Monday, June 18, 2012

Dinner with a Glittering Couple

Our friends CB and RB had supper with us yesterday evening. They had come down from Memorial PC, where RB is pastor, for our dismissal service.  RB delivered the sermon at that service.  (We are blessed to have Memorial as our sister church in ECO.) After the service, they came by our house, Carol fixed a wonderful meal (and they didn't mind it was vegan) and we talked and talked.

CB, RB's wife, is an associate regional director for IV in the graduate area.  She puts me to shame as a reader.  She told us about some really wonderful books, and then followed up with an email so we wouldn't lose the titles (I was taking notes madly as she spoke, but this is much better).  Here is her email in pertinent part:

Transforming Conversion by Gordon T. Smith  (all his stuff is great, this one is stellar!)  --Baker

Missional Spirituality
by Roger Helland and Leonaqrd Hjalmarson--IVP
(this one is part of my class reading as is Right Here Right Now by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford--Baker).

The teacher of this course, Adele Calhoun, has also listed her own book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook--IVP   This book has been lying around my house and folks have even referenced it, but I did not open it until I had to and then, low and behold, I discovered treasure inside!  She has done a great job of gathering lists of spiritual disciplines and practices, giving them a biblical basis, explaining them, categorizing them, it is really well done. The title and the cover of this book are so boring that it is easy to miss what a sweet catalog this is!  Her writing is very good, too.!  This makes me eager to take her course! She is teaching with her husband, Doug. I guess both of them are spiritual director types!  But they really want to connect it with the missional side of things. I will send you the whole syllabus, just in case it interests you.

Then, we talked about Susan Howatch.  Her first set of books is called the Starbridge series
The first three books of the series (
Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes) begin in the 1930s, and continue through World War II. The second three (Scandalous Risks, Mystical Paths, Absolute Truths) take place in the 1960s. 

Glittering Images is narrated by the Reverend Dr. Charles Ashworth, a Cambridge academic who undergoes something of a spiritual and nervous breakdown after being sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to secretly investigate possible sexual transgressions in the household of the Bishop of Starbridge. Ashworth is helped to recover, and to realize the source of his problems, by Father Jonathan Darrow, the widowed abbot of Grantchester Abbey of the Fordite Monks.

Glamorous Powers follows the story of Jonathan Darrow himself as he leaves the Fordite Order at age sixty following a powerful vision. He then must deal with his adult children's problems, address the question of a new intimate relationship, and search for a new ministry. His particular crisis surrounds the use and misuse of his charismatic powers of healing, and his unsettling mystical visions, or "showings".

Ultimate Prizes takes place during World War II. It is narrated by Neville Aysgarth, a young and ambitious Archdeacon of Starbridge from a working class background in the north of England. After being widowed and remarried, he too undergoes something of a breakdown but is rescued by Jonathan Darrow.

Scandalous Risks follows Aysgarth to a Canonry of Westminster Abbey and back to Starbridge, where he becomes Dean of the Cathedral and Ashworth becomes Bishop. It is narrated by Venetia Flaxton, a young aristocrat who risks great scandal by beginning a relationship with the married Aysgarth, her father's best friend.

Mystical Paths follows Nicholas Darrow, son of Jonathan, as he narrowly avoids going off the rails prior to his ordination while investigating the mysterious disappearance of Christian Aysgarth, eldest son of Dean Aysgarth.

Absolute Truths comes full circle and is narrated by a much more elderly but still troubled Charles Ashworth, thirty one years after we first encounter him in the first of the books.


The St. Benet's Trilogy

The St. Benet's trilogy takes place in the London of the 1980s and 1990s. Again, it illustrates the changes which took place in the Anglican Church in those years and brings back many of the characters in the Starbridge series. However, while the Church is still at the heart of the books, there is an increased emphasis on characters who are not members of the clergy. Like the six preceding books, each in the trilogy is written in the first person by a different narrator.

A Question of Integrity (given the title The Wonder Worker in the United States), picks up the story of Nicholas Darrow fifteen years after the last of the Starbridge novels. Nick is now rector of a church in the City of London, where he runs a center for the ministry of healing. His own life is greatly affected by events taking place at the center, especially after he meets Alice Fletcher, an insecure new worker there, and is forced to reassess his beliefs and commitments as a result.

The High Flyer narrates the story of a female City lawyer, Carter Graham, who "has it all". Her outwardly successful life, complete with highly compensated career and suitable marriage, undergoes profound changes after harrowing events smacking of the occult begin to occur, which reveal that things are not what they seem.

Finally, The Heartbreaker follows the life of Gavin Blake, a charismatic male prostitute specializing in powerful, influential male clients, who finds himself at the center of a criminal empire and must fight to save his life. Meanwhile, both Graham and Darrow must deal with their own weaknesses in trying to help Gavin.

Have fun with this!  The last one deals with homosexuality.  She is not the greatest writer in the world, but she does have some insights and I have appreciated her. She may not be your cup of tea, but you can check it out and see what you think.  If you look her up on Wikipedia or something, she has quite an interesting life and used her money in some good directions.

Thanks for the Raymond Brown books, by the way!  I shall enjoy diving in!

I will send I Once Was Lost[: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus, by Don Everts] this week.

During the visit, CB also mentioned The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch, The Permanent Revolution Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church.

In addition, from my mad jottings, I also see that CB recommended Lisa Genova's Left Neglected
and Still Alice.

Finally, she gave us a book, Mark Labberton's The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice.


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