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The Contemplative Struggle

by Michael Ford last modified 30 Apr, 2021 11:55 PM

How do we embrace and work out our call to be Christian disciples in this broken world? One of our retired priests has written an increasingly-acclaimed book on it.

Our former Diocesan Coordinator of Spirituality and Vocations Ian Cowley explores the main themes of the gospel of John – abiding in Christ, conflict, light and darkness, obedience, and loving one another – to see how these can be lived out in these new days.

Drawing on his experience of living in his native South Africa during the apartheid era, and challenging understandings of contemplative prayer and spirituality as essentially inward-looking, Ian highlights the urgent need for Christians to bring transformation to a suffering world and paints a compelling picture of radical discipleship today.

He quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Just as we are all meant to be contemplatives and to hear the voice of God in our lives, we are all meant to answer God’s call to be his partners in transfiguring the world. This calling, this encounter with God, is always to send us into the midst of human suffering."

Ian paints vivid pictures of family life on a white-run farm, the rules and deprivations of boarding school from the age of six, the challenges, dangers and dilemmas of student activism, and above all his increasingly radical Christian commitment.

He looks back on those years and draws lessons which apply universally today. His central theme is the crucial relationship between action and contemplation, saying:

"These are both imperatives of the gospel.

"The church in every generation needs leaders and people who are able to creatively hold these two together in their own lives. This is what then becomes the contemplative struggle."

The Revd Ian Cowley has served in parish ministry in South Africa, Sheffield, Cambridge and Peterborough. From 2008 to 2016 he was Coordinator of Spirituality and Vocations in this Diocese, where he set up and developed the Contemplative Minister programme. He is the author of five books on spirituality, discipleship and the local church.

Priced at RRP £8.99 and published by BRF, The Contemplative Struggle is available now. Please consider buying it from a Christian bookshop or outlet!

Praise for The Contemplative Struggle:

"Here is a much-needed book: the story of the battle against racism, injustice, poverty, held in tension with the necessity of time for contemplation. We need to hear it – there is much here that applies to our world today."
Esther de Waal, writer and scholar

"What an incredible book this is!... It is very inspiring and ignited a hope that we can be agents of change in this world."
Louise Rose, community projects manager, Fresh Hope Ministry, Stamford

"The Contemplative Struggle is a generous gift and a profound challenge... If you’re tired of rootless activism and otherworldly spirituality, and you’re looking for the common ground where prayer and protest can flourish, you need to read this book."
Chris Webb, deputy warden of Launde Abbey and author of 'God-Soaked Life'

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