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24 September 2021

This week’s selection: Rabbi Lord Sacks’s book on morality now out in paperback, preaching on God in the present times, and prayer resources for individuals and groups

Morality: Restoring the common good in divided times by Jonathan Sacks (Hodder, £10.99 (Church Times SPECIAL OFFER PRICE £8.99); 978-1-473-61733-9). New in paperback.

“We are living through a period of cultural climate change. We have outsourced morality to the markets on the one hand, and the state on the other. The markets have brought wealth to many, and the state has done much to contain the worst excesses of inequality, but neither is capable of bearing the moral weight of showing us how to live. This has had a profound impact on society and the way in which we interact with each other. Traditional values no longer hold, yet recent political swings show that modern ideals of tolerance have left many feeling rudderless and adrift. In this environment we see things fall apart in unexpected ways — toxic public discourse makes true societal progress almost unattainable, a more divisive society is fuelled by identity politics and extremism, and the rise of a victimhood mentality calls for ‘safe spaces’ but stifles debate. The influence of social media seems all-pervading and the breakdown of the family is only one result of the loss of social capital. Many fear what the future may hold. Delivering a devastatingly insightful critique of our modern condition, and assessing its roots and causes from the ancient Greeks through the Reformation and Enlightenment to the present day, Sacks argues that there is no liberty without morality, and no freedom without responsibility. If we care about the future of western civilisation, all of us must play our part in rebuilding our common moral foundation. Then we will discover afresh the life-transforming and counterintuitive truths that a nation is strong when it cares for the weak, and rich when it cares for the poor. Here is an inspiring vision of a world in which we can all find our place, and face the future without fear.”

The Present Preacher: Discerning God in the now by Liz Shercliff and Matt Allen (Canterbury Press, £17.99 (Church Times SPECIAL OFFER PRICE £14.39); 978-1-78622-386-9).

“Good preaching depends on being attentive — to God, to the Bible, to the congregation, to the context, to what influences and shapes the preacher. This practical, confidence-building guide is for all who want to develop their preaching by homing in on that which points to God in the now. Encouraging preachers in the ways that will make authentic connections with others, it demonstrates that preaching in today's culture requires preachers to ‘show up and be present, in person’ rather than speak ‘in role’ or act as religious spokespersons who take no responsibility for their message. Based on the authors' own training of ordinands, it offers: insights on how to develop the habit of noticing God in the world; strategies for opening up and finding fresh meaning in familiar Bible texts; ways of understanding what influences your congregation and your own theology; sample sermons that embody these principles.”

7 Ways to Pray: Time-tested practices for encountering God by Amy Boucher Pye (SPCK, £9.99 (£8.99); 978-0-281-08496-8).

“A hands-on and time-tested look at ways to pray that will strengthen your relationship with God and lead to transformation. Each chapter shares real-life examples, is rooted in the Bible, and includes prayer exercises for individuals or groups. A great resource for your retreat, prayer group, or book club.”

Selected by Aude Pasquier, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.

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