From the Vicarage July and August 2011
The summer holidays always feel to me like the end of the church year. School closes for the six-week break, the ministry trainee scheme winds down, the Robbie family head off to youth camp, then we go for a rest in France. No TNG, no school assemblies, no sermon prep, the regular activities at church switch off, it feels a bit like stopping a treadmill at the gym. This rhythm to clergy life might not resonate with you but the summer provides the only really refreshing time of rest for me.
Although church life goes into standby mode, still there but only ticking over, waiting to kick back into life in September, there’s no reason for us to switch off from time with God. Indeed, it’s a time to draw closer, when there’s less to be done. To do this, holiday reading is really important. What we read when we’re relaxing can help to increase our love for Christ and so I want to encourage you to think carefully about what you’ll read this summer.
If you can’t make it to CLC bookshop or Wesley Owen in Birmingham, I’d be really happy to lend you a book from the vicarage study (not all my books are weighty theological textbooks). There’s also a library at the back of church, feel free to help yourself from there.
Let me recommend some of the books in my library. Feel free to ask for them. I have lots of biographies of the lives of Christians, some famous, some not so famous, some long gone to be with the Lord, some still alive. 18th century preacher George Whitfield and Billy Graham give an insight to the lives of men who were greatly used by God to spread the word of Jesus Christ. I’ve got sporting biographies of George Foreman and tennis player Michael Chang. Then there’s Roy Castle by his widow Fiona and the story of Cassie Bernall, who was shot dead in the Columbine High School Massacre. There’s lots more, if you’re interested in the different lives of many Christians.
I’ve got books to help us with life. Books on marriage, parenting, being a godly man or woman, prayer and holiness. These sorts of books are great for shaping the patterns of our lives and our character. I’ve also got introductory theology. Nothing too heavy for the summer. Just stuff to help you think about the character of God.
As for me, what will I read by the pool, in the tent or on the beach this summer? I like to have a few books on the go at a time, so I can pick one up to suit my mood. I’ll read The biography of the life of Thomas Boston, a 17th century Scottish preacher and theologian who lived 8 miles from where I grew up in a tiny village called Ettrick. Many of his works are still in print today. I’ve got a little collection of essays which will help me think about my patterns of life called “Worldiness: Resisting the seduction of a fallen world.” edited by C.J. Maheney who wrote our Lent book for 2009, “The Cross Centered Life.” Then there’s two books I picked up at Bible by the Beach; another collection of essays to help me grow in love for Jesus called “The supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World” and one by one of the speakers at BBTB, Andrew Wilson, “Incomparable: Explorations in the character of God.” I’m looking forward to reading them all and, perhaps, a trashy holiday novel.
I hope you’ll make use of the summer to read. It would be a thrill to me if my book shelves were empty as people read lots of books to the glory of God. With love, Neil