Book Review: Dear England – Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World

Are you a dreamer? Do you have a vision for what the Church can and should be?  Archbishop Stephen Cottrel, the 98th Archbishop of York, certainly does, and he outlines that dream in his new book Dear England – Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World.

The book is written as a letter to England but can undoubtedly be placed in the context of any nation. Cottrell writes after an encounter with a young woman in a coffee shop. On his way to a conference, he had stopped in to grab a coffee before boarding a train. The young woman approached him, and seeing that he was in clericals, asked him a simple question, “What made you become a priest?”

As he was in a hurry, he did not have much time to answer. He had two answers for the young woman, God and because he wanted to change the world. I share this answer with the archbishop, but I am not as eloquent when I answer. The woman answered by saying that most of the Christians she knew fell into one of two categories, those whose faith is a hobby, and the second “embraced their faith so tightly, it frightened everyone else away.” And then she asked, “Is there another way?

The answer to the young woman’s question is what the book is all about.

Written in three parts, Finding Hope, Taking Heart, and Changing the World, Cottrel shares some of his most intimate and private thoughts on where the Church is, how it got here, and with much hard work how it is going to become that beacon of hope it once was.

Peppered throughout the book are nuggets of wisdom that I call “Tweetable” as they are perfect Tweets. As I was reading, I was wondering if he wrote in this style with Twitter in mind.

Although written to and about England, this book rings true with me as a minister in the United States. Archbishop Stephen writes from a position of hope, and the vision he casts of a less inwardly focused church and more outwardly focused is refreshing. He writes of how we must first change our lives before we can change the world. But, in fact, the change we need to make in ourselves will change the world one little place at a time.

The book is pastoral and evangelical. Archbishop Stephen admits the faults and shortcomings of the Church and makes no excuses for them.

In the end, he offers hope, the hope that only Jesus Christ can bring to the darkened world. “It is never so dark that the radiance of Christ cannot illuminate the way, though sometimes the light seems very faint indeed.”

The world may seem dark, and the Church might be on the ropes, but this book comes as a beacon to light the way for the future. “In every moment, in the darkest hour, and in the eye of every storm, we have the opportunity to repent, to turn around, to receive this chance to start again and change direction.”

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 2021
Pages: 184

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