The Contented Life – Spirituality and the Gift of Years by Robert Atwell

The Scottish Episcopal Church has been well blessed in recent years by a close association with the Faith in Older People Project ( which works to celebrate the lives of older people and develop best practise in understanding and meeting the spiritual needs of older people and their families. It seems, upon reading this book, that such a vision is not exclusively a Scottish thing. Indeed, it is alive and well in other parts of the vineyard and burn particularly brightly in the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, the Bishop of Stockport.

This book stems from an invitation to Bishop Robert (who was formerly a Benedictine monk) to give a lecture to a group of older people in the Diocese of Cheshire. Those to whom he was speaking were unimpressed by the all too real cult of youth which is present in some church circles. They wondered what there was in the experience of growing older that was to be celebrated. Bishop Robert provided some answers and starting places for considering spiritual experiences which might  be particularly relevant to older age.

This is a very attractive book of common sense and profound thinking. It does not patronise. It does not bewilder. Instead it is gentle, readable and wonderful. There are too many books on spiritual themes which seem to suggest that spirituality consists of high mountain peaks of piety and too few which deal in topics like contentment happiness and joy. This particular effort belongs in the latter category and is a delight to read. It contains Jenny Joseph’s poem “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple” which many cite as an example of how they would like to get older. It contains a great deal more besides and is highly recommended for anyone wishing to think about how their own spirituality might be changing with age or indeed how to support with kindness and love the aging of others.

Canterbury Press £9.99

First published in inspires magazine

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  1. Mark Turner says

    This really is a wonderful book full of pearls of wisdom. I have used it with members of my congregation who have found it affirming to read a celebration of growing older. I think it is a brilliant way of helping older people see they still have a great contribution to make to life.

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