This wonderful study of the parish is unrivalled as a scholarly study of the parish, charting brilliantly the determinative role that that it has played in English history. As well as being an invaluable work of social and ecclesiological history, it demonstrates masterfully and imaginatively how crucial place is to any adequate understanding of Christian theology. It deserves to be very widely read not only by all who are committed about the Church of England and the gospel it seeks to proclaim, but also by all who care about the future of England.
Place is back on the agenda today: in books and on television, place and places fascinate scholars and the general public alike. This magnificent book weaves a wide range of perspectives together lyrically with ease. Here, theology finds itself at home with geography, philosophy and the study of history on the widest scale, and at the most local. At a time when church strategy is often ill at ease with the apparent lack of novelty in abiding with a community, where it is, for the long run, Rumsey's book offers what we need, and yet it is low on polemic, and big on pastoral insight.
Andrew Rumsey sees with the eyes of a poet, writes with the hand of a scholar, and loves with the heart of a priest. His call to re-examine the myths, meaning, purpose and promise of the parish is as persuasive as it is timely. He is a faithful storeholder who has found in the history and soil of this evocative theme something old and something new. This is a study to be cherished, enjoyed - and lived.
This book is like discovering a legacy left by a long-lost relative. Parishes are a precious inheritance left to the present generation by its forebears. Cultivated both physically and spiritually for centuries, parishes are not just areas of land, they are repositories of densely-woven human relationship based on principles of reciprocity, generosity and care. In their particularity, they are seed banks of future forms of human community as our global monocultures come under strain. Above all, they proclaim the Christian belief that God's self-disclosure in a living, walking human being was a local affair, and still is. Rumsey's is a profound summons not to take for granted what has been bequeathed to us.
This book is a must read for all Anglicans thinking about mission, the significance of place, and the "parish system". Andrew Rumsey has done something truly astonishing. Each page is packed with worthwhile insights, and more elegant writing than this review could readily quote. He has written the book one wishes one could write, and discussions of the parish and its future must use this wonderful work as their starting place.