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Gathering Disciples; Essays in Honour of Christopher J. Ellis

A wonderful collection of essays, each addressing an area of vital importance to our Baptist way of being church 


Gathering DisciplesGathering Disciples; Essays in Honour of Christopher J. Ellis
Myra Blyth and Andy Goodliff (editors)
Eugene OR: Pickwick
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-4982-3157-2
Reviewed by Stephen FInamore 

Chris Ellis has made an astonishing contribution to Baptist life and has served our networks of churches in remarkable ways. In addition to pastoring five churches, he has been a college principal, our president, a hymn writer, a scholar of worship, and moderator of our council. Most of us would settle for doing any one of those things but Chris has done them all, has done them extraordinarily well, and has done them all with the combination of wisdom, friendliness and graciousness that is his hallmark.

I was fortunate enough to have Chris and his wife Marilyn as church members for a few years while I was in pastorate and then to succeed Chris as principal of the college in Bristol. I was grateful for their generous contributions to church life both up front and behind the scenes and very appreciative of the thoughtful way Chris welcomed and inducted me into the life of the college. In the light of all this, I am delighted that Myra Blyth and Andy Goodliff have brought together this collection of essays that celebrate and honour Chris’s life and ministry.
I’ve read, reviewed and contributed to a number of collections of essays over the years. Lots of them are very worthwhile but there is always a difficulty in getting the end result to be both coherent and suitably personal. The editors have met this challenge in a very thoughtful and appropriate way. The contributors were each given one of Chris’s hymns as the starting point for their reflections. The result is like being welcomed into a conversation between friends as they discuss issues of importance to us all.

Not only is this a great way to make the volume authentically honour Chris and his work, it also means that the issue of worship, the subject of Chris’s major books, is at the heart of this collection. Those books include Gathering for Worship; Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples (co-written/edited for the Baptist Union with Myra Blyth) and Gathering; A Theology and Spirituality of Worship in Free Church Tradition – hence the name of this volume; Gathering Disciples.
Each of the fourteen chapters of the book consists of the words of one of Chris’s hymns – if you get the urge to sing them, a number can be found in Baptist Praise and Worship­ – followed by an essay addressing one or more of the themes touched on by the song. The writers are drawn from among Chris’s peers, colleagues and friends.  

We get to read Chris’s younger brother Rob’s (current principal at Regent’s Park College where Chris first trained) thoughts on Baptists in search of truth; Rob’s predecessor at Regent’s, Paul Fiddes, on the Triune Creator; Nigel Wright, former principal at Spurgeon’s College on Calvinism; Ruth Gouldbourne, Chris’s colleague in Bristol, on the communion of saints; Tony Peck, another Bristol colleague currently General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, on European ecumenical engagement; and that’s just a few of the chapters.
Every contribution takes its lead from one of Chris’s hymns, all of them are written by thoughtful people with constructive things to say, and each addresses an area of vital importance to our Baptist way of being church. As a result we get a wonderful collection of essays, held together by Chris’s own interests and passions, making it a terrific celebration of his ministry, a lovely way to appreciate his friendship, and a really significant book in its own right. These essays are all well worth reading and the book as a whole is highly recommended.

Stephen Finamore is principal, Bristol Baptist College



Baptist Times, 17/05/2018
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