Nicolas Stebbing CR, Editor
Anglican Religious Life - A well kept secret?
ISBN 1 87155283 4
Dominican Publications, Dublin, £9.99, 2003
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed January 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2004
The title here suggests an informative book aimed, primarily, at those who are surprised by or unaware of monks and nuns, friars and sisters, in the Anglican Church. It could be of considerable interest to people with no religious background or commitment, and will resonate for many in the serving professions as well as those with an interest or seeking a deeper meaning in life. Religious, both Catholic and Anglican, might find it stimulating and encouraging.
In this series of essays, a group of Anglicans relate stories and feelings, together with some critical 'plumbing of the depths' of this way of life. In the first chapter, Dr. Petà Dunstan, Church historian and writer, builds a picture of 'evolving identity', noting the ecclesial and social elements which inspired the first groups, and relating the changes leading to the present search for re-interpretation of the ideal. Identity is concerned with relationships, and Dr. Dunstan outlines the need to deepen those which define the religious individual or community.
The next chapter shows how some Anglican Communities have attempted to follow the injunctions of Vatican II in its call for adaptation to contemporary needs; while further contributors present moving descriptions of devoted lives and service, drawing some noteworthy inferences. Part II of the book takes us more deeply into the theology and psychology of the religious state, with essays on celibate commitment, the spiritual aspect of suffering, development of identity, community prayer and finally, the love relationship with God.
The editor states that the book is concerned largely with the present and future. He mentions the "confusing world of the post modern"; and some contributors give a brief mention of questions and challenges before us. I would like to have seen further discussion of these matters, but accept that it is beyond the scope of the present book.
A little more editing and meticulous proof-reading would have helped in some places, but this minor lack does not detract from the general interest and readability of the work.
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