Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading and coping

Registered this week as a reader at the British Library and the wonderful Dr Williams's library so that I have access to tomes and journals for my research. The British library is such a spacious and civilised place and the signing process was fabulously efficient. I haven't actually ventured into a reading room yet - can't rush these things.

I picked up a very helpful looking book by Ritva H Williams - someone I'd not come across before but who seems to have close contact with the Context Group of New Testament scholars. It's called Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the early church. It builds on her PhD on Ignatius and suggests there was greater diversity in leadership in the mid-second century than many scholars assume. In particular, she links emerging leadership roles to the social context and especially the household context of early Christian gatherings. It looks very interesting and I'm looking forward to getting into it.

Sadly, my father died last Sunday which, though expected as he'd been declining over recent weeks, was still a shock that leaves me feeling listless, disconected and profoundly sad. It means that I haven't been able to concentrate brilliantly well, as well as having a lot of work to do sorting out his affairs.

But God is good. Over the past few months dad had been reading his Bible, talking with the chaplain in the residential home where he lived and praying. Maybe he was ready to go. The funeral is next week.

It's a stark reminder that leadership in the church in any generation is not about titles and social structures but about people connecting with one another and being able to connect with God through Jesus Christ. There is always a danger when we immerse ourselves in close study of the texts and the history that we forget that. After all, Paul and Clement, Peter and Ignatius didn't know they were providing grist to the researchers mill; they thought they were helping people encounter the risen Jesus and offering ways those folk could learn and find support as they lived their new faith in a not-so-friendly environment.

I'll keep you posted on the Williams book - if anyone's read it and has views, I'd love to hear them.

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