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Abba Amma: Improvisations on the Lord’s Prayer by Nicola Slee

01 April 2022

Lavinia Byrne explores a new interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer

IN THIS collection of reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, Nicola Slee offers interpretations in both prose and poetry. As Director of Research at the Queen’s Foundation, in Bir­­mingham, and Professor of Feminist Practical Theology at the Vrije Universiteit, in Amsterdam, she brings both a wealth of experi­ence and solid aca­demic credentials to her task of writing improvisations on this most familiar of prayers.

She presents a verse-by-verse commentary followed by poems, litanies, and practical exercises, re­­minding us, with Dominic Crossan, that this is a prayer used by all Christians, prayed in all churches on all Sundays, and yet which does not mention Christ, church, Sunday, or even the Lord. This deconstruc­tion enables her to start with her own experience. Slee writes delib­­erately out of her own perception of being a daughter and acknowledges the influence of both her parents.

They formed her understanding and enable her to explore both the mixture of “profound love and care” and also “painful woundedness and wounding” that informs her reflec­tions. The book’s title is significant, revealing her desire to engage with the intimacy of naming God as a parent. Her intention is not naïve: she does not seek to gloss over the complexity of human relations, espe­cially those that lie at the heart of human life and procreation. Rather, she embraces the immediacy of names that both “connect and sep­arate” us “at one and the same time”.

Many of us have not had a good experience of parent­ing and the author acknowledges this. The greater risk she takes, even now­adays, is that of naming God as mother as well as father. Here, her theological knowledge serves her purpose well, as she is able to integ­rate insights from contemporary feminism into the heart of her re­­flections. The result is sophisticated and informs the poetry which forms the bulk of her narrative.

Many readers will find this com­­bination of personal reflection and of scholarship extremely helpful both in developing and deepening their own understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. The additional re­­source of poetry will act as a per­­sonal resource and also enable them to prepare liturgies that expose other people to her ideas and teach­ing.

With the publication of insightful books such as this, feminism becomes mainstream.

Lavinia Byrne is a writer and broadcaster.


Abba Amma: Improvisations on the Lord’s Prayer
Nicola Slee
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop special price £10.39

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