Books for Today: March 2021

Miles to go before I sleep: Letters on hope, death and learning to live (Hodder & Stoughton, London 2021. 277pp: £16.99 hardback) by Claire Gilbert, who at the age of 54 was diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood, begins with the blad statement: “I write, because I am going to die”. The book consists of 44 letters written at five stages: diagnosis; then first, second and third part of the treatment; maintenance chemotherapy and Covid-19. Unflinchingly honest and wide-ranging, Claire explores how faith provides for her a place of meaning. Those who are treading a similar path will find her account uplifting.

Silent Cries: Experiencing God’s love after losing a baby (IVP, London 2021. 163pp: £9.99) by Jonny & Joanna Ivey is a brave book as it lifts the lid on their heartbreak of losing baby Edith. There is no happy ending to their story. However, as they say in the concluding epilogue: “Because our hope is in Jesus and the new world he has promised us, we don’t need to hide behind pretences of victory or be embarrassed that we don’t have any silver-bullet coping strategies. What we do have we have held out to you: we have Jesus.” Many other couples who have lost a baby will be grateful for the Iveys telling their story.

Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter (Hodder & Stoughton, London 2021. 243pp: £16.99) by American preacher Timothy Keller addresses the issues such as death, pandemics, injustice and social breakdown in the confidence that Jesus is hope: “When this assurance abides in us, our immediate fate – how the current situation turns out – can no longer trouble us”. This thought-provoking and culturally relevant book will be a boon for preachers preparing for yet another Easter Sunday!

Master or Slaves: AI and the future of humanity (IVP, London 2021. 237pp: £14.99) by Jeremy Peckham, an American scientists and entrepreneur who has spent 25 years in Artificial Intelligence, is a superb guide to the ethical dilemmas posed by A1. I found of great value his ‘Christian manifesto for A!: managing the key impact areas on humanity’. To whet your appetite let me select a few sentences from the manifesto: “1. Cognitive skills: humans should always make the final decisions. 2. Human relationships: people should always know they are interacting with such an artefact; 3. Moral agency: humanity should not give up moral agency to an artefact such as an autonomous weapon or a self-drive car. 4. Work: automation of tasks that replace humans should be contemplated only where alternative work can be provided for those replaced. 5. Reality: systems should be designed to ensure users are aware of the difference between the virtual and the real; 6. Privacy and freedom: every citizens privacy should be respected; 7. Idolatry: seeking to augment the human soul or to create superintelligence is to seek to become God.”


A warm welcome to Messy Vintage: 52 sessions to share Christ-centred fun and fellowship with the older generation (BRF, Abingdon 2021. 137pp: £8.99) by Katie Norman & Jill Phipps. This will meet a real need – although as I know from my mother’s experience there is also a real need for older mature Christians to go ‘deeper’.

The Easter Story for families to share: readings, questions, activities and prayers (BRF, Abingdon 2021. 31pp: £2.50) by Martin Payne is a superb resource. If I were still a minister of a local church, I would ensure that every family in my church received a copy!

Resources from Grove of Cambridge, all 28pp and cost £3.95, include Thriving in Curacy: Overcoming problems in the placement and training of curates (Leadership 42, 2021) by Jon J. Marlow, addresses the problem of dissatisfaction with their training placement by over one third of curates – the recommendations could be easily adapted to other church settings. Embraced and Included: A disability-sensitive perspective on Christian healing (Pastoral 164, 2021) by Frances Mackenney-Jeffs, who has a son suffering from ME, proved to be a most helpful read – let me highlight two sentences: (1) “The egalitarian community of love and acceptance of those often found on the margins of society is the ultimate healing, which resides at the heart of the Christian faith”; (2) “Invite people to receive a blessing from God – then…. God can bless the person in whatever way he thinks best”. Enacting Your Story of Faith: Becoming storytellers of the Divine at work (Youth 61, 2021) by Ollie Ward is about how we communicate the Good News to a world where God and faith are largely absent from people’s worldview -this is a booklet which not just youth leaders but every minister should read.

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