Sunday, 21 July 2013

Book Review : Donald Coggan "Convictions"



I have finally finished this wonderful book, which to my everlasting shame I had left on the shelf to gather dust along with a few others that I viewed as either boring or out of date. Last week I picked it up and devoured it. As regards to the author, my knowledge of this former Archbishop is very scant. Sadly this is because he falls between two of the more colourful characters that sat upon St. Augustines throne, Blessed Michael Ramsay and Archbishop Robert Runcie. 

The book is a collection of sermons, articles, and address written by His Grace during his tenure as Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury. They are wonderfully written, beautifully crafted, and skillfully developed. Although they are slightly dated, they can still be cleverly adapted to our present world. It is not necessary to go through every chapter, but there are a couple which are worthy of special mention-

  General Synod Presidential Address 4th February 1975 "True Patriotism"

In his address Archbishop Coggan outlines what it means to be a true Christian patriot. He uses examples of true patriotism found in the Old and New Testaments. He cites Moses, Hosea, and Jesus Christ and suggests that from their example the Christian may find at least thee things of value in relation to true patriotism.
i) Patriotism to a Christian means prayer, constant, deep and costly.
ii) True Patriotism may well involve the Christian in criticism of his nation and of its governmental policies.
iii) One thing bound together that great trio of whom we have been thinking this morning. It was a certain agony inseparable from a deep patriotism. 

Harvest Thanksgiving in York Minister 4th October 1974 "The Responsibility of Man"

This is a wonderful Harvest sermon and His Grace has committed exegesis on the text of Psalm 8: 6-8. He certainly hammers home the message of what is expected of man in regards to his relationship with nature. I have noticed that throughout the book, whether it is a sermon or an article the Archbishop has a deep love nature and views nature as incredibly important to the life of man. In may of the chapters of this book you will read the Archbishop extolling the virtues of a true lover of nature being a true lover of God. For how can we not love God if we do love, care, and tend his creation.

I have outlined only two of the chapters of the book, because I believe that the individual must be allowed space to think on the words of the Archbishop. Although we do not live in the same society as Archbishop Coggan (advances in technology, the internet, the collapse of the USSR) a lot of the material is still very relevant and could be redacted in such a way that it would sound like an address written last month let alone over thirty years ago.

I heartily recommend this book for all students of the Church, particularly students who may wonder at the craft of sermon writing. Especially in the Anglican tradition. The words may be old but they are still beautiful, relevant, and written with conviction. After reading this book, I certainly feel more inclined to speak with authority on the person of the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury.

Also, inscribed in this book is "The Deanery, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork." and "Arthur Gordon, Lent 1976". This book has made a terrific journey and perhaps, in hindsight, I was foolish to leave it sitting as a dust catcher. 

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