Another Story Must Begin: A Lent course based on
Church Times Bookshop £5.40 (Use code
The Long Road to Heaven: A Lent course based on the
film "The Way"
Circle Books £7.99
Church Times Bookshop £7.20 (Use code
Build on the Rock: Faith, doubt - and Jesus
York Courses £3.90 (booklet)
Bookshop £3.50 (Use code CT877 )
(Course pack, including booklet, CD, and transcript, is available
www.yorkcourses.co.uk; phone 01904 466516)
THESE three Lent courses have one great feature in common: the
written word on its own is not enough. Jonathan Meyer expects
participants to familiarise themselves either with the film or the
musical Les Misérables (though they could, if they
preferred, choose to read Victor Hugo's extremely long novel). Even
lyrics of songs from the show are cited as discussion material.
Tim Heaton's course requires participants to watch the film
The Way, which starred Martin Sheen as a bereaved father
who makes the pilgrimage to Compostela de Santiago with an
extemporary group of travellers. None of them initially is
undertaking the Camino for religious reasons, although all are
seeking release from pain, anger, disappointment, or bitterness.
Their journey, movingly depicted in the film, becomes, in the hands
of a skilful devotional writer, a powerful exposition of the
Christian salvation story.
Build on the Rock follows the pattern, familiar by now,
of the highly popular York Courses. The course book, written by the
founder of the Courses, John Young, is supplemented in the weekly
discussion sessions by contributions on CD by the Bishop of London,
Richard Chartres, the former general secretary of the Evangelical
Alliance Joel Edwards, and the New Testament scholar Paula Gooder.
Each session ends with a reflection by the Methodist minister David
Gamble, who formerly chaired Barnardo's.
The three courses are very different in their style, and each
would probably appeal to a different clientele. Les Mis,
as it is known, has been hugely popular both as a musical and as a
film. Another Story Must Begin is built around the
characters, and may well appeal to those who might be hesitant
about joining a traditional Bible-based study. Hugo's novel is
essentially about issues of suffering, repentance, forgiveness, and
grace; so the Christian content, including Bible passages, feels
appropriate and unforced. Meyer devised it for his own parish,
where scenes of the film were shot. It may reach parts of other
congregations, too, which traditional courses fail to attract.
Build on the Rock: Faith, doubt - and Jesus follows a
well-tried formula. It is genuinely ecumenical - the York courses
have often brought people from different denominations together in
Lent groups - and primarily devotional. It reflects on issues of
faith: the life of Jesus, his teaching, death, and resurrection,
and the Christian hope. John Young wears his thoughtful theology
lightly, and the recorded sessions offer an interesting range of
With provocative quotations on every page and plenty of human
interest, this course probes more deeply than its gentle, friendly
style might suggest. It also makes things as simple as possible for
those running it, though experience suggests that organisers ought
to expect the unexpected, especially in home-group discussions.
The Long Road to Heaven is distinctly different in
style and approach from the other two courses, and will probably
appeal to thoughtful participants who are prepared to wrestle with
some fairly challenging material. Heaton writes beautifully -
indeed, chapter four, "A Love Story", could stand alone as a
powerful and moving allegory of salvation.
The book is as effective a treatment of its great themes as I
have read. What are we saved from? What are we saved for? Who can
be saved, and how? Given the right group of people, I would love to
be a fly on the wall as they tackle those disarmingly simple
questions under Heaton's persuasive probing.
The main problem facing those who are planning a church-based
Lent course is getting the right kind of material for the likely
participants, rather like choosing a supermarket for your shopping.
I suggest that Tim Heaton's is Waitrose, Jonathan Meyer's is Tesco,
and the York Course is the Co-operative.
Canon David Winter is a retired cleric in the diocese of
Oxford, anda former Head of Religious Broadcasting at the