Book Review: A-Z of Wellbeing by Ruth Rice

Reading Time: 3 minutes

https://doi.org/10.52456/WACJO216

Rice, Ruth (2022) A-Z of Wellbeing. Milton Keynes: Authentic Media.

This is rather a seditious book, appearing at first to be one of a number of self-help books that have proliferated in recent time, the subtitle ‘Finding your personal toolkit for peace and wholeness’ seeming to reinforce this.

However, there are hidden depths to this book as at its core it is an encouragement to journey more closely with God and to recognise that He is there with us in every aspect of our lives. It is this breadth of scope that makes this book of interest as, while it does not explicitly reference the Waverley integrative framework or any other similar model, it does so implicitly in taking a holistic approach to mind, body and soul.

During the course of the COVID pandemic wellbeing has become a hot topic, both for the Church and society as a whole. The Church has faced a number of issues around the area of wellbeing. The first is that some churches debate whether ‘wellbeing’ is a good thing to focus on, as much of the popular literature in this area often appears rooted in faith traditions or philosophical positions that some see as inimical to the Christian faith. So there has been a need for wellbeing resources to be developed that are rooted in the Christian faith. Once a resource has been identified, the issue is how ‘to do’ wellbeing well and to engage with the world outside the Church. Many churches are very good at setting up programmes that ‘do things’ for people; wellbeing is rarely generated by a programme per se and this is an issue.

The A-Z of Wellbeing assumes that individual and corporate wellbeing is a good thing and that both the Christian tradition and the Bible have a lot to say about it. This is done in 26 short chapters, where each chapter examines an aspect of wellbeing that the author has found important in her own wellbeing journey. It is her own experience that forms the foundation for this book and often provides perceptive insight that will be of help to those starting out on their own wellbeing journey or who are seeking to develop the range of practices that will enhance and deepen their faith.

Each chapter follows a set structure and starts with a short phrase from Scripture that seeks to set the tone for what is to follow in the chapter. There are then a series of headings repeated in each chapter that not only helps give structure to the book, but would provide a useful pattern to be used in a small group for people to explore and share their thoughts, insights and experiences around each topic.

Each chapter starts with a short theological reflection on the concept that is being examined. The approach is gentle and draws you in, inviting you to join a conversation. The next section encourages a slightly deeper engagement with the concept and encourages the reader to explore how it would impact them as an individual. It makes no presumption that everyone would or should have the same response to each topic. Following on from this are some ideas that encourage the reader to engage with and participate in, before a story is shared about someone who has been impacted on their own wellbeing journey, often through their contact with a Renew Wellbeing Café. Finally, there are some questions that help the reader reflect and to think about their own wellbeing and how they could begin to put into practice the topic that has been explored in the chapter, followed by a short prayer and signposting to further resources.

Ruth Rice is a director of Renew Wellbeing, a charity that helps churches open and run simple café-style spaces attached to a quiet room where inner habits of wellbeing are shared.

About the author

Bob Stradling

BA (Hons), MA, Cert HE (Higher Education), FHEA

Bob Stradling is the principal of Waverley Abbey College and has an MA in Missional Leadership. He has experience in a range of leadership role in Higher Education and has also had experience of leadership in a range of ministry contexts.

Copyright 2022 Bob Stradling

Back to Article List

Book review: Cultivating God’s Presence by Richard J.Roberts

Reading Time: 5 minutes

https://doi.org/10.52456/WACJO127

Roberts, R.J. (2021) Cultivating God’s Presence: Renewing Ancient Practices for Today’s Church, Beaminster: The Finnian Press.

Before I begin reviewing Cultivating God’s Presence, I have to disclose that I have known the author, Richard Roberts, as a colleague and friend for a number of years but will try and bring as an impartial a review as I can.

It is reasonably difficult to categorise or pigeonhole Cultivating God’s Presence, as it does not fall neatly into any one category. It contains something of Richard’s own story and journey, and, on occasion, he lets us in to some very personal, almost intimate, spiritual experiences in a similar way to Jill Weber’s Even the Sparrow1 (although this is not quite as biographical). Neither does the book follow a clear chronological path.

