The author introduces this book by recounting a story of a conversation he had in Paddington Station (Caffe Nero to be precise), when the barista asked him what sounds like an innocuous question: “What made you become a priest?”.
Obviously when buying a coffee in a busy train station, there’s not much time to answer such a question as that, but this book is the response that he would have made if he’d had the time (a lot of time…).
If you didn’t know, the author Stephen Cottrell is the new Archbishop of York. I’ve never read any of his writing before, but this book came highly recommended on Twitter and I really wanted to know his answer to the question.
What followed the introduction is a letter to the people of England that was approachable and easy to read, but at the same time, packed a huge punch in terms of theological content and bits that made me have to re-read them again then note them down for later because they were so insightful.
I really liked the fact that it wasn’t heavy on the use of Bible verses. It mentioned them without quoting them extensively and I think that will help hugely with making this book more approachable for non-Christians. I’ve read a fair few books in the past that have quoted way too much and it can be off-putting for someone who has never even opened a Bible before.
As I mentioned, I highlighted many quotes while reading this book, but some of my favourites were when the author was talking about love.
“We know that there isn’t a limited supply of love. You can give it all away completely and still have every bit of it left to give again … Love replenishes itself by being given away”
And in particular how free will interacts with God’s love for us.
“For it to be love it has to be free… so God makes the world with all its terrible beautiful freedom, because that is the only way for it to be love.”
The book touches on topics like LGBTQ+, Black Lives Matter, Brexit and Coronavirus, giving it a very timely feel and challenging the reader to be part of the change for good, while affirming that God loves us all equally.
” Unity is not uniformity, difference is not a threat .”
I would recommend this book to anyone, to non-Christians who want to read a detailed but understandable reasoning for the Christian faith, and for Christians who want to be inspired by the author’s example to perhaps share a bit more of their faith, and catch on to his passion for wanting to change the world for the better.
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