KEVIN CAREY is a Reader in his parish church. It was not ever thus: Carey’s experiences as a Roman Catholic before becoming an Anglican have obviously left their mark, especially the importance of those great disrupters of secular time, the liturgies of Holy Week.
Reintroduced into the worshipping life of the Church of England only relatively recently, these have added colour and drama to what could so easily be wordy and didactic. Holy Week is not there primarily to inform and to teach us, but, rather, to involve and to change us. Words have their place, of course, but the trick is to speak without being overly distant or overly emotive.
This book is a very rich and intelligent series of reflections and meditations that come from a sense of dissatisfaction with the kind of Christianity which just settles for what it can get from (Easter) Sunday morning. Carey has especially come to regret the neglect, as he sees it, of Good Friday; and this book is the fruit of years of Good Friday addresses and reflections.
Some of these are quite traditional, such as a series of reflections on the seven last words of Christ on the Cross, or a set of addresses for the different days of Holy Week. There are imaginative exercises that try to put the reader into the mind or the thinking of an incidental character of one of the Passion narratives, for instance, or a kind of Ignatian “placing” of oneself in the story. One of the chapters takes the instruments of the Passion (nails, lance, and so on) as a springboard for reflections on the nature of violence.
The book ends with four almost contemporary examples of the re-narration of Good Friday in our world today. That this chapter will probably date quite quickly should not deter the reader from buying this very fine volume of meditations for Holy Week. There is plenty of material here for the hard-pressed preacher and pastor to ponder, and lots of meat on the bone for anyone else.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
Cross Purposes: Reflections for Good Friday
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70