WHAT is a book of sermons for? What is the “market”? As an assistant curate, I was taught that one of the best ways of learning how to preach was to read the sermons of other people: the composer finds his or her own music by singing and dancing to the tunes that others have composed before. So, off I went, duly buying all that I could devour.
But can books of sermons be of a wider interest? This current volume would seem to show that they can be.
Alan Wilkinson has enjoyed a long ministry, much of it teaching in academic institutions and latterly as Diocesan Theologian for Portsmouth. This book is a collection of 50 of his addresses and meditations given during the course of his time at Portsmouth Cathedral. Just over half of them are concerned with various parts of the Christian year: what are the liturgical seasons and major feasts for? What can they teach us? The rest of the reflections cover a diverse range of subjects, such as Remembrance Day, marriage, prayer, ordination, problems with faith, and so on.
I was struck as I read this book from cover to cover (not normally the best way to read this kind of thing) that I was being given a very good grounding in Christian faith and practice. I suspect that this volume would make a good gift for a newly confirmed person who wants to dig deeper.
Wilkinson dedicates his book “In gratitude for the Church of England Catholic, Reformed, Liberal.” I applaud him for so doing. The last three words of that dedication have, in their different ways, been de-formed and almost wilfully misused in recent times. I hope that books such as this one will go some way to reanimating a “style” of Christianity which some of us still cherish.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
Reflections for the Unfolding Year
Lutterworth Press £15