St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Book Club

Book Club - 14th October 2015

We met on the 14th October to discuss “Archbishop” by Michele Guinness. Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2015. The central character is a fictional Vicky Burnham-Woods and the story follows her life from 2020 when she is appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury. Her earlier life was covered from school through to becoming a diocesan bishop by way of flashbacks to significant events but not always in chronological order. This style of writing irritated some of us.

The book touches on a lot of topics, such as; politics, voluntary care of the elderly, dis-establishment of the Church of England, Anglian Communion, anti- proselytising, corruption, friendship and betrayal, and gay marriage. One comment about the book was that it has too many topics; it was almost like a TV soap.

The book did illustrate the hierarchy and corporate nature of the Church of England quite well. Different roles and bodies such as diocesan secretary, cathedral dean, the house of bishops and the general synod played a part in the story although we felt that some of the characters lacked depth and many were there just to make a point. As there was a large cast of characters a list of who’s who in the front of the book would have been helpful.

There were reflective quotes from among others, a German theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, at the start of each chapter. These were quite dense ideas. Other than that, some felt that there was not much about God or faith in the book.

However saying all that I think everyone enjoyed reading this novel. There will be a copy in the library for people to borrow.

The next book club meeting will be on 27th January to discuss “Whose Promised Land?” by Colin Chapman. This book is about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The preface to the book says “The book seeks to address the both the history and the politics and questions of religion -with a special focus on the different ways in which Christians interpret the Bible.”

We are sending a special invitation to this meeting to all those who are going on the pilgrimage to Israel in February, as well as anyone else who would like to come along and discuss this book and surrounding issues. 

Anne Pelham 

Book Club - 16th June 2015

We met on the 16th June to discuss ‘Hilda of Whitby - A spirituality for now’ by Ray Simpson. There was a mixed response to this book. Most found it a difficult book to get into because of the historical content in the first chapter. Hilda lived from around 614 - 680 during the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain. We found the many Anglo-Saxon names very difficult; some of us would have liked more source references for the historical background. It was a book that needed concentration and although a small book it took time to read. However, there were some parts of the book that we found interesting, especially the reflections at the end of each chapter.

Read more: Book Club - 16th June 2015

Book Club/Reading Group for St John's

The book club meets 3 times a year when we will discuss a set book over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

The next book will be “The Weeping Chamber” by Sigmund Brouwer. This is a novel based around the events of Holy Week.  We will be meeting to discuss this, appropriately during Lent, on Tuesday 24th February 2015. The book is out of print but we have at least 2 copies to share between us. It is available online as a download for a kindle. Anyone interested in reading the book and or joining the discussion about the book is very welcome. 

Anne Pelham 01344 774973


Book Club meeting on 11th Nov 2014

We met on the 11th November to discuss “LOVE WINS” by Rob Bell and the book evoked a lively discussion.

Rob Bell he argues that God’s love is for everyone both Christians and non-Christians. He also writes about his concepts of heaven, hell and eternity.

We found the style of the book was very staccato, in that it had short paragraphs with lots of questions posed. Not all the questions were answered. However the book was easy to read, conversational and in parts poetic. We were not always convinced by his arguments and there were no footnotes in the book, so we could not check what he said. The author is a good communicator expressing his views clearly. It was not as academic as a Tom Wright book such as “Surprised by Hope”

Mostly we enjoyed the book; some of us only enjoyed it in parts.  Over all I would say that we felt it was a book worth reading. There is a copy available in the library.

Anne Pelham

Book Club - Book for 10th June

The next book we will be reading is Tom Wright’s book “Simply Christian”. Professor Antony Flew has said of this book: it shows the “relevance of the Bible and Christian story for the contemporary world” and “It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical and very powerful”

We have been invited to hold this meeting at Quench Book Shop. There will be an opportunity to browse the shelves from 7.30 pm prior to starting at 8.00pm.

