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Thriving in Curacy & Chaplaincy and Mission

Jon J Marlow / Sarah Watson

 

Both Grove Books, 2020, £3.95. Paperback ISBN 978-1-78827-1417 / ISBN 978-1-78827-1400

Review by Grace Thomas, Curate and Diocesan Environmental Officer, Diocese of Manchester

One of the many advantages of Grove books is their ability to be accessible whilst also providing astute insight and guidance. That is certainly the case for these two titles, which, whilst appearing to have different focuses, are, in essence, both explorations into some key ministry roles.

From my own context as a third-year curate, I was interested to read Marlow’s ‘Thriving in Curacy,’ which offers perspectives on the important relationship between a training incumbent (TI) and their curate. After initially highlighting the statistic that 70% of curates describe their relationship with their TI as positive, Marlow rightly draws our attention to the 30% of curates who have not stated this, directing the reader to the potential reasons for difficulties in this relationship and, crucially, how they can be addressed or avoided. Throughout the book are tips and questions for curates and TIs to use both in the initial discernment process and during the curacy itself. I was particularly struck with the suggestions for ordinands to ask potential TIs – they were innovative questions that I had not considered before but recognise would be extremely helpful during an initial meeting. Equally, the reflective questions posed for TIs – such as ‘When do you start to feel irritated by your curate? (what does that reveal about you?) - are a helpful exercise in exploring what may be happening ‘below the surface.’ This is a perceptive and highly practical guide that will help both parties to flourish in their respective roles and their relationship with each other.

Watson explores another key ministry role, namely the role of school chaplains, in ‘Chaplaincy and Mission’. Noting from the outset the holistic nature of mission, Watson demonstrates comprehensively how the role of the chaplain can be lived out within the framework of the five marks of mission. I particularly liked the embodied nature of chaplaincy that Watson portrays – highlighting the importance of presence and using terms like ‘walking sacrament’. Watson also asks pertinent questions about use of space which will be helpful to reflect upon. Chapter five is an essential chapter for any chaplain as it asks crucial theological and ethical questions. Watson reminds the reader of the unique position of the chaplain in school, where, for example, children are a ‘captive audience’ in collective worship. This is important not just for chaplains, but for any minister leading school assemblies. It is a reminder about the challenge and gift of this style of leading and preaching, which is so very different from that of a Sunday morning service.

Both these books are worthy contributions to their respective fields and useful additions as resources for initial training for people new to role, and for more experienced practitioners continuing professional development.

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