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Borderlands: Navigating the adventure of spiritual growth, by Mark Brickman

18 April 2019

Naomi Starkey finds a guide better on Easter than on Pentecost

THE 50 days between Easter and Pentecost can be overlooked by clergy and congregations alike, after the build-up of Lent and Holy Week and the drama and glory of the Triduum. Mark Brickman’s book uses the relevant Gospel narratives from those days to examine the journey to spiritual maturity, which leads through the challenging “borderlands” of the title.

Writing from within the Evangelical Charismatic tradition, the author employs a wide range of references, citing John O’Donohue and Roland Rolheiser, as well as A. W. Tozer and Smith Wigglesworth, demonstrating the importance of mystery, liminality, and silence on the path to personal transformation. Wilderness times are not to be feared and hurried through, but taken as opportunities to admit our wounds, learn vulnerability, and open ourselves to God’s working, here and now: “Calling may be received in acutest poverty of spirit.”

Revealing something of his own route to ordained ministry after a 20-year career in the theatre, he speaks of complexity, disorientation, and “dying to self” as hallmarks of the process, conceding that Ignatian spirituality can be a more helpful guide than an approach characterised by traditional Evangelical certainty. Indicative of the book’s satisfyingly rich texture is his comment that Jesus’s resurrection appearances would be better filmed by “an Andrei Tarkovsky, with his cinematic metaphysics, rather than a Steven Spielberg, with his comforting narrative robustness”.

The chapters on Pentecost felt more restricted in referential scope. There is a reminder to avoid fixating on ecstatic spiritual experiences and, instead, allow them to inform theology, ministry, and witness. At the same time, there is much focus on “revival”, not so much as a boost to the Church’s life and mission as the one-size-fits-all solution to current deficits. I missed corresponding exploration of how the Spirit can be at work in less spectacular but perhaps more enduringly fruitful ways.

The Revd Naomi Starkey is Associate Vicar in the Bro Dwynwen Ministry Area on Anglesey.


Borderlands: Navigating the adventure of spiritual growth
Mark Brickman
IVP £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

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