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Lighting the Beacons: Kindling the flame of faith in our hearts by Jill Duff

26 May 2023

Naomi Starkey reviews reflections on ministry from Lancashire

THE energy of this book expresses itself not so much as the steady flame of beacons as the spark and flare of fireworks. Written in conversational style, at times showing its roots as a series of talks, it has a breadth of content and warmth of expression which can offer encouragement to those dispirited by the long haul of ordained ministry.

Drawing on a wide range of personal, biblical, and cultural references, Jill Duff describes how the image of “lighting beacons of hope” lies at the heart of her calling. Urging the importance of this task, she writes not as one who “has all the answers”, but as one who continues to wrestle with the challenges, balancing honesty about real-life dilemmas with enthusiastic commitment to developing the witness and mission of the Church.

She speaks of negotiating the sense of disconnection between a flourishing career and parish life in a context that in some ways exemplified “left-behind Britain”. Although she presents “the heart of the book” as a chapter on homecoming, I felt her writing on praying to be more pertinent to her overall agenda. Alongside the joy of answered prayer, she describes situations in which years of intercession barely begin to unlock a church’s “stuck” spiritual state (which may require confession of sin and forgiveness).

Developing the “fire” metaphor to include the pain of discipleship, she reflects on how the crucible of “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” can teach humility, resilience, and detachment — and also “cauterize wounds”. That chapter alone could be expanded to book length, as could her intriguing image of an “underground army” of the marginalised, dispossessed, and unheard, who could do the work of God’s Kingdom, if only they could break through society’s repressive structures.

I felt that there was a bit too much citing of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, hobbits and Aslan, and found it rather sweeping to speak of “200 years of critical scholarship” as burying faith under the “rubble of rationalism, cynicism and secularism”. That aside, this is one book that I will hang on to and dip into — and may well give to friends starting on the path of full-time service in the Church.

The Revd Naomi Starkey is Ministry Area Leader for Bro Padrig, in north Anglesey, and a pioneer evangelist.


Lighting the Beacons: Kindling the flame of faith in our hearts
Jill Duff
SPCK £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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