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Andrew Walker, Notes From A Wayward Son: A Miscellany, ed. by Andrew D. Kinsey (Cascade, 2015), 322pp. no price marked. ISBN 978 – 1– 62564 – 161 – 8.

 

This is an intriguing, stimulating and rewarding book that offers a space within which Andrew Walkers rather original and distinctive voice can be heard. Some will know Walker through his groundbreaking study of the 1970s and 80s house church movement Restoring the Kingdom (Guildford Eagle, 1998). Others will have been influenced by him through his teaching and oversight of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King’s College London.

For over 45 years, Walker has witnessed the church change, die, move and grow – and the central question for him (and for us) is this ‘what kind of church will survive and flourish in the twenty-first century?’ For Walker only a ‘deep church’ will suffice and one that is attuned to the impact of modernity and therefore appropriately and suitably able to resist it. You will find in these chapters astute observation and intelligent interpretation of both church and culture. These gifts and skills are very often absent in contemporary ecclesiological strategy.

The book is divided into five probing and chapters. Part I: “Journey into the Spirit: Pentecostalism, Charismatic, and Restorationist Christianity” offers history and sociology in an analysis of self-styled renewal Christianity. The piercing questions about such approaches to the gospel provide the reader and reviewer with endless opportunity for marking the text. Walker speaks as an insider and an outsider within such the particular Christian tribe.

Part II: “Mere Christianity and the Search for Orthodoxy” offers pieces on C.S. Lewis, potential affinities between Lewis and Orthodoxy. The pieces on Lewis are especially good and offer shape to the ambition and shape of what a deep church might be.

Part III: “Orthodox Perspectives”, takes us inside Walker’s own denomination and as an orthodox Walker argues for the prophetic contribution Orthodoxy can give to our culture. The highlight of this part is the interview with Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.

Part IV: “Ecumenical Thoughts on Church and Culture” includes an interview with Bishop Leslie Newbigin. Walker is unafraid to distinguish between good and bad religion and points out the distortions of a faddish, privatised, pop church that simply distorts both religion and Christianity. Trendy and attractive but in the end failing to nurture a deep wisdom.

Part V: “Shorter Pieces” offers a number of articles that continue to demonstrate the thinness of much modern Christianity. Here we have a lifetime of study, prayer, theological adventure that shape Walker’s questions about has so much of modern religion masks the face of God.

Do not be deceived by this book – it is as radical and searching a narrative as my desk has seen for some time. It will demand a disciplined to pay attention and listen to its voices. We need more wayward sons and daughters to offer to both church and world a maturity of presence and engagement that can deconstruct our fetishisms and build a deeper well from which our thirst for the mystery and knowledge of God can be quenched.

 

James Woodward

Sarum College

 

REMEMBERING JIM BIRREN

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One of the towering figures in gerontology has died : James E. Birren, founding

Director of the Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California,

died at the age of 97.  His achievements were extraordinary   Foremost among these,

is creation of the Andrus Gerontology Center at USC, as well as the Leonard Davis

School of Gerontology.  His books and other publications are extensive, and many

distinguished gerontologists have been  nurtured by Jim Birren.  To get just a glimpse of

these, visit:

http://gero.usc.edu/2016/01/15/remembering-james-e-birren/

 

Jim Birren, then in his late sixties, was only getting started. His 30-year

retirement would witness pioneering work in areas far removed from the behavioral

psychology in which he began his own academic work in the 1940s.  Like a small

number of distinguished psychologists (e.g., Jerome Bruner and Leon Festinger),

Birren would “go boldly where no one has gone before” toward the in-depth

exploration of wisdom, autobiography, and the search for meaning.  His generativity

didn’t stop with his retirement nor will it stop now that he has left our world.  Instead,

we are all inheritors of the vision of “positive aging” that he has left behind.

This is the book that has been hugely influential in my own thinking about old age

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For more on guided autobiography, visit:

http://www.guidedautobiography.com/

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the look

 

“The World is not something to
look at, it is something to be in.”
Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking’s a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
That’s
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
looking,
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

 

Denise Levertov, Looking, Walking, Being

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“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were

interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more

intense as I age…

 

We who are old know that age is more than a disability. It is an intense

and varied experience, almost beyond our capacity at times, but something

to be carried high.”

 

-Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days

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Affinity

Consider this man in the field beneath,
Gaitered with mud, lost in his own breath,
Without joy, without sorrow,
Without children, without wife,
Stumbling insensitively from furrow to furrow,
A vague somnambulist; but hold your tears,
For his name also is written in the Book of Life.

Ransack your brainbox, pull out the drawers
That rot in your heart’s dust, and what have you to give
To enrich his spirit or the way he lives?
From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
Is there anything to show that your essential need
Is less than his, who has the world for church,
And stands bare-headed in the woods’ wide porch
Morning and evening to hear God’s choir
Scatter their praises? Don’t be taken in
By stinking garments or an aimless grin;
He also is human, and the same small star,
That lights you homeward, has inflamed his mind
With the old hunger, born of his kind.

R. S. Thomas

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We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

 

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

 

We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.

                Maya Angelou, Touched by an angel

 

I started my blogging life in 2008 partly as a way of capturing my experience of a sabbatical in America. In the spring of that year I spent a month in Washington DC followed by three months in Chicago. It was a rejuvenating and very significant time. I managed to get over to Washington for the annual American Society of Ageing conference and here is my blog from that day.

I kept the rather incidental comments about  the conference and meeting up  with an old friend as a way into  the profound effect that  this extraordinary woman had  on  me and hundreds of other people  gathered in that enormous ballroom.  What a legacy she has left ..

Picture the scene. 3,600 delegates crammed into the Ball Room of a Washington Hotel listening to a choir of ‘seniors’ as they call them over here. I am feeling the after effects of too little sleep and some jet lag having just flown from London yesterday. It is the Aging in America conference and the start of a sabbatical. I’m findng hard to unwind from work and home but the conference programme is 269 pages long and only covers four days!

I have already been taken on a journey through the demographic time bomb of China by a group of academics and bump into an old friend from Princeton Theological Seminary. We met eight or nine years ago and she still remembers Temple Balsall and the lunch I cooked all that time age ago. Abigal Evans is Professor of Practical Theology and we share an interest in health, ethics and death! Despite the queue lunch was good! I firmly resisted chips!

The first day ended with the most extraordinary reflection from Maya Angelou – she sat in a chair – and without a note talked about her life and especially the meanings and humour of ageing. Moving – tender – rich – honest – wise and deeply spiritual. Her love has been carved out of the rock of pain, rejection and deep oppression. She showed 3 600 people how to laugh at themselves and how important was the work of presence with older people. She reminded us of how badly we can treat older people but above all of the power and virtue of courage.

We listened to her poetry and she asked us to change the world through our influence. Her smile and eyes will remain in my memory for a very long time.

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