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In this simple, beautifully written book Rowan Williams explores four essential components of the Christian life: baptism, Bible, Eucharist, and prayer. Despite huge differences in Christian thinking and practice both today and in past centuries, he says, these four basic elements have remained constant and indispensable for the majority of those who call themselves Christians.
In accessible, pastoral terms Williams discusses the meaning and practice of baptism, the Bible, the Eucharist, and prayer, inviting readers to really think through the Christian faith and how to live it out. Questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter help readers to dig deeper and apply Williams's insights to their own lives.
Rowan Williams served as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012 and is now Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. A Fellow of the British Academy and an internationally recognized theologian, he was previously Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, Bishop of Monmouth, and Archbishop of Wales.
"Accessible and thought-provoking. . . . An excellent spiritual guide for individual or small group use."
P. D. James
"Elegant and lucid."
-- author of Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks
"Who better than Rowan Williams to be our teacher about the essentials of Christianity! In this clear, accessible exposition, we get Williams at his best - worldly-wise, pastorally gentle, grounded deeply in tradition, acutely alert to the real world of violence where God indwells. Williams ushers us more deeply into our best discernment of the Christian life."
Anthony C. Thiselton
-- author of Life after Death: A New Approach to the Last Things
"A treasure. . . . Enticingly easy to read - simple yet profound, moving yet thoughtful, reassuring yet challenging. This book explains essential elements of the Christian life brilliantly but briefly, expounding themes and answering difficulties in everyday commonsense language. It lifts the heart and enriches the mind."
-- author of When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough
"This volume will become a classic for individual seekers and book groups. Speaking to those inside and outside the church - and the growing number of people who don't know where to locate themselves anymore - Williams entices us all to go deeper by reviewing the basics. It takes a theologian of depth to write a simple book about complex concerns."
-- President of Louisville Prebyterian Theological Seminary
"With clarity and with startling eloquence, one of the greatest theologians and most respected church leaders of our time here guides readers into a deeper understanding of the essential elements of the Christian life. Rowan Williams has written that rarest of books, a work of profound theological insight that is also lively, beautiful, and relevant."
M. Craig Barnes
-- President of Princeton Theological Seminary
"The genius of this little book is that it gets right to the heart of the essential Christian experience. . . . We are simply invited to enter the new life discovered through the core practices of the church."
Sister Wendy Beckett
-- Carmelite Monastery, Quidenham
"Christianity is both simple and profound. Rowan Williams understands these two levels, and how we come to the depth of what Jesus is by the simplicities of informed Christian practice. This is a handbook for Christian living."
Cistercian Studies Quarterly
“This is just the kind of eminently readable, provocative book that would do well for a study group or a retreat and of course for personal spiritual reading. . . . Rowan Williams is above all a pastor, and he knows well what needs to be said and heard of the Christian message these days.”
“Rowan Williams speaks with a passion for the church, her people and her practices. So pastors, seminarians, lay leaders, people who love the church: read this book, keep it on your shelf and read it again.”
“A frustrating blessing of the mysteries of faith is that we can never wrap our minds around them completely. As familiar as they may seem, there are always new angles from which to see them. In this book based on a series of lectures delivered in Canterbury Cathedral, Rowan Williams takes the four identity markers of the Christian community and helps us do just that.”