Hope for today’s world York Courses 2012 CD pack £17.65 ISBN 978-0-9557437-8-8
The mystic Simone Weil described beauty as like ‘small tears in the surface of the world that pull us through to a vaster space’. This striking quotation used by Lucy Winkett captures the force of the title, ‘Glimpses of God’, of the 2012 York Course written by David Winter. Lucy joins Shirley Williams, Stephen Cottrell, David Wilkinson and old York hands David Hope and Simon Stanley as contributors to the five session ecumenical course with CD, course booklet and word-by-word transcript for leaders.
Through David Winter’s gifting there is a strong Christian apologetics theme that seeks defence of God in the face of hardship, a serious tone that may fit the local mood as the recession bites. ‘Where is God when we need him?’ is the first question, addressing Haiti’s earthquake where the church’s ministry saw ‘the fragrance of incense mingling with the stench of death’. There is biblical input on how suffering is not to be seen as punishment and how God uses human agents to alleviate it in answer to prayer. The second session builds round Psalm 23 on practising the presence of God in the valley of the shadow. Jesus as ‘the way, the truth and the life’ is third subject, God making himself known to us, and Holman Hunt’s ‘Light of the World’ is reproduced in the booklet. The fourth session is on Gethsemane: God’s infinite agony and love. That ‘meekness and majesty’ is taken up in the last session on how God comes alongside to calm our fears.
Seeking to find glimpses of God in a world beset by suffering and moral ambiguity is at the heart of Christian vocation, as is illustrated by the three main oral contributors on the CD guided by the presenter, Canon Simon Stanley. Baroness Shirley Williams speaks of Afghanistan and just war theory as well as of how Jesus is central to her life and prayer. Bishop Stephen Cottrell speaks confidently and humbly about the miracle of creation, the shaping of his vocation and the discipline of prayer. Professor David Wilkinson speaks of how Christianity stands alongside other faiths and sees God actively dealing with the sin of the world. In her conclusions to each session Rector of St James, Piccadilly Lucy Winkett provides thoughtful images not least of how joy and pain flow together in Christian life.
The York Courses are a good brand. They help remind church members of their faith, serve useful sharing on Christian basics and engage with big issues facing humanity. Last year we took the CD player to the side room of a local pub and skipped through the audio material as folks so desired, depending on what got us going. This year each track is 14 minutes which will facilitate an hour to an hour and a half’s engagement with folk ideally primed to read the course booklet in advance.
The Revd Dr John Twisleton, Rector of St Giles, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex, UK 28th November 2012