It's the summer holidays, and I have finished my spiritual formation reading list for the year! I've really enjoyed the process of reading and reflecting, even though I haven't found every book helpful. Of course, one book leads to another, so I was barely halfway through this year before I'd started making a list of what to read next. I've ended up with five books, but last year I managed to fit Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations in as an extra, so I think it will be doable.
Interestingly, my list this year has skewed towards British women (Evelyn Underhill, Penelope Wilcock, Chine McDonald) and Catholics (Stephen Bevans, Oscar Romero, Evelyn Underhill). They are also all 20th-21st century authors - Underhill, who was born in 1875, is the earliest. None of that was intentional.
So it's not quite as balanced a list as my previous one. But I'm looking forward to reading them so much that I had a hard time deciding which order to put them in. I wanted to read all of them first!
Here's the list.
Concerning the Inner Life with The House of the Soul by Evelyn Underhill
On my recent retreat at Launde Abbey, I was browsing the bookshelves and noticed several books by Evelyn Underhill. I'd vaguely heard of her as a 20th century mystic, so I took one of the old-fashioned, blue-bound volumes with her name on and dipped in. I was immediately taken by her practical but profound thoughts on caring for your own soul - and those of others. When I got home, I ordered my own copy; it's got a snazzy new cover, but I'm pretty sure the interior is a facsimile of the 1947 edition I picked up at Launde. It's actually two books in one - hence the odd title - but they're very short.
Equality is Biblical: Lifting the Curse of Eve by Penelope Wilcock
OK, I confess I have read this one already. Each chapter finished with some interesting and thought-provoking questions. I wanted to have time to think about those and answer them properly, and the best way to do that was to make this one of my spiritual formation books. So I did.
Models of Contextual Theology by Stephen B. Bevans
This wasn't meant to be a spiritual formation book. I bought it for something else. When it arrived, I opened it at random, read two sentences, and went, "Ohhh! Richard Rohr has an anthropological model of theology! (pause) I definitely don't. I wonder what model of theology I have?" Well, I had to read a bit more to find that out, and also to realise that the book isn't really about your personal theological preference (I was so sure there would be an online quiz for that, but I couldn't find one). It's very much about mission, and how culture and faith intersect. I decided that was quite relevant for spiritual formation, so... on to the list it went.
God is Not a White Man and Other Revelations by Chine McDonald
I can't quite remember how I came across this one, but I was pleased to have it recommended by a friend recently. It was also featured on the wonderful Beer Christianity podcast. So I expect good things. Plus it sounds like it's partly a memoir, which should be a nice change after Bevans' scholarly monograph.
The Scandal of Redemption by Oscar Romero
Archbishop Oscar Romero is certainly a voice worth hearing from. He was a Catholic priest in El Salvador who stood up for the poor and spoke out against the corrupt government. In 1980, while he was celebrating mass, he was shot dead by an assassin. This book is a collection of excerpts from his letters, sermons, and radio broadcasts.
So that's my five books to read between September and July. I'll let you know my thoughts as I go along - and you're most welcome to read with me, or borrow a book afterwards.
Stained glass image by Marybeth from Pixabay