Summary: Quick look at four universal Christian practices.
Many people have a lot of respect for Rowan Williams. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury for 10 years before retiring 3 years ago. He is still fairly young (64) and he is still publishing a ton. So I keep meaning to read some of his books. This one I picked up free with some promotional credit from Audible.
Being Christian was originally a series of Holy Week lectures that was adapted into a short book. The focus is on four pretty much universal practices among Christians, regardless of theological stream or denomination.
Considering the short length and the ubiquitousness of the practices, it would have been easy to be filled with clichés. But Williams both stayed true to the essence of the practices and brought unique presentation to them so the book did not feel stale.
The chapter on prayer seems to be the one that is most mentioned in other reviews that I read. As with several other books I have read this year, Williams spent some time talking about three of the early church fathers and how they thought about prayer.
Modern Evangelicals seem to be praise focused spontaneous prayer times and more liturgically focused Christians can tend to talk about the form or beauty of prayer. But Williams encourages us to think more about prayer as our center contact with God and as such it should be frequent and brief. And when we inevitably get distracted by life, saying, ‘O God, make speed to save me’ is part of long Christian practice. Because of his look at prayer historically he does not get wrapped up with any tension between written or spontaneous prayer. We should make short spontaneous prayer part of our daily (if not hourly) existence and keep the historic prayer (especially the Lord’s Prayer) on our lips as part of a way to give us words when we do not have words to pray.
With both the baptism and eucharist chapters, the focus was on being a part of the universal body of Christ, the joining in the body with Baptism and the on going membership in the body with Eucharist.
The bible chapter is about hearing from God. Williams encourages us to hear the whole of God’s story, hear it with community and with the focus of Christ at the center of the story. That doesn’t sound unique as I write it, but that is part of the balance of books like this. The presentation has to be a bit unique with different illustrations and ways of approaching the topic, but in the end the message is what many others will say throughout Christian history.
I think it would be a good book to read again. So I may pick it up again later.