Posted by H-F Dessain, 27 May 2020
H-F Dessain reviews The Church of England’s booklet Everyday Faith: reflections and prayers to help you find and follow God in everyday life
As part of the Church of England’s Setting God’s People Free initiative comes the Everyday Faith discipleship campaign. Building on the LICC’s project connecting Sunday services to Monday-Saturday life, The Church of England has produced a 21 day bible and prayer booklet to encourage Christians to live out their faith in all of their lives, not just at Church on Sundays, as well as suggested prayers to use throughout the day to remind us of God’s presence wherever we are. The three weeks of material are structured around the Corinthian triad (faith, hope, love) and are interspersed with stories showing how hairdressers, policemen, teachers, transport workers and plumbers are living out their faith in their work.
There are a number of positives in this booklet, not least the centrality of prayer in the life of a Christian. The idea of praying multiple times a day, thanking God for his goodness and his continued presence in the life of a believer, echo’s Paul’s “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). Another helpful aspect was the concept of the ‘examen’ to encourage self-reflection and counting of our blessings from God at the end of each day. The stories of how others were living out their faith in their lives was an encouragement as there were multiple “I could do that” moments as well as showing that being a faithful Christian is not exclusively confined to whether you evangelised your colleagues that day.
My biggest concern with this booklet is its assumption about God: it assumes that God only speaks to us through experiences and prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whilst God certainly does speak to us through experiences, the ‘it just so happened’ moments, He primarily speaks to us through the Bible. There is little encouragement in the booklet for Bible study and the reflections offered in booklet can be far more concerned with plumbing the depths of the stories rather than pointing the reader back to God through the Bible verse quoted.
The other issue I have with this booklet is its focus. Much is made about Christians being on mission, which is true. However, there is little consideration of the new creation. Archbishop Justin Welby, in his foreword to the booklet, defines the church as being “in the business of seeing the difference God wants to bring in the whole world” and mission as “empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the difference Jesus makes”. Such sentiments leave the reader wondering whether their mission is just to be nice to everyone and whether they would even need to be a Christian to do this. A more helpful framing for this discussion would have been how “loving your neighbour as yourself” (Mat 22:39, Lk 10:27), modelling Gospel values, provides a basis on which to bear witness to the hope of eternal life that we have in Jesus.
In conclusion, whilst this booklet raises a number of important points, ultimately the reader would be better served by other material: for those wanting to consider the value of secular work, LICC’s own material is a more helpful starting point; for those seeking daily Bible studies/reflections, there are a plethora of Bible focussed resources out there. The best part of the booklet, the examen, is actually available free on the Church of England website.
H-F Dessain works as a historian and lives in London.
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