St. James the Least of All – August 2023

The Rectory
St James the Least

August 2023

My Dear Nephew Darren,

Your suggestion that every month at clergy meetings, someone should review a book of theology they have been reading, was bound to be greeted with uneasy resistance.  It would mean that the majority would have to start opening books, rather than just occasionally dusting them.  Possessing books does not necessarily imply that they are ever read.

Your high church colleagues will only read the Racing News, low church members the Railway Review, liberals the Knitting Weekly and those with tendencies towards non-conformism, the Allotment Times.  Clerical studies may be lined with books, but they are largely for effect – and to hide damp patches on the wallpaper.  Anything with hard covers will have been bought with the best of intentions – but somehow the vicarage lawn or the church hall drains will have taken precedence.  And from what I know of your colleague over at St Crispin’s, the only books he will buy will be to colour in.

I do try to keep up with my reading but sleep mercifully intervenes after the first ten minutes.  On those days when I sit by my study window, so passers-by can see me deeply occupied in intellectual activity, it is most useful that my large tome on the letters of Eusebius can easily conceal an Agatha Christie inside it.

I was hugely impressed when, during the bitter cold of last winter, the Earl of Stowe, whose library would comfortably contain one of our cathedrals, told me he was slowly getting through its contents of tens of thousands of volumes.  It was only sometime later that I discovered he meant he threw the occasional one on the fire, when he was running low on wood.

No, my Dear Darren, the only literary activities that will spark interest will be crosswords for the majority, or diocesan reports for the truly dedicated – with weighty tomes being used as door stops.

Your loving uncle,


The Rev Dr Gary Bowness

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