In the past fifty years “church” has been something we have mostly imported from our neighbour to the south. Our imagination about what it means to be God’s people has been shaped by a variety of traditions — you can name the one you know — but those traditions themselves have been conditioned by the preachers, leaders, books and churches that have dominated the scene in the U.S.A. The most prominent of these, we all know, being Willow Creek: Big Box, high production.

We are now in the intriguing place of recognizing the limits of an imported imagination of ecclesial life. There are signs that the work of theology, and of mission, in place — in THIS place — and the interaction of these two, is being taken with new seriousness by Canadians. Thus this series of posts on the work of Canadian authors.

And not only of Canadian AUTHORS – but of Canadian leaders and missionaries. All of the books that I will note here in the first weeks of January are written by writers who are not only thinking about the Canadian context, but are working for the gospel on the ground on Canadian soil. They are, or have been, engaged in mission. (By the way, I am only considering books published since 2008).

My first post considered A Happy Ending, published by The Story in Sarnia, Ontario. This post will consider the “Book of Hours” from St. Benedict’s Table in Winnipeg. At the close of this post I’ll list more of the books I plan to cover here.

bookA Book of Hours is essentially a prayer book. This one is produced by the people of St. Benedict’s Table, an Anglican community in Winnipeg. They describe the project like this:

“In the medieval church a Book of Hours was a daily prayer book designed for use by those who lived their faith outside of the walls of the monastery. Beautiful Mercy, the Saint Benedict’s table Book of Hours, is a project that reimagines this tradition, grafting ancient forms and prayers to modern means of communication. This stunning ancient-future project includes:

Original prayers
reflective prose
original artwork and drawings
original recordings

Beautiful Mercy | A Book of Hours is shaped around the seven seasons of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time) and the seven hours or times of prayer (Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline) observed in the monastic tradition. In total there are 49 sections that offer timeless reflection and entry points to the book during any season of the year. While the book is a good devotional resource it also stands on its own as a thing of beauty and as a celebration of artists and writers in our community.”

The story of the launch celebration, with some more reflection on the project itself, is HERE. Jamie notes that, “as art migrated to galleries and music to concert halls – and as architects were commissioned to design great edifices to say something not about the holy, but rather as monuments to finance and commerce – the Christian church largely forgot its connection to the arts. Not entirely, of course; there are notable and remarkable exceptions to that generalization. But how often do we now hear of a church commissioning a piece of art or music? How often do we raise up and celebrate the work of a poet or a playwright or a sculptor, as being essential to our common life?”

The arts are a powerful tool for reconnecting life to the sacred. Wendell Berry writes,

“If what we see and experience, if our country, does not become real in imagination, then it never can become real to us, and we are forever divided from it… Imagination is a particularizing and a local force, native to the ground underfoot… As I am understanding it, imagination in this high sense shatters the frameworks of realism in the arts and empiricism in the sciences. It does so by placing the world and its creatures within a context of sanctity in which their worth is absolute and incalculable.” Imagination in Place, 32

So what further books will I cover in this series of posts? At least the following:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci, The Cost of Community
Craig Bartholomew, Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place
John Bowen The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan
Tim Dickau, Plunging into the Kingdom Way
Brad Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut
Bill McAlpine, Sacred Space for the Missional Church
Rob McAlpine, Post-Charismatic?
Gary Nelson, Borderland Churches and Going Global
Roger Helland, Magnificent Surrender
Hjalmarson and Helland, Missional Spirituality
Hjalmarson, An Emerging Dictionary for the Gospel and Culture
Phil Wagler, Kingdom Culture
Brian Walsh, Kicking at the Darkness
Juliet Benner, Contemplative Vision

Go to Part III