Bread of Angels: Feeding on the Word
Barbara Brown Taylor
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop special price £10.99
Hidden in Christ: Living as God's beloved
James Bryan Smith
Church Times Bookshop £8.10
BOTH these books invite the reader to engage with scripture.
They have short chapters to inform and challenge, and each would
take about a month to read, taking one chapter a day. But the
approach taken to stimulate us is very different in each
James Bryan Smith seeks to explain truths to us. He has learned
by heart Colossians 3.1-17, which, he tells us, changed his life.
In each chapter, he takes a word from this passage and explains it
before giving us something relevant to do ("Living into the
Truth"), something to grasp or remind ourselves of ("Affirmation"),
a "Prayer", and a question to ask ourselves ("Reflection"). There
is a Group Study Guide at the back for studying the themes in five
I found insights worth pondering, such as "Desires are not bad.
It is only when we try to fill a void that desires destroy us." But
I was disheartened by the emphasis on the individual and the
individual's response. Not until chapter 20 ("Beloved") was there a
sense that God might be active in this process; but here, again,
the prayer provided was "Help me to . . ." rather than, perhaps,
"Here I am . . ." or "Show me . . .".
Also, only single examples in the final chapters showed that
living out these truths might not be straightforward; that
questions might not have black-and-white answers; and that other
people might play an important part. I missed a wider context in
Hidden in Christ, which seems aimed for individuals in a
In contrast, Brown Taylor draws examples from the wider world
and from her imagination, connecting these with biblical
scholarship. Each chapter in Bread of Angels is based on
one to three verses of sripture. Taylor then informs and challenges
us through stories, explicitly leaving us to make up our own minds
on interpretation and response.
Some stories, such as "God's Daring Plan", on the angels and
shepherds (Luke 2.8-9), encourage us to look again at familiar
words. Others deal with harder issues, such as wielding power ("The
Trickle-Up Effect"), the cost of discipleship, or "Owning our Own
I welcomed the sense that this was written for "us" and not
solely for "me". In fact, Bread of Angels originated as
sermons when Brown Taylor was a parish minister (and a few have
dated examples as a result). More specifically, there are chapters
on being the Body of Christ ("Deep in Christ's Bones" and "Chickens
and Foxes"): their inclusion encourages me to use Bread of
Angels in a group setting.
For me, the stories made the issues memorable, and the
open-ended approach encouraged me to revisit the texts and their
Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the
Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.