Christopher RuddyMarch 23, 2009 - 12:03pm0 comments
Praying for England
Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture
Edited by Samuel Wells and Sarah Coakley
Continuum, $29.95, 208 pp.
Five years ago, Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin and a certified friend of Bono, said that Irish Catholicism had “to move from being a doing church to being a listening church.” He continued, “We must never be obsessed with doing...” for “there must always be an element of abandonment in our activities, of seeking first the kingdom.” Noting that the Irish church was renowned worldwide for its schools, missions, and works of mercy, he recalled that the nineteenth-century founders of the great Irish religious orders were first men and women who listened to God in prayer.
Archbishop Martin’s words came to mind as I read Praying for England, a collection of essays on priesthood in the Church of England. The book grew out of the Littlemore Conference in August 2005, organized by the priest-theologians Samuel Wells (now at Duke Divinity School) and Sarah Coakley (now at Cambridge, formerly at Harvard Divinity School, where I was her student). Inspired by Rowan Williams’s call at the beginning of his ministry as archbishop of Canterbury to recapture “the imagination of the [English] nation” for the gospel, the participants met at Oxford’s Littlemore College—where John Henry Newman was received into the Catholic Church—for four days of prayer, conversation, meals, and artistic performances. Mostly Anglican parish priests, they shared a commitment to parochial ministry (especially among the poor), to academic...