*** DEBUG END ***

For do-able discipleship

02 September 2016

Anne Spalding finds a reflection on being a Christian today helpful

Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian life
Rowan Williams
SPCK £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.09



ROWAN WILLIAMS writes simply but profoundly about some key themes and the lived experience of being disciples now (Features, 19 August). His six chapters take the reader through such subjects as faith, hope, and love; forgiveness, and holiness, before he dedicates a whole chapter to faith and society, and finishes with one on life in the Spirit. At the end of each chapter, there are two questions “For reflec­tion or discussion”: if I was going to quibble, I would say that the ques­tions often do not match the depth of thought I found opened up by the main part of each chapter.

Williams sets the scene by de­­scrib­­ing discipleship as about the way we live, not something we some­times do. I valued his explora­tion of “being” — being aware and atten­tive, being with Jesus, and so on — without opposing it to “do­ing”, and he explicitly connects the two at the end of the chapter.

Subsequent chapters express the practice of being disciples as indiv­id­uals who are also part of the Church. Forgiveness, for example, is clearly not needed for an individual in isolation. In contrast, Williams sees forgiveness as “one of the most radical ways in which we are able to nourish one another’s humanity”. He explores what is happening when we ask for forgiveness, are willing to forgive, and experience being forgiven.

What makes this book stand out for me is the recognition that we are disciples in this society at this time. For example, writing on faith, hope, and love, Williams draws on St John of the Cross, but also takes seriously contemporary questions in our society such as “What is truth?” and “What is it to be British? . . . Chris­tian? . . . Muslim?” In this con­text, Williams helpfully describes ways to nurture the theological virtues.

In a later chapter, he directly asks whether Christians have a public part to play in our society, given this society’s ambivalence over the place of religions. Williams sees that disciples can affirm each person’s value to God and affirm that we are all dependent on one another. He concludes that we disciples have much to contribute through being a conversation partner with a per­spective very different from that generated by corporate self-interest.

I finished the book with slight surprise: being disciples seems do-able, even with the challenges!
I hope this book will be read and shared so that others may be encouraged in being disciples.


Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.