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The Spring of Hope: Sermons for the seasons of faith, Douglas Dales

01 April 2022

Mark Oakley takes refreshment in a collection of sermons

SOME are of the opinion that books of sermons are like boiled strawberries — they still contain something of the original, but they have lost a significant amount of their colour and flavour. The sermon, it continues, is an event, not a text. It is a potentially adventurous coming together of the gospel with a particular place and people, at a certain time, and channelled through the body, imagination, and faith, of a unique person. A book, it concludes, pins down the passing vitality of the butterfly sermon.

I have sympathies with this view but, looking back, I can see how such books have been very formative in my life of faith. To dive into a collection by Harry Williams, Eric James, Michael Mayne, Barbara Brown Taylor, or Rowan Williams, is still a generative and incomparable spiritual experience. I thank God for preachers and I include among them, after reading this book, Douglas Dales.

The sermons here were in the main written for online worship during the pandemic’s closure of churches in a rural benefice. They are concise, informative, reflective, and they avoid the histrionic temptation of a preacher to win early attention. Clearly, they are addressed to people hungry to know more about Christian faith, and how it might be lived hopefully in dark days.

Preachers are in a continual battle with cliché, and Dales overcomes it with clarity, a trust in the Christian tradition’s resources, and an avoidance of the institutional theological language of the up-and-coming Christian that lacks resonance and soul. Dales is not out to make waves. His pulpit is not to parade in, or to gain points for originality. Instead, he offers the pool of refreshment that is the Christian faith, knowing, in the words of Augustine, that a proud humanity can only be saved by a humble God.

The Revd Mark Oakley is Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Canon Theologian of Wakefield Cathedral.


The Spring of Hope: Sermons for the seasons of faith
Douglas Dales
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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