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Finding A Voice: A Lent Course Based On “The King’s Speech”

Author: Hilary Brand
Published By: Darton, Longman and Todd
Pages: 119
Price: £5.99
ISBN: 978 0 232 2893 0

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

(This review also refers to the following book)

Around A Thin Place: An Iona Pilgrimage Guide

Jane Bentley and Neil Paynter

Wild Goose Publications 2011; 190pp; £13.50; ISBN 978 0 84952 188 8

Since Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal, we have become accustomed to ringing the changes on approaches to group and individual study. Some while back, I reviewed a fascinating book, When God Shows up at the Movies, which offered the thesis that Christian themes could unexpectedly turn up when we visit the cinema. The King’s Speech appears to be a rather good example of this, the theme being release from fear and discovery of our authentic (prophetic?) voice. Whether Brand’s course is as good as the movie is, like so many of these offerings, a matter of personal taste and good leadership. At least the leader would probably have to have seen the whole film, and obviously the group will need a TV and a DVD player. The Bible bit is covered in individual reading provided between sessions, and there is meant to be a guided follow-up at the end to draw all the strands together.

There is probably to much material here if one is to stick to the five-week pattern. The Bible passages (e.g. Moses’ ambivalent response to God’s calling) are fulsome and the questions and hints provided for watching and reflecting on the movie are considerably detailed. Possibly the Lent idea is a marketing ploy: after all, how much time does the average person have to do reading between studies? Another minor criticism of the format is that there is no physical room provided in the book for participants to write their own thoughts, and the print is rather small. I like the idea, though.

By contrast, the Iona book provides lots of room for personal note-taking (and even has an inserted stiff card to protect the book while writing in it), is beautifully set out on the page with colour illustrations, as well as the obligatory poems, meditations, songs, stories, reflections and, yes, Bible readings. The title refers to the remark of George MacLoed, the founder of the Iona Community, that on Iona one is in a special place with “only a tissue of paper separating the material from the spiritual.” Of course, just as you have to watch the movie in The King’s Speech, here, you have to go to Iona – although the blurb does try to sell it to ‘armchair pilgrims’, the book is based on the weekly guided pilgrimage around the island provided by the Iona Community. I suppose one could gather a group who have made the pilgrimage at one time or another, but the volume is really meant for individual travellers.

As supplementary Christian materials, these books are fine in their way, but I feel bound to mention a niggle before I close. I just feel a bit uncomfortable about the trend of this Nouwen-type approach. What was once material for illustration of the biblical material too easily becomes the main focus, while the biblical material becomes just one of a diversity of illustrations. In an age when people know their Bibles less and less, and one rarely even sees a personal copy of the Scriptures under an arm on a Sunday, I worry that, in the name of refreshing our devotions, we’re beginning to drift from the source and ‘relativising’ the Bible.

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 57 of Ministry Today, published in April 2013.

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