Does My Soul Look Big in This?
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT926 )
THIS latest book by the Radio 4 Thought for the Day
contributor and priest Rosemary Lain-Priestley sets out to explore
some big questions: does my life have a point? Am I happy enough?
Will I ever be in with the in crowd? Where on earth is home?
Her premise is the importance of nurturing the soul, which she
defines as "the sum total of our attitudes, expectations and
longings . . . our life-force." The demands of modern 24/7 culture
mean that many people neglect to care for the soul, and it may only
be at a time of crisis (bereavement, relationship or health
breakdown, general mid-life angst) that they are forced to realise
how fragile their soul or life-force has become.
Drawing on insights from poets, novelists, social commentators,
and other faiths, as well as from Christianity, the book has a
highly accessible, conversational tone. Many of the issues raised
by Lain-Priestley regularly make whole volumes in themselves -
depression, finding life's purpose, the meaning of home.
In her introduction, however, she is clear that her aim is to
offer a starting-point for the spiritual quest, and to encourage
the search for connection with God rather than force the pace
towards any kind of dogmatic conclusion. As such, the book provides
an excellent taster for those who would be unfamiliar with, or
unattracted by terms such as "spiritual formation": seekers,
agnostics, disillusioned believers.
She is upfront about the extent to which she draws on her own
experiences, and some readers may wish for more reference points
beyond London. That said, her friendly authorial voice, honesty,
and moments of vulnerability are engaging, so that you may well end
up (as I did) wanting to hear more of her personal story, as well
as wanting to engage with her reflections on the issue in hand.
A few quibbles: sub-headings would have been useful, so that
readers could skim back through the text to retrace a train of
thought. Some questions for reflection and discussion linked to
each chapter would help to commend the book for group use. A list
of sources and a bibliography are included, but I would have liked
some suggestions for further reading, although authors such as
Paula Gooder, Lucy Winkett, Mark Oakley, and Richard Rohr are
mentioned and quoted along the way.
I have to say, too, that I was not keen on the book's title, as
it strikes a note of flippancy which does not do justice to the
quality and tone of the book.
Naomi Starkey is a Commissioning Editor for BRF and is
training for ordination in the Church in Wales.
Unmasking God: Revealing God in the
ordinary by Daniel O'Leary is aimed at helping
readers to discover that God's power and presence is already within
us, not distant but ever-present. The book comes with a CD on which
the author and Maura O'Leary read stories, memories, and
reflections (Columba Press, £10.99 (£9.10);