Category Archives: Reviews

Lay Preaching Basics – Reviewed in Touchstone 2018

Review in Touchstone October 2018 by Rev Dr Lynne Wall.

(Touchstone is the monthly newspaper of the
Methodist Church of New Zealand.)

 “If you have ever thought about becoming a worship leader or a lay preacher, this book is an excellent starting point. Rosalie Sugrue is a competent lay preacher of many years’ standing, who in this book has generously shared from her own treasure trove of experience, wisdom and creative resources.

In the first part of her book, Rosalie introduces the reader to the Bible by providing basic information about content, characters and concepts in both testaments. There is enough to stimulate the mind and encourage further exploration by referring to the up-to-date bibliography at the end of the book.

The author then moves to the nitty-gritty of how to plan a service of worship, giving general outlines and practical tips along the way. There are examples of orders of service, sermon outlines and pointers on presentation.

But this is not just a ‘how-to’ book. Rosalie reminds the would-be worship leader that worship must be meaningful and relevant for the particular congregation. As she reminds the reader, “It is about engaging the soul.” What might suit a café style service in the local parish will not be suitable for a rest home service of worship. She encourages the use of participation, silence, music and visual aids.

The rest of the book is a rich and varied selection of resources for use in worship, most of which are from Rosalie’s own pen. They are the fruit of her background and experience as a teacher and are tried and tested if used in the right context. There are ideas for the different seasons and festivals of the church year, time with children, themes for opening devotions, dialogues and plays, reflections and meditations.

The section of prayers and liturgical resources is particularly useful for the beginning worship leader. For example, there is a fine prayer for Disability Sunday which begins, “God of struggles, strengths and strategies, help us to cope with what we have…”

 It is too easy these days to ‘copy and paste’ material from the internet, even reproducing whole sermons as one’s own. Rosalie reminds us that the sermon “Is the one piece of a service that cannot be taken from a book” [or the internet]. She suggests prayerful preparation and mulling over of one’s random thoughts on a passage of scripture which will help “You explore and firm up on what you believe.” This is what congregations want and need to hear.

This is a practical book which will inspire, encourage and educate anyone who has a calling to lead worship in their local congregation or region.”


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When the Tui Calls – Reviewed in Tui Motu

Review by John Thornley for Tui Motu Magazine.
Issue 219 September 2017 of

When the Tui Calls:
Rural Ministry — Origins and Futures

By Bill Bennett. Published by Philip Garside Publishing Ltd, 2017.

“Described as an “essay”, this 65-page book provides an informal and readable introduction to rural ministry. Parts one and two cover the historical origins in Roman and Celtic religion, embedded within parish and monastic structures, moving through the Reformation and Evangelical revivals, from a post-medieval to the 18th-century industrial, to the urban world.

The story comes to New Zealand in the third part, “Clash of Cultures”, which covers the missionary and settler activities of Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic developments. This section concludes with the treatment of Māori Missions and Pastorates and with the independent Māori ministries in partnership models which emerged later in the 20th-century.

In Part Four, “Changing Patterns of Rural Ministry in the 20th- and 21st-Centuries”, the subheadings highlight the interplay of religious and secular conflicts and compromises that have been central to the story of rural ministry from the beginning. They include, “Rural Prosperity and Adversity”, “Affirming the distinctiveness of a rural ministry theology”, “Minita-a-iwi”, “The Impact of Political and Economic Changes”, “Rural Religion and Politics”, “Local Shared Ministry” and “The Near Landscape and Beyond”.

Bill Bennett is the ideal writer of this book. As an Anglican Pākehā minister he has been a major mover and shaker in the development of a rural ministry theology and praxis in Aotearoa New Zealand. Much of his ministry has been in rural parishes in the Diocese of Waiapu as well as in Norwich and Lichfield Dioceses in England. His publications of prayers and hymns (both lyrics and music) are a taonga for ecumenical and bicultural worship services.

I strongly recommend this book for ministry formation, seminary and pastoral theology libraries and as a resource for lay and ordained ministers throughout New Zealand.”

Original review is online here:
https://hail.to/tui-motu-interislands-magazine/publication/KrJM98L/article/lOeKq7g

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“…poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational…” Redemption Songs: Review in NZ Catholic , 12–25 March 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by

Kieran Fouhy, headmaster at St Paul’s College, Auckland in NZ Catholic 12–25 March 2017

“This 80 page book is poetry in motion. Freewheeling, anguished and inspirational.

