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In Such Times: Reflections on Living with Fear

Lorraine Cavanagh
Cascade Books, 2018, £16.00, ISBN 978-1532641763
Review by Liz Shercliff, Director of Studies, Diocese of Chester

<strong>In Such Times: Reflections on Living with Fear</strong>

This proved a difficult book to review. Sensitively yet challengingly written, it drew me in, and I found myself using it as an aid to reflection rather than a book to critique. I believe that every preacher could benefit from doing the same.

The book offers an antidote to the kind of overconfident preaching that seeks to inoculate hearers from the pain of fear, and a challenge to honest preaching where hearers are challenged to live life courageously. Fear both connects us to and alienates us from the other. Facing up to fear is not enough, however. Through the pages of the book, Lorraine Cavanagh encourages us to realise acceptance and compassion – we are securely loved, and therefore can love others. In a world apparently dominated by fear in so many levels, here is a vision of a compassionate yet vulnerable world, a worthy aspiration for human life.

Beginning with ‘Original Loneliness’ the human state for which God has compassion both before and after the ‘Fall’, the book moves on to ‘Fear of Failure’ (Chapter 2). The introduction is uncompromising honest: ‘Hiding from others also involves hiding from reality, including, in certain cases, the reality that requires that we take responsibility for ourselves in situations that feel threatening.’ The chapter goes on to consider the kind of abuse and rejection in and by the church aimed at making people conform, and the risk of teaching that leads some to believe that ‘being excluded is something they must learn to expect, that it is even part of their life’s purpose.’ Chapter 3 considers ‘Fear and Faith’, using as an example, President Trump’s fear of ‘loss of face’ – this is a very contemporary work! ‘Fear and the Church’ (Chapter 4) looks at status anxiety, competition and deep truth. ‘In the World but not of It’ (Chapter 5) discusses the relationship between church and world: ‘Although we are bound up in our particular contexts – historical, social, economic, and cultural – we are not imprisoned in them … As a people of faith we are free. But we are also part of the world of today and we bear its loneliness.’ Again, an issue for preachers to consider in our work.

‘The Outsider God’ (Chapter 6) envisions evangelism as radical hospitality; ‘Fools Rush In’ (Chapter 7) discusses the importance of trustworthiness in leadership; ‘Return to Center’ (Chapter 8) concludes with the challenge to ‘surrender into the goodness of people’, to ‘take responsibility for the other from within what might be called the collective heart.’

This is certainly a book that preachers should read, for the sake of our own reflection and for the sake of those to whom we speak.


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