Please feel free to come along and discuss the book on Tuesday 10th June 2014. Do bring a chair and your purse!

Anne Pelham

Book Club - Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

On the 18th February we got together to discuss the latest book that we had been reading.  Before discussing the book we were very lucky to hear from Irene Simmons whose ancestors knew John Bunyan. She had made up a time-line of John Bunyan's life including the national events of the time with pictures to illustrate and also had a collection of pictures that showed places in Bedfordshire which John Bunyan knew and which may have prompted Bunyan's imagination.

There are two parts to the book. The first part is about Christian and his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City and was published in 1678; the second part, is about the same journey taken by Christiana (Christian’s wife) and her children, and was published in 1684. We all thought that the second part was softer and more tender.

We found the book surprisingly modern and erudite. The number of biblical references was really amazing.  The book was a very worthwhile read and relevant to us some 300 years after it was written. People had different editions of the book, including one on the kindle. Some of these were easier to understand being written in more up to date English.

If you haven’t read it, we would heartily recommend it. There will be a copy in the library.

The next meeting will be on 10th June. The book is yet to be decided.

Anne Pelham

“The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant

On 12 November 2013 we got together to discuss this book that we had been reading which is a novel about Jacob’s daughter Dinah.  The Bible is told from the male point of view but this book takes just a few chapters of Genesis and imagines what life may have been like for the women who lived at that time and in those places.  It goes into a great deal of very intimate detail about the lives of Jacob’s four wives. In parts of the book there are detailed scenes about killings.

Tracy and Ken came up with some very good questions about the book which led to a wide ranging discussion from Jacob and the Book of Genesis, women in the Bible to Liberal and Orthodox Jews today. Some of the group had re read Genesis or the relevant chapters to compare them to this book.

The book really divided the group. Some enjoyed the book and others disliked it intensely.

There will be a copy in the library for those who would like to read the book.

The next book is “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. If you are interested in reading it and /or coming to the meeting on 18 February 2014 we would be happy to see you.

“Father Forgive” by Canon Andrew White

On 27 August 2013 we got together to discuss the most recent book that we had been reading:  “Father Forgive” Canon Andrew White’s new book.

The book has a foreword by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury in which the Archbishop explains that the title “Father, Forgive” refers to the when the then Provost of Coventry Cathedral went into the ruins of the cathedral in November 1940 and wrote on a wall “Father, forgive” this was the start of Coventry’s reconciliation ministry.  The Archbishop goes on in the foreword to say “The book is controversial. There will be things in it that inspire most of us. Equally, some may disagree with something he says”. We certainly found this to be true.

The book starts with a lot about the history of various religions and rifts within the religions and between religions. The history of Christianity and the part of the book about Luther many of us found interesting.  We felt that the next part of the book became just a vehicle for Andrew White’s apparent Christian Zionist views, which surprised many of us.  We disagreed with many things that he said here. We also felt that the book did not reflect the title and that a disproportionate amount of the book was given over to discussing just one of the seven parts of the Litany of Reconciliation.

There will be a copy in the library for those who would like to read the book.

"The Testament of Mary" by Colm Toibin

On 14 May 2013 we got together to discuss the most recent book that we had been reading;

“The Testament of Mary”  by Colm Toibin.  This book is a novel based on Mary, telling her story of the crucifixion. One revue says “this is a short book, but it is as dense as a diamond”.

Most of the group did not like the book.  Some persisted to the end only because they were reading it for the book club.

There were problems with the chronology of the events described. The language throughout the book was modern except when Jesus or Pilot were speaking, then it reverted to the language of the “King James Bible”.  It was felt that there was a lack of God in the book. None of us liked the way Mary was portrayed. Overall it was rather a depressing book, one that we would not recommend.

A note of interest: this book has now been shortlisted for the Mann –Booker prize. Um! We did not have many (any?) positive things to say about it and we gave it a very bad review! What does that say about our literary prowess?