I could imagine the words of these ‘new psalms’ being sung in some type of Leonard Cohen album. There is struggle, doubt, alienation, despair, gratitude and self-emptying built into each prayer. Themes which resonate today as they did 4000 years ago.

The author draws these universal lyrics from two sources; King David’s Psalms of the Old Testament and Jesus of Galilee. He places the lyrics in contemporary settings.

“I’ve wanted to be some sort of pop star
one of those heroes of the marketplace
but there is no blessing if I turn aside
wanting things you don’t want for me” (55)

“The mind craves understanding
this body longs to be healed from pain
my spirit needs to touch you
then I’ll be whole again” (42)

There is a hint of a reverse Hound Of Heaven theme running through this book … chasing God through life and seeking his forgiveness. Hence the title, Redemption Songs.

I found that I read this book over many days before going on my morning walk.  It spawned my own thinking about life and the pilgrimage we enjoy. It is a book for the moment … to be read slowly, flicked through and thought about.

The 71 psalms are numbered (no headings) giving an open-endedness to the lyrics, which invites further thought. I like the authenticity of the lyrics, such an antidote to the narcissism and self-importance shown in world politics at present.

Who is this book for? It’s for the reflective, meditative type personality. The retreatant.  It’s for the harassed, the time-poor and the spiritually barren person. It’s for the teacher giving a reflection at a staff briefing. It is, as the cover states, “for people like us.”

I like this book.”

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Redemption Songs — Reviewed in Touchstone April 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by John Thornley in Touchstone April 2017

 “This book contains 71 prayers as poems by Auckland-based singer/songwriter Mark Laurent.

Mark is a Christian musician, poet, writer and communicator, and over more than 30 years, he has recorded many albums and published three poetry books and a children’s storybook. With his wife, Brenda Liddiard, he has done many tours of house- and church-based music concerts, in New Zealand and overseas.

Mark and Brenda live in a high-rise apartment in central Auckland, close enough for Mark to do busking on Queen Street. As he writes: “It’s good to keep in touch with life where it happens – with people where they are.”

This collection contains seventy-one poems inspired by the Hebrew Psalms, which provide ‘good jump-off points’ for the poems that express Mark’s ‘love, hopes and fears to God’.

As the poet writes in his introduction, “The songs are numbered instead of having titles, in the hope that this leaves a degree of open-endedness, so that God can say to you what you need to hear. Dip into them at random. May there be a few holy surprises here for you.”

The language is everyday and unpolished, with imagery drawn from the poet’s life experiences:

God holds us, just as I hold this stone
sees our hardness and our beauty
feels our weight and rough edges
knows our history and potential
we’re all miracles, waiting to happen
we should feel loved.

There is a strong confessional and salvation note in the poems, reflecting similar emphases found in the Psalms and the parables of Jesus:

I’m like a child coming home from school
tasting my mum’s home made baking
life seems a bit like Heaven –
now and then.

As reflecting the lows and highs on life’s journey, the feelings embrace both anger and frustration, compassion and hope:

When I look around me
it’s dog eat dog out there
and if you’re vulnerable or broken
they stare like you’re some kind of freak.
There will never be too many God songs
let’s keep on singing about the good stuff
get out the guitar – warm up your voices
it’s time to compose another one
the best and loudest anthem yet!

There are prayers for the individual and prayers for community, and we need both. Redemption Songs complements well Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land: Psalms Poems and Haiku (2015). While Gibson’s prayers/reflections find a place for collective worship in civic and church venues, Laurent’s poems offer resources for those working in pastoral and counselling roles with individuals and small groups in such places as hospitals and rest homes, prisons and shelter homes. They are also good for personal devotions.

These two collections of poetry are published by Philip Garside Publishing, which is to be commended for making it possible for Christian poets in Aotearoa to be widely read.

Those wanting more information, including how to arrange a local concert from Mark and Brenda, can email him at mark@marklaurent.co.nz

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“…vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.” Review by Mary Caygill of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions:
Faith Seeks Understanding

By Anne Stephenson 2016, Garside Publishing, 86 pages
Reviewer: Mary Caygill

in Methodist newspaper Touchstone March 2017

In this book’s opening pages the author states clearly her intent in writing this resource, which is nothing less than naming what she calls the elephant in the room no one wants to name, and especially no one within religious institutions.

