Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this collection of pastoral sermons and addresses, Williams shows how the faith of the creeds can still equip Christians for a vigorous and critical engagement with the world of today. In his often poetic, sometimes scholarly, and always thoughtful and engaging style, Williams reflects with wisdom and empathy on the gospel connections to issues of peace, war, justice, sexuality, wholeness, suffering, loneliness, vocation, and mission. Sermons from the church year and practical matters of Christian spirituality such as intercessory prayer and Bible study are also included; still others celebrate great Christian figures across the centuries, from the Anglo-Saxon saints to Michael Ramsey and T. S. Eliot. Also, published for the first time are Williams's addresses on Mission and Spirituality delivered at Yale in 1991, a sharp but sympathetic perspective on evangelism in the church today.
Books of sermons, meditations, 'reflections, ' etc., that actually instruct the preacher are rare indeed. What is not so rare is that these books often arise from the distinguished Anglican tradition of theology and preaching. Rowan Williams' new book, A Ray of Darkness, is one of them. It is a hefty collection of 45 pieces. The work is filled with sensitive theology, spirituality, and erudition. The book makes one want to be a better preacher. "There is great variety in these pieces, but the variety, significantly, is largely in the range of 'occasions' for which Williams is able to shape gospel. For example, there is a jewel of a short wedding sermon here, well worth emulation. There is a striking piece here on the relation between music and the gospel titled 'Keeping Time, ' preached, we are told, 'For the Three Choirs Festival.' There is a profound university sermon preached 'at the outbreak of the Gulf War.' There are what appear to be tributes to 'saints' such as John Wesley, T. S. Eliot, and Michael Ramsey; but they are, instead, gospel statements, some would say sermons, framed in a highly original and provocative manner. One comes away from the volume wanting to speak on 'special occasions' and charged with a new sense about how to do so. . . . "Williams' book treats each Scripture text like an old grime-covered window. For him, the preacher's task is to rub a small clearing on the window through which to peer, with face pressed to the glass, into an obscure and shadowy room. Sermons have a probing, searching quality when texts are treated in this manner. As to the difficult matters of doctrine and creed, Williams demonstrates how one can explore the metaphorical, even mythic, dimensions of creedal ideas while, at the same time, affirming those ideas in fresh form for the church's life and health.--Joseph Webb, the School of Theology at Claremont