost fifty years ago, Sheila Upjohn has a long and intimate association with Julian of Norwich and so offers a captivating perspective of Julian within The Way of Julian of Norwich.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheila Upjohn, a graduate of London University, was born and grew up in Norwich. After ten years in London working in journalism and advertising, she returned to Norwich for 20 years. She helped organise the celebration of Julian of Norwich’s 600th anniversary in 1973, and for many years was a daily communicant in Julian’s cell. She is a foundation member of the Friends of Julian of Norwich and has been reading Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love ever since she found a £1 copy in an SPCK bookshop nearly half a century ago. Sheila Upjohn has led retreats throughout England, and overseas in Canada, the USA and Australia. Her Australian retreats include the Holy Week at the St Charles Seminary in Perth, Western Australia.
40 Days of Art and Meditation to Empower Your Spirit
Published by Lion Hudson
Divided into 40 distinct sections, Cath describes Pylon People as a ‘creative journaling devotion’ to engage ‘your heart, mind and creativity’. In the book, she reflects how, like electricity pylons, we can be powered by God to reach out to the people around us, standing on earth but reaching up towards heaven. She explores how ‘pylon people’ are Powered People (constantly connected to God as their power source), Praying People (conversing with and listening to God through daily prayer), Perspective People (having a heavenly perspective and an awareness of God’s love and faithfulness, while we are ‘rooted’ on earth) and Present People (exploring our spiritual senses and ‘punctuating our days with Hallelujahs’ as we appreciate God’s world and his goodness through sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, and the gift of song). The book is split into 4 sections which explore each of these areas over the course of 10 days. Each section brings together passages and quotes from the Bible with reflections, poems, illustrations, and invitations to meditate, colour, doodle and respond in other creative ways to the themes being explored. A video of Cath talking about ‘Pylon People’ and the inspiration behind it can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/469688766/7b1f0a4d72.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cath Woolridge lives in Pontypridd with her husband Dai Woolridge and goes to ‘The Lounge church’ in Ponty. She is passionate about Wales, Creativity, Loving people and most of all Jesus. Cath is the Dean at the Bible college of Wales and the creative director of SOW (Sound of Wales) a collective of creatives in the nation who are passionate about using creativity to equip the church and reach neighbourhoods and nations with the good news of Jesus. Find out more at www.pylon-people.com.