Archbishop By Michele Guinness: Book Club Discussion On Personal Discipleship & Service

Posted at 04:53am on 13th November 2017

Personal Discipleship & Service

(Quotes from the book - with permission from Michele Guinness, below - are in italics)

There were a number of salient points in Michele Guinness's book when it came to personal discipleship in these troubled times, and we all agreed with Archbishop Vicky that it is only 'In prayer, in the daily, ongoing friendship I have with my Father in heaven, with the Son, who stands by me in all of life's vicissitudes,' that we may find the strength we need.


When it came to helping others, I found Vicky's statement: A teacher can't lead somewhere she isn't going herself to be particularly helpful because, like her, I loathe learning by rote. Give me an example, or a behaviour I can learn by osmosis, and I'm much more likely to follow. The quotation from Henri Nouwen: We must never disown our vulnerability. Lose sight of our own weakness, let power go to our heads and we're past helping anyone on their journey, was something that resonated with us all. Likewise, the question: Why bother reading his books if all we do is assent with our minds, but don't let them change the way we live?

The quotation from Saint Teresa of Avila: It is the answered, not the unanswered prayers, people should worry about, brought an interesting mixed response. One member pointed to the benefit of focusing on the positive aspects of answered prayer as a means of disassociating oneself from the pain of requests which are, as yet, unresolved. That's a valid a point. But equally, it may be that the answers we receive are not always those that we expect. Or want!


The issues surrounding the LGBT debate raised relevant questions for us all. When Garth, one of Vicky's friends at college, tells her that he resents the 1987 Church of England in respect of marriage because 'It makes me feel a second-class citizen for being what I am,' she responds with a truism that's pertinent to all believers. 'It's not about being, Garth, but doing.' This reminded us of the previous book we read: Glynn Harrison's A Better Story: God, Sex & Marriage where, like Vicky, being single - whether homosexual or heterosexual - means 'sex is out.' Living without sex, however, does not mean living without love.

The theme continued with the statement from another colleague saying: 'If there's no ultimate authority in sexual matters, we drift into hedonistic narcissism.' With which Vicky asks what if it's a gene, and Simon responds that there is no evidence to support that supposition. 'The lack of procreation would mean homosexuality would die out. More likely it's something to do with nurture, not nature,' he concludes. This reminded me, again, of A Better Story which states that: The church is not against gay marriage. We are for the historic interpretation of an institution ... evolved to ensure the creation, protection and preservation of the next generation. Gay marriage brings no legal rights that civil partnership hasn't already bestowed. 'Stay focused, not on your gifts but on the Giver,' says Simon. 'Channel them continually into service.'


Which brought us neatly into the story of Mikey, a black schoolboy whose brother was murdered. 'Suffering,' Vicky tells him, 'was never God's intention. And, 'Yes, I believe in heaven, Mikey,' she said. 'One day this world will be transformed, filled with God's presence, and there will be only love. All hatred and pain will be forgotten forever.'

She wished that society could come to grasp and appreciate a better measure of success - one where small gifts and sacrifices, acts of courage, thoughtfulness and consideration, were of the highest value. Success is no name of God. Righteousness is.

When you're gone, no one will remember what you said or what you did, only who you were.

What better way is there to live than striving to treat others with the courtesy, respect and dignity you want for yourself? Even imagining the worst possible scenario, that the atheists are right and our hope is a grand deception, how can anyone regret having lived such a life?

Everything ends with God being 'all in all'.

And that, we concluded at Book Club, was a hope worth waiting for.

If you have comments to make, I'd love to hear from you.
NEXT TIME: Media Hysteria

Click for the first discussion on Archbishop: A Novel by Michele Guinness
and here for the subsequent discussion on What Constitutes Church?

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