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Great texts

  • John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)

    John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)
    A serious theological book which is the companion to JVT's classic work "The Go-between God". Anyone who is frustrated by (fellow) Christians that choose to define God so tightly that faith seems impossible, or seem to align faith with "happiness" despite the evidence to the contrary should read how faith is really a mix of " wonder and comprehension, illumination and darkness, loss and possession, abasement and bliss". If you want to stop to "think" about God then this is a book to read thoughtfully in the company of one of great Christians of the 20th Century

  • Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition

    Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition
    A revised collection of the thoughts and ideas of the founder of the L'arche Community - "faith without boundaries". This is a classic book - for everyone seeking faith and to grow in their faith

  • Rowan  Williams: Anglican Identities

    Rowan Williams: Anglican Identities
    As someone who is both a passionate but frustrated Anglican - glimpsing sometimes all that Anglican could be and seeing on a daily basis all that it isn't, this book was a wonderful account of what liberal Anglicanism - tolerant, inclusive, supportive, intelligent and profoundly spiritual, just might be. Of course it is not an easy read - it takes time and effort to grasp what RW is saying but the effort is worthwhile

  • John Drane         : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?

    John Drane : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?
    If you are a committed member of a local Church and wonder why others do not see the point - or wonder whether it might be possible to be more spiritual outside the confines then you could read this book which is a thoughtful introduction to what is meant by a post-christian society.

  • Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

    Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
    This is a detailed read from Tom Wright which makes the case for the Christian faith in contemporary society. Its thoughtful, challenging, and gentle.

  • W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ

    W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ
    Vanstone's final work, which explores the mystery of existence, the mystery of my soul, the mystery of meaning, - and none of this becomes possible without intellectual doubt. Is this what Dawkins et al will never understand?

  • John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest

    John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest
    This book should be compulsory reading for all enquirers, ordinands, and current clergy - perhaps adding in all elders and churchwardens for good measure. It charts in a profoundly hopeful way the joys and pressures of contemporary priesthood, and avoids the pitfalls of theological bias or the bland functional understandings of leadership.

  • Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?

    Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?
    A prophetic introduction to the Christian faith for those who struggle to find God amid the complexities of life

  • Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die

    Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die
    Just a great read - extensive intelligent reviews which bring back memories, stimulate to seek out, and inspire to add to the wish list.

All time Top Ten albums

  • Bob Dylan -

    Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
    Probably the best single collection of orginal songs - performed by Bob with his inimitable non-music style - the best produced Dylan album into the bargain

  • Miles Davis -

    Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
    I remember the first time I heard this - on a loaned Walkman on a very turbulent flight to Belfast - it has rightly been described as a milestone in 20th century jazz. I remember playing to a group of spell-bound 9/10 year olds in a Primary school music workshop

  • Portishead -

    Portishead: Dummy
    Every once in while I listen to an album whose orginality leaves me instinctively knowing that music will never be the same - that the goalposts of repetoire have been changed for ever. Dummy is just one of those rare treats

  • Prefab Sprout -

    Prefab Sprout: Andromeda Heights
    In 1997 I escaped for the afternoon from the madhouse of an ordination training residential to the comparative sanity of my friend Tony's studio. During a tea break in a session, Tony said these imortal words " I've just found this amazing album" and my love affair with Andromeda Heights began - sanity was restored and I completed the residental and training.

  • Moloko -

    Moloko: Things to make and do
    Brilliant music within the scope of the dance music genre. Crisp instrumentation, meets cool beats, and the voice of Roisin - how I love Moloko

  • Craig Armstrong -

    Craig Armstrong: Piano Works
    If I were not Tom Allen ( artistically and musically speaking) I would be Craig Armstrong - from my discovery of him through Massive Attack I have loved and admired his work - and Piano Works covers his repetoire in stunning style

  • Joe Cocker -

    Joe Cocker: Sheffield Steel
    The greatest album from the greatest rock intrepreter of them all - genius production meets some of the best songs of all time sung by that voice - I've confess that I have sampled the album to oblivion

  • Paul Simon -

    Paul Simon: Graceland
    Had to be a Paul Simon album and it had to be Graceland. A epoch making album which opened African music to the world but seamlessly combined that music with western rock and pop with songs to die for.