What it does do, and why it is of interest to readers of this journal, is to bring together Richard’s eclectic experience and to see how he integrates these together to bring significant insight into a wide range of issues that impact individual Christians, churches and the wider world. He lets us into his world in a controlled way so that we are not overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge and experience. He also writes with humility and humour so that we feel like we are journeying with him as a fellow disciple rather than being asked to accept a range of propositions before we can journey with him.

His experience includes, in no particular order, being: a medical doctor who set up in general practice before retraining as a psychotherapist, a church planter and leader, a blues guitarist, an angler, a teacher, a husband, father and grandfather, leader of a Master’s programme in Missional Leadership and leading a team of representatives from the newer charismatic churches in official dialogue with the Vatican’ Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This last role perhaps helps explain another key feature of this book: its broad ecumenical appeal. People from most any denomination (or none) are likely to find ideas and concepts that they are familiar with and which will give them a touch point to make them feel at home.

This breadth of experience also helps Richard to succinctly bring a great deal of insight and wisdom to a range of topics. One example of this is his brief but insightful commentary on the state of the Church in Western Europe and the ‘missional’ conversation that asks how the Church can best address the challenges it faces in a post-Christendom environment. This could be contrasted with Roxburgh and Robinsons book Practices for the Refounding of God’s People2 where they address the same issue in much greater depth. Roxburgh and Robinson are writing to a very different audience (those studying at Master’s or Doctoral levels of study), so present the evidence to support their arguments, whereas Richard merely gives his insights without feeling the need to mount any great

defence.

Does this mean that the book is without academic merit? Not at all, the book is underpinned from a wide range of sources, but it is not written primarily with an academic audience in mind. (There are a rich range of sources identified within the book, which readers could look up and use as a starting point for further reading and research if required.) The book is written to be as accessible to as many people as possible and it achieves this.

Cultivating God’s Presence takes as its main theme the idea of how we could begin to live a monastic life in the twenty-first century. In that sense, it would fall under the heading of ‘new monasticism’, but what some call ‘new monasticism’ is actually not terribly new, rather a rediscovering of spiritual practices that have been practised for many centuries in traditional monastic communities and is of course still done today. Richard seeks to try and make sense of spiritual practices and how they might be developed and applied by the ordinary person in their everyday life, even when they are not living in a formal religious community.

In this, Richard has been significantly influenced by the Ffald-y-Brenin Retreat Centre in West Wales and through that what is termed ‘Celtic Spirituality’ (although he is not afraid to debunk some of the more fanciful notions that have become attached to this term). He describes how he found solace, consolation and restoration there after a difficult time in his church ministry. This book is in part written under the auspices of Ffald-y-Brenin and is quite different in tone to other key texts that have come out of there (The Grace Outpouring3 and The Way of Blessing4 both by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts). These texts mix testimony of life’s transformed as people come to the Ffald-y-Brenin Retreat Centre along with other key principles through which they want to encourage a movement of prayer and blessing. Richard is interested in these things but more at the personal level of how this impacts the individual believer in their everyday walk with Jesus. As such, this book fits much more into the area of spiritual formation and would be of benefit for those who are looking for guidance and insight to their own personal situation, or for those who have pastoral oversight for others in how they might encourage and support them, or as an area of academic study.

About the author

Bob Stradling is the principal of Waverley Abbey College and has an MA in Missional Leadership. He has experience in a range of leadership role in Higher Education and has also had experience of leadership in a range of ministry contexts.

Copyright

Copyright 2021 Bob Stradling


1 Weber J. (2019) Even the Sparrow, Edinburgh: Muddy Pearl.
2 Roxburgh A. J. and Robinson M. (2018) Practices for the Refounding of God’s People: The Missional Challenge of the West, New York: Church Publishing.
3 Godwin R. and Roberts D. (2008) The Grace Outpouring, Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing.
4 Godwin R. and Roberts D. (2016) The Way of Blessing (Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing.

Back to Article List

DONATE TODAY