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Book Review

Stephen Hance

Beyond Confirmation 

ISBN:1 84101 241 6

BRF, 2003, 6.99

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed January 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2004

Beyond Confirmation vigorously commends continued wide-ranging growth in Christian life.  Based on a course developed by Hance for his south London parish, it has been refined with repeated use.  Growth is explored in relation to six key elements of Christian life.  Two foundational chapters on 'Knowing God' explore aspects of a developing personal relationship.  Other topics addressed are discipleship, love for each other, telling others, serving the community, and serving the wider church.   Suggestions for further reading follow most chapters.  The final chapter gives questions for self-assessment, and offers helpful advice about identifying priorities and practical ways forward.

 Hance's style is conversational and very accessible, though I found some of the illustrations and anecdotes somewhat dated and artificial.  The approach is pastoral, impressively well balanced and very practical throughout. I welcomed particularly a helpful introduction to the importance of theological reflection, sensitive awareness of issues around the actual practice of forgiveness, and delineation of the pastoral implications of the growing proportion of single people in church and society.  The author makes very explicit his conviction that both evangelism and social action are essential expressions of the gospel.  He describes particular projects in a way that is enabling, encouraging readers towards other differently creative initiatives and co-operative endeavours responding to local needs.

The author's broadly evangelical stance is clear, not least in the books cited for further reading. However there is a breadth of awareness and he has sensitively included examples, explanations and suggestions relevant to a variety of church traditions and contexts.  The book is designed for people wondering 'What next?' after confirmation.  It could also be useful in confirmation preparation, with those returning to faith or to regular worship after an absence, or as a refresher for people bogged down in the routines of local church life.     

 Sue CSF

 

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