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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Here I am

Here I Am – Reflections on the Ordained Life by Richard Giles (Canterbury Press £9.99)

This is a little book about ordination that is full of glistening little gems of insight, wisdom and humour.
Richard Giles will be known to many for his books on the shape of liturgical space (Repitching the Tent) and the shape of the liturgy itself (Creating Uncommon Worship). This latest book is itself a different shape – small and hardback and easily fitted into the cassock pocket. However, it is about the shape of the ordained life.

The text is based on words taken from modern ordination liturgies. It feels as though one has been invited to join in a pre-ordination retreat with someone who is at once, wise, witty, clever and holy.

A time may be coming when a new conversation is needed within the churches about the nature of ordination and its place amongst the people of God. If we believe that the People of God are fundamental to God’s mission in the world and that liturgy is itself the Work of the People then we will need priests to minister in changing ways. This book may form part of that conversation. No more will we be able to speak of someone being ordained as “entering the church”. The church and the ministry of the church is something that we all share. Our language and our assumptions are challenged by changing patterns of ministry. Richard Giles would challenge us gently, nudge us and cajole us. He is a visionary trying to communicate a vision of a different kind of church life than that which many of us have known. It is a vision worth trying to catch and his is a voice worth listening to.

A good book for an ordained person to mull over on retreat. Or for a lay person to mull over in order to try to understand why ordained people behave the way they do. Or for anyone considering ordination. Sprinkled with gold dust. Highly recommended.

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