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A Room with a View – Nick Holtham

February 25, 2016

ARWAVThe first chapter sets out a vision for any local church which needs to be rooted in context; inclusive and welcoming: Eucharistic, prayerful, a community of service and learning and a place for the creative arts.

St Martin’s has a very successful crypt restaurant as well as a bookshop, and a short section justifies commercial endeavour.

St. Martin’s is famous for its work among the homeless and the poor.  The chapter about this is politically alert, well researched and passionate.

Then there’s two chapters about the nature of good religion and its place among the other religions of the world.

A chapter on sin comes from the author’s days of teaching ethics at Lincoln Theological College.

By this stage, it looks as if the author had finished talking about his parish and has thrown in a few other pieces originally written for different audiences at different times. He makes the usual mistake of saying that the priest and the levite who passed by the injured man on the road to Jericho were afraid of being unclean before going up to Jerusalem. The story makes it clear, by contrast, that they were travelling in the opposite direction. However, he is right, later, in saying that Jesus’s arguments with the Pharisees were Jewish and rabbinical.

A later chapter includes devotions for Holy Week and a sermon.


Inevitably we make mistakes but, as Bishop John V. Taylor used to say, we hope that our mistakes are made in the right direction.

‘St Martin’s values standing in that historical tradition (the Church of England) and we try to do so creatively.  It is a courageous church capable of exercising leadership and breaking new ground’.

The Talmud advises we should ‘never pray in a room without windows’.’ The question facing every church congregation is whether they save people from the world or in the world: whether they face inward or outward. My sense is that a great deal of what passes for `mission’ in the contemporary Church of England is peculiarly inward looking. For the last 20 years we have been presented with a false polarity that gives priority to ‘mission’ over that sort of pastoral care in which ministers and churches cared for the whole parish and not just for the congregation. It is difficult to know cause and effect, but in our anxiety to survive we are creating inward-looking, self-referential congregations. What is needed is churches that help people move between church and world in such a way that they and their world are transformed.

God’s dwelling place is capacious. All sorts of people find their home there, people as diverse as Matthew the tax-collector, doubting Thomas, and impulsive and unreliable Peter. It would be a lot easier to create communities of the likeminded, but if parish churches are going to point beyond themselves to the sort of community that God is collecting, then we had better take the trouble to ensure that parish churches are broad, inclusive communities.

When people complain that the Church of England washes its dirty linen in public it is tempting to reply with Eliot again that at least we are washing it.

And Caiaphas was in his own mind

A benefactor to mankind.

Both read the Bible day and night,

But thou read’st black where I read white . . . William Blake

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