The Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, launched his second book, Shadows on the Journey, in the Good Book Shop, Belfast, on September 22.
Although it is not a sequel to his well received first publication Fulfilment and Frustration, the Bishop said there are connections between the two.
“Shadows on the Journey is much more reflective on church. For me it is less personal than my first book, but it is not impersonal,” the Bishop said.
It is based on the Emmaus story, with the disciples in the shadow of Jesus. “My book is about all our shadows on the journey,” Bishop Abernethy said.
Much of Shadows on the Journey was written during a period of extended sick leave, and in this time Bishop Abernethy reflected on his own journey in ministry. Speaking at the launch he said: “It came from a difficult time and I see it as part of the recovery process.”
In the book he wrestles with the shadows that have been part of his journey of faith, including shadows of scripture, ministry and worship. The Bishop discusses the difficulties facing the church today, and questions whether the structures of parish life enable the mission that the church is called to live out in the local community.
Helping Bishop Abernethy launch his book were two men he described as ‘very dear friends.’ Paddy Donnelly is former vice–principal of the North Down College of Further Education, and Dick Milliken is a former Irish rugby international and a member of the British and Irish Lions who toured South Africa in the 1970s.
Mr Donnelly said that, in the book, the bishop had not sought to dodge the demands of ministry, but had faced them with “disarming and typical frankness.”
He was sure that readers would not only enjoy the book but also be encouraged to “think very hard” by its contents.
Describing the book as “fascinating … challenging the way we’ve done things”, Mr Milliken said that the book’s relevancy would be a “source of comfort” to many, especially the clergy in their “demanding and draining ministry journeys.”
Shadows on the Journey has received commendations from the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev John Sentamu, and Mark Russell, Chief Executive Officer of Church Army and a member of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.
Dr Sentamu stated: “The book helps to show no matter where we are, where we go, or how we feel, God is always there with us on our journey.
“The journey may be difficult or demanding, but we must never forget the unique gifts, talents and outlook that God has given us, to help and encourage others.
“I would like to commend Bishop Alan in the work he is doing in particular to support those called into the ministry.
“It is an important question to ask: Who encourages the encourager? I hope you will take time to read Shadows on the Journey.
Mr Russell said Bishop Abernethy’s book was ‘stunning, honest, real and inspiring.’
In his commendation he wrote: “In these challenging times the Church needs leaders of integrity and depth who can ask the right questions. Leaders who love Jesus and His Church.
“Alan Abernethy is such a man, and in this special book, he addresses some of the key questions facing us. How can we grow and not just survive? How can we be real and not superficial? How can we have a faith joined up with our lives? How can we care for those in the demanding role of public ministry?
“This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read, because Alan writes out of his experience and wisdom, out of his joy and pain. This book is a must read for every Christian who cares for our Church.”
Bishop Abernethy said Shadows on the Journey was aimed at everyone who has an interest in the church, its mission and its future.
The book is available now in the Good Book Shop, Donegall Street, Belfast.