Book of the Month: February 2013

abiding-the-archbishop-of-canterburys-lent-book-2013Abiding: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2013 by Ben Quash (Bloomsbury)

This year’s Lent Book displays several aspects of the virtue of ‘abiding’ as a model for Christian living today. Not a conservative desire for sameness or a stubborn perseverance at all costs, this is a continuing “presence-with” that can serve a pluralistic and fast-paced world. Ben Quash draws inspiration from the scriptures as well as an imaginative range of historical and fictional figures to illustrate different forms of abiding: from Macrina the sister of Gregory of Nyssa to Monty Python’s ‘brave Sir Robin’. Quash is Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King’s College London. This expertise is deployed alongside stories of ordained ministry and personal experience, to form the strands of a lyrical, measured, and occasionally poignant set of reflections.  

The first two chapters, ‘Abiding in Body’ and ‘Abiding in Mind’, demonstrate early on a commitment to parish-based ministry and a contemplative liturgical spirituality. These arguments are not dominant however, and these chapters will be constructive for those from various churchmanship backgrounds. Chapters two and three contain fascinating insights from Quash’s involvement with the interfaith practice of scriptural reasoning. Perhaps one of the most poignant sections is in ‘Abiding In Relationships’, which touches on the continuing value of abiding in the wake of relationship breakdown. ‘Abiding in Exile’ and ‘Wounds that Abide’ argue for abiding as part of the life of faith in a suffering world. Particularly touching is the illustration of the ‘abiding’ nature of peace in the final chapter, through an unlikely association between The Dude of The Big Lebowski, hobbits, and Christ asleep in the storm.  

The coda to each chapter provides a focus for meditation based upon one of the scripture readings for the week. These sections would benefit from some development if used for group work, with more questions and topics for discussion. They do however succeed in rounding off each chapter with pertinent observations that link it to the practice of daily Christian living. Overall, this reads as a book that draws upon all the resources of a varied and vibrant career, tied together through deep theological reflection, and made accessible through the figures of popular culture and the arts. 

Reviewed by Beth Dodd, STETS Academic Tutor and BA Programme Leader.

Published by Bloomsbury, ‘Abiding’ is normally priced at £10.00.  Mention Sarum College Website to order a copy at the special price of £9.00 and POST FREE from Sarum College Bookshop until February 28th 2012. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Sarum College Bookshop’.

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