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Peace is a Doing Word: Prayer patterns for peacemakers by Barbara Glasson; Writing the Wisdom: Creative writing as healing from childhood trauma by Barbara Glasson and Penny Johnson

11 November 2022

Jennie Hogan reviews reflections that include an agenda for action

IT IS rare to encounter a prayer that begins “Bless me, I pray, with a troubled mind.” Indeed, a daring plea such as this seems quite at odds with the playfully child-like title of the Methodist minister Barbara Glasson’s book about peace. Don’t be put off by this. Here, peace in its myriad, elusive, and nuanced forms is sifted and searched out in a charming formula. Glasson leads us through her days, waking, walking, working, and examining and interrogating peace, within and without.

In a time when the world appears overwhelmed by war and turmoil, Glasson’s refreshing commitment to thinking anew about peace is in evidence throughout. Insights and musings are sometimes domestic; others are practical, imaginative, poetic, or challenging. Thus, doing peace becomes a quotidian mode-of-being. As the book progresses, Glasson reveals all the more how peace is by no means simply an absence of war. We are offered a valuable template to do peace daily ourselves.

Sometimes, Glasson reflects on experiences as a professor of pastoral theology, which leads her to criticise the tendency to rush for neat answers. Moreover, she questions facile assumptions warning that the Holy Spirit “is not a tinkerbell”. Given the breadth and depth of the book, it is not one to be read straight through. It could become a rewarding addition to daily prayer, or an excellent resource for a prayer or study group.

In Writing the Wisdom, in collaboration with a counsellor, Penny Johnson, Glasson shifts her focus towards the search of internal peace for survivors of childhood trauma. While this book may be slight in size, it is hefty in content. It is largely the fruit of writing workshops for, and jointly led by, women survivors of childhood abuse. A welcome rapprochement of the spiritual and psychological is revealed here; indeed, the women write with one measured and inarguably well-informed voice.

In a tone that is instructive, concise, and approachable, the emotional and theological impact of childhood sexual trauma is explored innovatively. With the inclusion of moving excerpts from some survivors, the healing power of creative writing is revealed movingly. Despite the seriousness and, indeed, the harrowing stories told here, there is a buoyancy, not least because, ultimately, readers are called to action. Churches are encouraged to listen better rather than speak more, to create not only safe but transformative communities, to question forms of language, to wrestle with additional biblical narratives, such as the wisdom tradition, to accompany, and to be awakened by the prophetic calls of, survivors of abuse.

It is not only unsurprising but also inspiring that the authors emphasise that such actions should be vocational for the Church. The intention here is not to browbeat, but to highlight assumptions and be transformed emotionally, theologically, and practically. “The myth of a nice God has to be busted,” the authors proclaim. It is a refreshing rallying cry that we could all do well to heed.


The Revd Jennie Hogan is a priest and psychotherapist. She is the author of This is My Body: A story of sickness and health (Canterbury Press, 2017).


Peace is a Doing Word: Prayer patterns for peacemakers
Barbara Glasson
Sacristy Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.29


Writing the Wisdom: Creative writing as healing from childhood trauma
Barbara Glasson and Penny Johnson
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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