Book Review:
In Conversation

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Book Review: In Conversation

by Shirley Claughton

Garrett introduces the book in that the reader will be privy to two friends excitedly returning to topics they have discussed many times, yet having flashes and new insights in the process and that the talking is the greatest testimony to the transformational power of conversation.

In Conversation
by Rowan Williams and Greg Garrett

Whilst many of us might have read, studied or admittedly just skimmed through some of Rowan Williams’ many books, he says himself that he is comfortable when talking and the conversations here clearly show the enjoyment he has in discussion and having the freedom to meander. Speaking of sermons, he says that publishing sermons is something he is not wildly keen on for himself, ‘since a sermon is crafted for these people in this time in exactly the same way that no two performances of a play are the same.’

Within the context of chatting about Bono and U2, Rowan makes an observation that ‘creation isn’t something God did a long time ago. It’s something God does now as we’re speaking.’ Note that Rowan Williams latest book, Christ the Heart of Creation on this topic, consists of 275 pages!

Seven chapters (all Conversations) cover a wide and wild range of topics, Shakespeare, Dr Who, Harry Potter, guns, abortion, sermons, movies, novels, poetry and authors. Rowan shares with enthusiasm, his particular appreciation of novelist Marilynne Robinson and also PD James, Hemingway and Dickens.

Talking about Why Shakespeare Matters, Garrett emphasises how the play comes to life in performance. Something happens in live theatre that is a transcendent moment. Rowan reiterates that, whilst we can watch Shakespeare on television ‘actually the real experience is physically to share the space in which a kind of liturgy is being performed’.

The live performance says to the audience ‘we understand that you are there as a physical participant...your uncomfortable lower back or aching bottom is part of what we’re aware of. This is a time we share together. It will take this amount of time to get us through. There’s no fast-forward button. And the words we as actors engage, we promise to speak in a way which we trust will hold you there, alert but still silent through this experience that we’re sharing.’

In his Afterword, Rowan admits that ‘we desperately need cultures and institutions of shared meaning that allow space for patient talking and listening because they let us see something of a horizon that is not just ‘yours’ or ‘mine’.

For us as Christians, is it quite simply the space into which the mystery of God invites us – that sacred space that isn’t anyone’s property, but is something where unlikely people can find a home together’

This new book is informative, spiritual and encouraging. It makes wonderful reading and is simply hard to put down!

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