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Helpful practices

01 November 2013

Don't wait for a crisis, says Jennie Hogan


Running Over Rocks: Spiritual practices to transform tough times
Ian Adams
Canterbury Press £14.99                                                                                 (978-1-84825-168-7)   
Church Times Bookshop £13.50 (Use code CT273)

IT IS remarkably difficult to find books to suggest to intelligent people who are not at all versed in the Christian faith, and yet nevertheless are keen to reflect more carefully about their lives. Running Over Rocks is different. It is about Christ, but its genius is its subtle invitation to become more aware about life, which is most fully ex- perienced with him.

Ian Adams, an Anglican priest, has constructed 52 "practices", each containing a poem written by the author, a short Bible passage, a reflection, and a practical challenge. Adams explains in the introduction: "Every practice is a movement away from the many destructive and despairing ways of being with which we can find ourselves colluding, and a movement towards the more creative and hopeful ways that are already present within us."

Practice 5 explores the goodness of the garden; it opens with a poem about Eden (with a thoughtful footnote explaining what Eden is), and reflects on the mystery of abundant growth and the teaching of Jesus on scattering seeds. The challenge presented here is to go out and garden Eden: plant seeds, observe growth, and let it change you. It is deceptively simple.

Another practice invites readers to "greet your passing" and imagine your own dead body, as the Desert Fathers did. "Taste Paradise" expands the mystery of the eucharist - with innovative and tantalising didacticism - and extols the hospitality of the Church. He also graciously apologises to those who may not have been received so warmly.

Adams betrays an infectious enthusiasm for new awakenings. References to experimental movements such as Forest Christ: mysticchrist.co.uk/forest_church, and maybe.org.uk, add depth and help to connect his writing to the wider life of the Church. In Practice 29, "Choose your Icons (become what you see)", Adams writes about the history and use of icons, inviting us to create our own icons, and think more carefully about what is on our screensavers or mobile phones. Melding the ancient and the up-to-date never feels forced or incongruous at all.

It is unfortunate that the book's subtitle is so negative: surely Adams is encouraging the transfiguration of the everyday, not only times of crisis. I will certainly recommend this to students, but it is too good to be saved for the exam period.

The Revd Jennie Hogan is Chaplain to Goodenough College and Associate Priest of St Giles's, Cripplegate, in London.

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