Mission and Spirituality

This excellent resource book is a collection of papers that look at contemporary spirituality, the church and mission. The opening chapter by David Hay gives a fascinating insight into the spirituality of British people today. He recognises that many non-churchgoers confess statements of belief which are similar to those of churchgoers and yet they do not find it necessary, or even desirable, to come to church. Belief in a Trinitarian God, however, is displaced by belief in a ‘generic’ God. Criticism of religious institutions is the ‘default mode’ for many in society and there is sometimes a false assumption by Christians that, if people stop going to church, they have lost their faith.

In his paper entitled ‘Mission and the Spirit’, Robert Kaggwa, a Uganda Roman Catholic theologian, offers some interesting insights into the way that old certainties have now gone and how the influence of the ‘great’ figures in theology has waned with the advent of new issues about which they had nothing to say.

Brian Stanley’s paper on William Carey gives valuable insights into his spirituality and the tension between activism and a more reflective, monastic life. However he recognises that “all human means used in mission will be ineffectual without the ‘fervent and united prayer’ of the people of God”.

It was good to read Pete Ward’s contribution on Liquid Church, no doubt distilled from his book of the same name. Ward recognises that church should go beyond the building-centred congregational model to link into the networks of people in society and to acknowledge that we live in the age of ‘consumerism’. I don’t agree with some of his conclusions but he provokes a stimulating debate.

With further contributors from East Africa and Latin America and reflections on Celtic Spirituality, this book gives some fascinating insights into how the church globally is facing up to the changes in society and, in many places, making significant inroads.