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Love that hangs on

08 November 2011


Living without Enemies: Being present in the midst of violence
Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen

IVP Books £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

THIS book is one of a series that brings together theologians and prac­titioners to explore the topic of reconciliation. This is lived experience informing theological reflection.

First and foremost, it tells the story of Marcia Owen, who was motivated by her Christian faith to work alongside marginalised black people in Durham, North Carolina, as they struggled with the harsh reality of gun violence in their com­munity. This was a personal journey that led her from being an activist to understanding what the incarna­tion really means: God’s being with the people, challenging her to do the same. For Marcia, this meant organ­is­ing vigils for victims of gun crime, and setting up faith-partnership teams for people leaving prison.

Importantly, this book identifies the four ways in which people attempt to engage with social issues, and plots the manner in which Marcia discovered their limitations. It is, therefore, an important aid for all Churches wishing to work along­side marginalised groups of any kind. There is real theological weight in this book, and yet it is an accessible, pleasurable, and easy read. The theo­logical conclusions are backed up by scriptural references, and rooted in rigorous scrutiny of both argument and self-perception.

It does not seek to suggest solu­tions to the difficulty of social dep­rivation and exclusion; it does some­­thing far more powerful than this; it shows us how to be trans­formed by engagement with people who are dif­ferent from us. The final section is a study aid that could be put to good use in all environments, because this is not only a theology for the city: it is a theology for people everywhere.

This book is counter-cultural, and therein lies its power. It gives us permission to break the rules, to take risks, and to love outrageously, and has Jesus’s own ministry as its template: “That’s what the cross is: a love that hangs on.” At a time of social fraction and unrest, this is a timely help to Churches in the UK in understanding the vital part that they can play in places of depriva­tion, violence, and injustice.

Eva McIntyre, Vicar of All Saints’, Wilden, and St Michael and All Angels, Stourport on Severn

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