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Rhythms of Faithfulness: essays in honor of John E Colwell 

Much to reflect on, stimulate and enjoy in this collection of essays, old truths to be polished and new possibilities to be dreamed


Rhythms of FaithfulnessRhythms of Faithfulness: essays in honor of John E Colwell
Edited by Andy Goodliff and Paul Goodliff
Pickwick, Eugene, Oregon
ISBN: 978-1-5326-3350-8
Reviewed by Stephen Copson

John Colwell is a highly respected Baptist pastor, teacher, author, theologian and lecturer. Many readers will have benefitted from his work on doctrine, ethics, liturgy and the desire to reclaim a Baptist sense of the catholicity of the church (even if they have sometimes groaned inwardly at the density of his prose and complex thought patterns!)

John’s personal journey of pilgrimage has seen him develop as a Baptist with deep gratitude to the charismatic movement to embrace a place where he appreciates order and discipline in his personal spiritual and devotional life, and a greater indebtedness to the sacramental riches of the Christian story as a key to mission and discipleship. It was this path that led him, with others, to pioneer the Order for Baptist Ministry (OBM) - for ministers gathered around a common daily liturgy and shared commitment to accountability.

Paul Goodliff, a long-time fellow pilgrim, and Paul's son and fellow Baptist minister Andy Goodliff, have brought together a group of Baptist authors who write out of their regard for John, riffing off words and phrases used in OBM daily offices or aspects of the liturgical year.

To use a hackneyed expression, this book is like a rope of freshwater pearls. Held together by the OBM words as chapter headings, the subject matter ranges far and wide, focussing firstly on key elements in the structure and content of prayer – attending to God, celebrating God, confession, concern and commission – and in the second part draws on key occasions of the liturgical year, from Advent to All Saints and sundry liturgical stations between. There is much to reflect on, stimulate and enjoy here, old truths to be polished and new possibilities to be dreamed.

This is one of those rare books where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and at the same time the whole is greater than the sum. Confused? Let me explain. As a book, these essays represent a shared exercise by thoughtful Baptist practitioners to explore themes that have helped to shape theology, practice and prayer. Such exploration is to be celebrated as an encouragement for Baptists engaged in theological reflection. But also the essays in themselves offer pieces that will greatly engage and absorb the reader, ranging across doctrine, spirituality, church order and social commentary. It would be invidious to highlight any one or ones but each essay is an individual treat to explore. 

Would you benefit from reading this book? Probably if you are in pastoral ministry and certainly if you are willing to have a little stretching of the mind, a little deepening of the spirit, a little fuller joy in believing. All the essays will repay careful consideration. Some maybe require more than one reading to explore their depths. This is not a book to be read in one sitting.

This collection is a reminder that as Baptists look to bring forward creative ideas and new ways of approaching the challenges in pastoral ministry and mission of being 21st century Christians - with all the complexity of political, ethical, missiological, gender and justice issues that this implies - that it is imperative that we are undergirded, guided and shaped by good theology.

I trust that John Colwell is pleased with this offering in honour of his life and work, but more I hope that he is delighted that he has accompanied, taught and inspired the authors here to deepen and broaden their own paths of discipleship in spirituality.


Stephen Copson, Regional Minister, Central Baptist Association

Information about the Order for Baptist Ministry can be found at www.orderforbaptistministry.co.uk

Baptist Times, 08/03/2019
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