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John Stott and The Hookses by David Cranston

23 February 2018

Toby Howarth is carried back to his memories of John Stott’s retreat

David Cranston

John Stott laying the foundations of the garage at the Hookses. From the book

John Stott laying the foundations of the garage at the Hookses. From the book

FOR those who know the Hookses, that hidden, hook-shaped valley cut out of the Pembrokeshire cliffs, the name has an almost mythical quality. It is intimately associated with John Stott, the author, evangelist, and church leader who bought its abandoned cottage and associated outhouses in 1954, restored them, and made them available as a place of writing, retreat, and renewal ever after.

David Cranston, consultant surgeon and long-time friend of both John Stott and Hookses, offers this appropriately reverent coffee-table hardback, full of stories and photographs, many of which are Stott’s own, inviting us to a spirited taste of salt, sea wind, and Anglican Evangelical history.

The text is a collection of articles and essays, including a previously unpublished autobiographical piece (given to the author’s son) about Stott’s love affair with Jesus, The Hookses, and its birds, and a moving description by Chris Wright of the burial of his ashes at the cemetery of St James the Great, Dale, in 2011. The main section is an adroit weaving together by Cranston of anecdotes and descriptions recalling the place, the man, and various people associated with both.

What stands out for me is the interplay, with incarnational echoes of Stott and his Master, between the specific, detailed humility of this remote corner of Pembrokeshire, for many years without electricity or telephone, and its global reach. Stott’s writings, now resourcing Christians the world over, were brought to birth in a tiny, triangular Welsh “hermitage”. Thousands of visitors, some of whom now lead the Church of the Global South, have found inspiration by its gaslight with a gale howling outside.

Still today, sometimes stuck in a grey, urban environment, but catching a glimpse of clouds racing and gulls crying out above, I remember similar days walking with Stott in London, when he would whip round with a twinkle in his eye and whisper: “Let’s go to the Hookses!”

Dr Toby Howarth is the Bishop of Bradford.


John Stott and The Hookses
David Cranston
Words by Design £15

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