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Thankfully, God is still God

Tokens of Trust

Sheer breadth of knowledge, coupled with a deeply spiritual life, makes Rowan Williams’ writing accessible, thought-provoking and, at times, intensely disturbing.

Frank Nelson  |  23 Dec 2008

Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief by Rowan Williams (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2007 – £9.99)

It took me nearly two weeks to read this little book by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, not because it is so difficult or dense but because, fortuitously, I took it on a camping holiday which allowed me to read it in the style of lectio divina. And it is a book to be read slowly, with plenty of space to pause and ponder and pray as Williams gently coaxes his reader to stretch the mind, to make connections and then move into prayer.

The book has its origin in a short series of talks delivered at Canterbury Cathedral during Holy Week of 2005, and takes as its starting point the ancient creeds of the church, both Apostles’ and Nicene. Many times I found myself wishing I had known of this book when I offered a Lent course on a similar theme, just as I found myself wishing I could sit at his feet.

The sheer breadth of knowledge, of the Bible, of church history, of literature and poetry, both ancient and modern, coupled with his own deeply spiritual life and unashamed embracing of the mystery of God, makes the Archbishop’s writing accessible, thought-provoking and, at times, intensely disturbing.

The book itself is very attractively produced by Canterbury Press, with the occasional sentence lifted out and highlighted – an ideal way of drawing attention to a particular point and leaving the reader with food for thought throughout the day: “God always has the capacity to do something fresh and different, to bring something new out of a situation.”

Williams has further enhanced the meditative nature of his book by including a few carefully chosen pictures, most by David Jones. It’s a book written specifically to draw the reader through faith into engagement with God through the lived and prayed tradition of the church. In Williams’ words: “I am assuming that we are not just talking about ideas in their own right, but about the interaction between thinking, doing and praying out of which the statements of belief originally came.”

For those who are looking for more than the all-too-common discarding of the great traditions of the church, not to say the very concept of God, and who are not too proud to admit that God is still God, Tokens of Trust is a worthy addition to the library. It is a book to bear in mind as a gift to the person not afraid to ask questions about God and faith; and perhaps to put on the coffee table or waiting room for casual perusal, and the prayer desk for ongoing stimulation in prayer.

Frank Nelson, is Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington.