New prayer anthology speaks for the 'outsiders'

 LONDON - 20 September 2002 - 290 words

Review of 'Courage to Love: an anthology of inclusive worship material,' compiled by Geoffrey Duncan, published by Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002.

This collection of writings - prose, poetry, pieces for several voices and prayers - have been collected together because they are all written from the point of view of those who feel outsiders. The contributors are from many lands and cultures, but all are from people who for one reason or another the Church has passed by. Many express a sexuality which is not mainstream. Others' lives are constrained by being carers, being disabled, feeling judged and found wanting by other churchgoers, and those who feel unwelcome and thus somehow different.

For this reason alone the book is worth dipping into. All of us can benefit from others' experiences, knowing how 'outsiders' feel, and appreciating something of their frustrations. But the book also includes suggested liturgies for celebrating otherness, and contains some beautifully written blessings for states not usually mentioned in church. Thus the celebration of a change of gender, of partners, commitments in same sex relationships, of vows of service and of the single life are each tender and enabling for both participants and congregation. Truly the 'courage to love' of the title of this anthology is not only a call for toleration of differences but a call to celebrate and hallow these differences. If we can do this then we can begin to be genuine in welcoming all sorts and conditions of people into the church community.

A quotation from a contribution from the USA sums up the book for me:

'Wise and wonderful Creator of infinite variety
forgive us our petty striving to squeeze you and your creation
into our conventions'