I always keep my ears open at College of Bishops for some autumn reading, and two books stood out this time.
The first is Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John by Jean Vanier. The author and his reputation need no puffing here, and I am already gripped by it. Vanier says, “My hope in sharing the Gospel of John with you is to reveal what I am discovering in it; a spirituality that gives me the light, the strength and the love to live my life in l’Arche with my brothers and sisters who have disabilities, and to love an experience of communion with God through a personal relationship with Jesus.” The book is a poetic pastoral commentary on the Gospel and i am praying that it will help me – a person who feels very in tune with the writings of those such as Nouwen and Vanier and finds that John’s is very much the Gospel for today, but a person who is also a million miles away from the deep formedness in Christ that they speak of and I long for – to take just a few more baby steps in the right direction. I nearly said “before it is too late”, as the older-than-they-were joints complain, but actually, there is so much life still to live and love, the sun is shining and God is good, so – on and up!
The second book, which I haven’t really looked at yet, won me with its title, Leadership Jazz by Max de Pree. You can’t escape the L word these days, but it comes with many health warnings, especially because the Lord Jesus so completely subverted it… I love the idea that leadership could be a shared venture, not eschewed but distributed, with genuine, risky but rewarding, creative yet appropriately confined leadership roles exercised by all the group. Let’s see if de Pree thinks that way too, and if so, whether he helps me get a handle on why we have been banging on about this for years in clerical circles but not really changed the culture – and what we could do now to encourage that change.