The naming of this ongoing reality is exactly what this author does. She claims quite rightly that no religious institution is devoid of the need to deal justly and compassionately with both ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ when incidences of adult sexual abuse are brought to light and faced up to.

I deliberately choose to juxtapose these two words – ‘justly’ and ‘compassionately’ – as this is the approach the author takes in this valuable resource written out of personal experience.

The subtitle of the book – Faith Seeks Understanding – captures accurately what this book sets out to accomplish and I believe achieves in a most succinct, readable, and informative manner. As such, this book will be a valuable resource for all manner of people both inside and outside of religious institutions.

The author conveys well the complex issues that frame instances of sexual abuse. She helpfully identifies some of the key warning indicators along with some of the key psychological frames of reference that we need to understand to grasp the full extent of adult sexual abuse and particularly how and why it occurs within the context of religious institutions.

It is fair to say that all religious institutions have needed an urgent wake-up call to become aware of the realities of adult sexual abuse by its spiritual leaders. This crisis and the way it has been addressed have proven to be very impetuous.

In many cases there is a need to both address and  establish far more robust procedures that work towards ensuring the pastoral and ethical accountability of those in key positions of trust and influence.

The language used by the author of ‘offender’ and ‘victim’ are rightfully used throughout the book to clearly identify and then address what is at heart an abuse of power which breaches the all-important ethical principle of ‘fiduciary duty’.

As the author establishes, within religious institutions this amounts to breaking the sacred trust between the leader (the one with power) and the congregant who has deemed the leader to be trustworthy.

Because of this sacred trust the consequences are life- changing and the healing required is immense and of a specialised nature both for the victim and offender. The author conveys well the full extent of both the abuse and the healing journey required.

I commend this book as a valuable pastoral resource. It is vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.”

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Like a Dove – Review in Touchstone Feb 2017

Like a Dove – A memoir and biography in honour of Sione Tavo Manukia

By Rubinstine Manukia 2016, Philip Garside Publishing, 98 pages

Reviewer: Motekiai Fakatou in Touchstone February 2017

“Sione Tavo Manukia was a grandson of Arthur Frances Tindall, a missionary and trader to Tonga. Sione migrated to New Zealand in the 1970s. He was a man full of hopes and dreams with humble faith and a deep conviction about his purpose in life.

After he landed on the shore of Aotearoa, his balanced life grew immensely and started to unfold in new ways as he was nurtured by his parents.

His parents Sione senior and Sela Soakai Manukia were staunch Methodists and a local business couple. Sione Sr was a lay preacher and a steward for many years.

Sione’s inner most character was expressed through his ordinary life in extraordinary ways. He lived out his faith practically which explains why so many people, including those who have written in this book, pay tribute to him.

He was a man of tenacious courage coupled with an   enduring faith and a sincere compassion.

Sione’s strong characters have helped him and his family along with many other families. Through his tremendous efforts over the years they have realised their hopes and turned their dreams in to reality.

Throughout the years Sione faced many challenges but this book, written by his daughter, shows how a person can sustain him or herself through the pressures of life and still reach out to assist others so that they can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

The three main elements mentioned above – courage, faith  and compassion – are the three strands that weave together as a strong cord that strengthened Sione over the years.

This solid cord stems out of his great family heritage from both his paternal and maternal family.

His entrepreneurial sense of life came from his grandfather for whom he was a trader in Tonga and around the South Pacific during the early 1900s.

Sione’s steadfast faith was nurtured by his parents, and they encourage him to participate in the life of the church early on. This is where he deepened his faith and displayed it by hard work in dedicating his time and effort to honour God, support his country, and care for his family.

Sione Tavo Manukia is a compassionate father, committed preacher, successful entrepreneur, effective community worker and faithful man of God.”

