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The Faithful Grandparents: Hope and love through the generations, by Anita Cleverly 

27 September 2019

Dennis Richards reads advice to grandparents from one of them

THIS entertaining and challenging volume is written by a Christian grandparent for other grandparents. Its purpose is clearly defined. It is primarily intended to help grandparents who wish to hand on the baton of faith to a younger generation (Features, 21 June).

The book is unashamedly biblical, and the writer freely acknowledges her Evangelical roots. But do not be misled. Anita Cleverly has lived a rich and interesting life. There is an avowedly ecumenical flavour to her life’s history, and one is left very much with the impression that her story still has chapters to be written.

Of her 35 years in church ministry, in various guises, ten of them were spent in inner-city Paris, and it shows. She has clearly come under the influence of some great Catholic theologians, and speaks warmly of her Jesuit friends in Oxford. As she says, “My own church history has taken me through ‘Label Land’.” She finds herself increasingly exploring the contemplative tradition.

Most important in a volume of this nature, the author is very aware of the speed of change in contemporary culture. The internet has changed everything. Individualism and relativism are today fundamental to the teenagers’ creed. She is well aware that grandparents today may face the prospect of a blended family, or a gay marriage and transgender discussion. She is very sure that “unconditional love” defines what should be “on the tin” for Christian grandparents.

Even the vocabulary has changed, as I know to my cost. Writing this review as a grandfather of six, I find myself being mocked, lost in bewilderment, and, at times, genuinely scared that I’ve totally lost the plot. Pathetically trying to join in a game of football, I am exhorted to “Stop flexing, Grandad!” Far from being worried about my physical welfare, they are actually telling me to stop showing off. Blank incomprehension on my part. Hilarity all round on theirs.

The author’s predicament was even worse. She climbed on the grandchildren’s trampoline. Bad mistake. All of which tells you that there is plenty to make you smile in her account of her own experiences.

Best of all, it is a volume that makes you think. What kind of grandparent am I? Formal? Fun-seeker? Surrogate parent? Reservoir of family wisdom? Distant? It is also reassuring. Some things haven’t changed. The definitions for example. Grandparent: so easy to operate, even a child can do it. Grandparent: breaks most of the rules and loves every second of it. I can live with that. Thanks Anita.

Dennis Richards is a former head of St Aidan’s C of E High School, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The Faithful Grandparents: Hope and love through the generations
Anita Cleverly
BRF £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

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