Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Contemplative Minister

Review of Ian Cowley, The Contemplative Minister: Learning to Lead from the Still Centre (Bible Reading Fellowship, 2015).

This excellent little book is for those ‘who are looking for a better way of serving Christ than the relentless busyness and pressure which has become the norm for so many’ (p. 12).  Ian Cowley, who has experience of ministry in South Africa and is now the Vocations and Spirituality Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Salisbury, calls us to rediscover our still centre in prayer and rooting in God.

Ministry that does not have stillness and prayer at its heart is in danger of losing its relationship to God, of warping a vocation, and not having the counter-cultural edge that should be the mark of all Christian ministry.  Cowley calls us back to silence and simplicity as being of the essence and the heart of ministry, not just extras and ideals.  He draws widely on the traditions of the church, from the contemplative to the charismatic, offering a rich and deep account of ministry.

I confess I found this very challenging.  I am someone for whom doing very easily crowds out being with God.  At times, I wanted a little more about the missionary context that faces the Church today, but I am convinced that Cowley is right that if this is not rooted in prayer and encounter with the living God then all our efforts will be futile.

I heartily recommend this book for all ministers, lay and ordained.  The Foreword by Desmond Tutu is excellent, and the book is potentially transformative.  This is a book to come back to and learn from each time.

First published in Diocese of Derby, Our Diocese, May 2016

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