AS SOON as the first lockdown started, I was dreading the moment when the usual suspects would go into print with an attempt at a “theology of Covid”. It is a widespread malaise of much (Western) theological reflection that it tries to make sense of everything, and there are times when all one can do is embrace the untidiness and try to live creatively in it.
And then along came Rowan Williams. Last September, the former Archbishop of Canterbury stepped down from his position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. During that time, he assisted at St Clement’s Church. At the beginning of lockdown last March, the church seems to have set up a very organised online presence. Williams was invited to be part of it.
Candles in the Dark is the result. Each week from April to September 2020, the author was invited to contribute a short reflection, and this book collects them together. Each section is dated, and picks up on something in the news, or a liturgical feast, or a shared piece of experience, as a basis for some thoughts about how we might both cope in the present and imagine the future. As with all of Williams’s writing, there is a richness to the text which withstands repeated reading.
It would be easy to see this book as too time-specific and, therefore, out of date already. This would be wrong. For those who indulge in such language, this is “contextual theology” of the very highest quality, namely, the attempt to discern hope and meaning from a particular situation.
For everybody else: just buy this book and read it. You will be enriched.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
Candles in the Dark: Faith, hope and love in a time of pandemic
Church Times Bookshop £9