*** DEBUG END ***

Rowan Williams in Conversation with Greg Garrett, by Greg Garrett and Rowan Williams

24 July 2020

Paul Edmondson reads two book-lovers who have much in common

TO CONVERSE is to create; to listen is to discover. Greg Garrett began listening to Rowan Williams in 2004, whilst reading his On Christian Theology (2000) at seminary. Garrett is a Professor of English at Baylor University, Texas, and sent Williams the proofs of his spiritual autobiography, Crossing Myself (2006).

Shortly afterwards, they met for the first time. Garrett was invited to Lambeth Palace for tea, and they quickly realised the books and authors they had in common, including the works of Shakespeare, and the novelists Marilynne Robinson and P. D. James. For Williams, their conversations about “the interweaving of faith and imagination” became part of his need to “have people I could talk to who write at an angle to the Day Job”. Their friendship developed.

This is an elegant volume of seven conversations that took place in 2018. They cover a range of subjects including prayer; writing poetry and novels; why Shakespeare matters; the value and the truth of poetry; their religious backgrounds and influences; the instruments of grace; preaching; Jesus as a storyteller; faith and political power; the (inevitable) survival of the Church; where they find hope; the Harry Potter novels (J. K. Rowling told MTV that Matthew 6.21 and 1 Corinthians 15.26 were the “thematic core” of all of them); Doctor Who; and the music group U2 (“I’ve never been in a rock band,” Williams says. “That will surprise our readership.”).

Packed with insights from experience as well as the study, this pastoral book is a delight to read. The immediacy of the conversation genre means that the reader can see the speakers’ minds unfolding, and their thoughts shaping and developing, feels energised by them, and wants to know where they will lead. Books and authorities are mentioned in passing (Garrett helpfully provides references); so a potential reading-list emerges gradually.

Readers can expect to find great encouragement here. Garrett’s and Williams’s good will towards each other resonates warmly, and they share the book equally. Their way of speaking is gracious, wise, and gentle. “We are all looking for Community,” Garrett says, “for something larger than ourselves.” Williams observes in his afterword that “There’s actually very little that we discover as human beings on our own — certainly very little indeed that’s of serious human significance.”

These conversations have already inspired mine, and made me realise afresh that more can always be discovered through talking with friends.


The Revd Dr Paul Edmondson is a Church of England priest and Shakespeare scholar based in Stratford-upon-Avon.


Rowan Williams in Conversation with Greg Garrett 
Greg Garrett and Rowan Williams
SPCK £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)