‘The mystery of the future can no longer feed on ignorance’
(John V Taylor, The Go-between God)
As with other recently retired ministers I have had to reduce the size of my library. Its books have mapped the course of both my ministry and my spirituality. In some cases it has been a sad parting.
Following an invitation from Andy Goodliff to reflect on my ministry (see here), I have selected two books from each decade of my ministry which have meant a lot to me (read about my books of the 1960s here).
The two I have chosen for the 1970s, covering my first five years as a minister, started my journey to the discovery that spirituality must be rooted in compassion and justice. Without both it is ‘mere spirituality’. They are:
The Go-Between God
Bob Morgan was the local vicar in Ely, Cardiff. He got the local ministers reading Taylor’s book, published in 1972. It was the time of ‘charismatic renewal’ when many churches experiencing the gifts of the Spirit. It was a period of instability, vitality and new voices demanding to be heard. Taylor offered a measured and re-assuring commentary.
‘I am not looking for a recovery of exotic supernaturalism, but an extension of the range of our empirical enquiry’
For Taylor, the Holy Spirit was the energy in all matter and could not be reduced to certain religious experiences. His calm, thoughtful scrutiny became a model for my own preaching from Scripture. In this early book there was a breadth of reference to science, art and music, which always characterised his style. It introduced me to a way of reading the Bible which went beyond the meaning of its words or understanding its context. The Bible provides a pathway of different landscapes. It is most helpful when we do not get lost in its detail too often. He was not afraid to add his own experiences and those of others to support the ideas that he proposed. The book ends with a story which has become famous. It describes the deep compassion shown by one woman to another in which Taylor sees the true of the Spirit and a profound insight into the nature of God. He also connects it to the importance of prayer for others which he regards as part of the outreach of the Church.
‘It is the embrace of God, his kiss of life. That is the embrace of his mission and of our intercession. The Holy Spirit is as close, unobtrusive and irresistibly strong’
Taylor died in 2001. But his first book had started me on a path which would be shaped further by my other choice from this decade.