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Tui Motu Interislands review of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith Seeks Understanding

Reviewer: Kay RyanAugust 29, 2016
for Tui Motu Interislands

“This book is written in response to a deficit within religious institutions where processes to address sexual abuse by pastoral leaders are being inadequately addressed. Based in Christian tradition and drawing on personal experience, Stephenson reveals often hidden dynamics involving sexual abuse by pastoral leaders. She reflects on the current situation, provides information about the psychology of offenders and the effects of abuse on the victim. She gives instructions for Church leaders and community workers on how to support victims while taking responsibility for the criminal acts of offenders. There is practical advice and a structure about how to proceed with complaints.

I like Stephenson’s courage and her resolve to put responsibility for addressing sexual abuse by clergy, firmly into the hands of those in power. She outlines what is needed and how it should be done. Church leaders are challenged to be alert and not allow offenders to keep offending. The offender “cannot be healed with grace, forgiveness, reconciliation”, but must engage with the Criminal Justice system. She is a strong advocate for victims and states how important it is that we get it right for all concerned.

As well as noticing some editing issues I found myself looking for references to other current writers on sexual abuse and trauma, perhaps from a secular perspective. I think this may give more credibility to her general assertions that this is the way it is.

While some victims may view this as a useful text that validates their experience, I think others may find the prescriptive nature of the writing – the do’s and don’ts –  difficult to relate to. I think it is important also to acknowledge that the person’s process itself leads the way. Even though there are certain themes that can be recognised, each person’s response to trauma is different.

Stephenson’s instructions to pastoral workers are clear. However I wanted to hear more about some of the complexities of disclosure within community settings. Instructions such as: “Do not pay attention to what erupts”, needed more explanation.

I agree with the author that this book would be most useful for Church leaders, those in positions of power, clergy and pastoral workers. It may also benefit counsellors who are working with victims of sexual abuse as it gives insight into Christian communities and what they may be struggling with.”

Kay Ryan is a psychotherapist in Auckland.

This review is online at: https://hail.to/tui-motu-interislands-magazine/publication/KrJM98L/article/FaqM3YN


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Kapiti News publishes article about Anne Stephenson and her new book

This informative article about our author Anne Stephenson and her new book – Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding – appeared on page 1 of Kapiti News 17 August 2016.

Click the image to see the article as published or read the text below.

Kapiti_News_article_17_Aug_2016_thumbnail


Opening door on taboo topic

by Cloe Willetts

A Paraparaumu woman has opened the doors on a controversial topic by writing her first book, which will be available at libraries and universities around the country. Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding, written by Anne Stephenson, is a hard-hitting piece that began in December last year. but had been on her mind for more than 40 years.

She approached a sociologist. a psychologist and an independent organisation to see if they’d help her co-write the book, but none of them wanted to, though they all commended her for doing it. The book, according to Anne, discussed sexual abuse of adults by clergy and spiritual leaders and highlighted procedures that needed to be put in place to deal with offenders and their victims.

Her 86-page book, which stemmed from personal research and understanding, covered a range of areas including characteristics of sexual offenders, suggested procedures for dealing with a complaint, victim support and the potential for victims to go on to have fulfilling lives.

Anne, a retired Methodist minister who worked for many years as a registered nurse in New Zealand and Australia, has had training and experience working with sexual offenders and abuse prevention, as well as support of victims and families. With her own experience of abuse as a young church-going wife and mother of three, and having gone on to have sexual abuse counselling, Ms Stephenson said her book was based on 20 years of education, which she hoped would assist in societal change.

“Positive change can come out of the current chaos regarding the handling of sexual abuse within religious institutions,” she said. “This book doesn’t exist to unsettle the good functions within communities, but to highlight areas where there are cases of sexual misconduct. I hope my confidence in the world l know, to reform and restructure as needed, will give insight to religious institutions, offenders, victims and those who support the people involved with such matters.“

The book is available from Paper Plus Paraparaumu, or through Philip Garside Publishing Ltd. For more information Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith seeks understanding visit www.realityrev.co.nz


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Video Celebrates NZ Methodist Theologian Jim Stuart

In this video, David Bell of KiwiConnexion  praises Jim Stuart’s approach to theology.

Click these links for information about and to order Jim’s book The John Wesley Code: Print edition or eBook editions.

Click here for a free Study Guide to the book.

 

Video of readers responding to League of Lilith

Readers find Rosalie & Troy Sugrue’s thriller The League Lilith enthralling.

Click the video to hear from readers and the authors.

You can read a sample chapter here

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