  • Cosmic Rough Riders -

    Cosmic Rough Riders: Enjoy the melodic sunshine
    Glasgow's finest produce the ultimate guitar-song album of pure delight and of a quality that puts Athlete et al in the shade - shame it was two years too early and the lead singer left after this debut album

  • Massive Attack -

    Massive Attack: Blue Lines
    OK so Bristol has launched Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size, but it was the staggering impact of this debut which created a genre in trip-hop and a collective approach to song-writing, band membership which has influenced a generation and spawned so many other deriratives. From the low-fi paranoia of "Five Man Army" and the unrepeatable melancholic splendour of "Unfinished Sympathy", this is a 20th century classic.

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19 June 2007



Preach it, Tom!

I've never really grasped why the people who urge that we've got to be relevant to the culture never notice that they've actually been totally taken over by it, and have made it an idol.


I see both sides of the argument - having deliberately chosen to attend our most local church and get stuck in, I can well see the urge to say 'buggrit' and move somewhere easier and more comfortable.

The real problem, as yet unresolved, seems to me that the most likely faction to leave the anglican church first is the charismatic constituency. I have already heard complaints from some about their parish share and some within our diocese are witholding payments causing further difficulties on the diocese level.

And it strikes me that the majority of the larger parishes are charismatic. If they leave, I suspect in contrast to what you write, it will be the small local parishes holding the expenses of the diocese without the financial input from the large churches which fail.


Joe - you have highlighted the core of the issue which is that people see the question as being about "money" and "size" and "success". Its not about any of these cultural values but about "faithfulness". That's why I think that we need a kind of sea change in thinking of the kind that a missional Church might bring - "faithfulness" might mean different structures, no buildings, an unpaid leadership/priesthood. But is also will mean diversity, tolerance, and being church in a local context. Where I disagree with Paul Walker is his citing of HTB as a mega-church. I think HTB is actually an brilliant example of a culturally relevant church (posh wealthy London as a former curate described it to me) which challenges the values around it. The mistake is to believe that if only everyone did HTB the church would be a great success. It also has to be said that HTB is deeply committed to its Diocesan role and has formed creative partnerships within London Diocese. So the problem is not the charismatic churches per se, but those with the false values of the gospel of success with the accompanying loss of the Christian values of interdependence and tolerance.

Paul Walker

Thanks for mentioning my post Tom. I've not had so many first time visitors in one day for a very long

Paul Walker


I just noticed your point about HTB, which I do agree with. It was more my clumsy writing, which lumped together a few different ideas.

I'm sure that HTB has figured out the way to reach out to the luvvies in West London - and all power to them. Like you, I think the problem comes when people see the video and think that they can simply transplant the whole thing, complete with Alpha Supper and Nicky Gumbel video, to the middle of Bradford.

It just doesn't work in the same way!


Actually, I think there is a fundamental flaw in HTB, Alpha and its' spawn, lookalikes etc.

First, I can't stand the advertising slickness and the packaging. The one-size-fitsall falseness about it all. The image that 'it is ok to ask any questions you like' which actually boils down to 'you have to sing these churchy songs and then talk about the stuff we decide within the parameters we give you'. I just think that is terribly misleading.

Second, and more importantly, we have bought the lie that this is 'the way' to be missional in our communities - ie hold dinner parties and sit around jovially talking spiritual stuff. This only works for people who are comfortable with dinner parties and/or who are asking those kinds of spiritual questions. Fair play to those people (this is the community I was brought up in after all), but this Alpha-fixation blinds us to the people in our communities who are not like us and do not operate socially like we do.

We have to realise that for most people Church is an irrelevance. People are more likely to fly to the moon than spend energy trying to navigate around the complex social communities and norms we have built in our churches. I'm not surprised people don't like church - for those not used to sitting still and listening or singing it makes precious little sense. To actually communicate with people in our communities, we have only one option. Service. We have to show them that church means something positive in their lives. And that is the narrow hard way that so few of us actually want to attempt, and which church unfortunately supplies so little tools with which to do it.

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