Book Reviews/Orders Collection

Progressive Liturgy

BOOK REVIEW

When Progressives Gather Together.
Liturgy, Lectionary, Landscape… And Other Explorations

Author: Rex A E Hunt
Publisher: Morning Star Publishing, Northcote, Vic, 2016
P/Back, 405 pages, RRP $30.00

Reviewed by
Rev John Churcher [Former Chair, Progressive Christianity Network, Britain]


Rex Hunt's publication is steeped in his years of experience of preparing and leading Progressive Christianity worship and preaching materials. It is both theological and practical, designed to be of immense value to those seeking greater understanding of what is necessary to create contemporary progressive liturgy and relevant worship resources.  

In the Introduction Rex states that the book itself probably began in the mid-1960s – as both a reviewer of the book and a worship leader and preacher who has used liturgies and sermon ideas created by Rex over many years, it is obvious that Rex has put 50 years of his personal creative experiences [and his lively personality!] at the disposal of readers. All of this is set within a scholarly accessible format that avoids a heavy academic approach.

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BOOK REVIEW

When Progressives Gather Together.
Liturgy, Lectionary, Landscape… And Other Explorations

Author: Rex A E Hunt
Publisher: Morning Star Publishing, Northcote, Vic, 2016
P/Back, 405 pages, RRP $30.00

Reviewed by
Rev Wes Hartley
[Busselton, Western Australia]


The overwhelming sense experienced of engaging in Rex Hunt’s splendid resource, because it is much more than just a “read”, is one is left with the sense that worship in all its visual, verbal, non-verbal and yes, sensual manifestations, is theatre - pure and simple.

Never before has there been such a plethora of resources available, including that of electronic and visual presentation denied to previous generations, yet the theatre seats are largely empty and the enterprise risks failure.  It is the abiding dilemma of contemporary faith communities.

In an environment where the awe of the latest manifestation of Star Wars, or the fascination of gravitational waves defining universes we will never experience are front and centre in popular imagination, few are noticing the passion that can emanate from creative faith expression, whether through sacrament or proclamation, prayer or story, allied to heightened sensitivity and growth in awareness of all that surrounds us.

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BOOK REVIEW

When Progressives Gather Together.
Liturgy, Lectionary, Landscape… And Other Explorations

Author: Rex A E Hunt
Publisher: Morning Star Publishing, Northcote, Vic, 2016
P/Back, 405 pages, RRP $30.00


Some short comments…

Having traversed the emotionally draining journey of deconstructing orthodox Christianity the question that arises for “progressives” is, how can we share and express our recently found understanding of the sacred source of life?

Rex Hunt’s new book When Progressives Gather Together is the book I have been waiting for.  In this book Rex provides “progressive” Christians with a guide for corporately celebrating their newly found life-embracing faith, without negating their intellectual integrity.

Another piece of the puzzle for “progressives” in the sharing of a living faith within an embracing community is now in place and for this I am profoundly grateful.

Rev John W H Smith
[Co-Editor, Why Weren’t We Told?]


Rex Hunt has created a wonderful source for those who have an established progressive church or are contemplating starting one. Not only does Hunt give a powerful case for the progressive movement but offers an insightful critique of what has gone wrong with the modern church. 

Against the Stream

BOOK REVIEW 


Against the Stream:
Progressive Christianity between Pulpit and Pew

Author: Rex A E Hunt
Publisher: Morning Star Publishing
RRP: $27.95

By Dr Noel Preston


Aptly titled, Against the Stream: Progressive Christianity between Pulpit and Pew, this collection (to cite the back cover blurb) “is an important resource for those seeking a relevant faith beyond creed, set answers, and conservative neo-orthodoxy, which have shackled the church ever since the 1970s.”

In fact its centre-piece is a collection of twenty-six sermons delivered between 2002 and 2012 mainly at The Church of St James, Canberra, during his last placement as a Uniting Church minister before retiring.  An extended essay on the characteristics of progressive Christianity, especially in the Australian context, precedes these homilies.

Against the Stream is  significant because its author is a prominent organiser within the so called  grassroots movement of progressive Christianity,  the 'church alumni', as Bishop Spong describes them.  Rex Hunt was the Founding Director of “The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought” in Canberra, initiated and chaired the Common Dreams national conferences (2007 and 2010) and the forthcoming Common Dreams 3 conference (September 2013).  As an Associate of the Westar Institute he has also been a major Australian conduit to leading progressive New Testament scholars in North America, such as Robert Funk, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

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BOOK REVIEW


AGAINST THE STREAM: PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY

BETWEEN PULPIT AND PEW

Author: Rex A E Hunt.
2012. Morning Star Publishing.
RRP $27.95. P/back.


Reviewed by Canon Dr Nigel Leaves, St John's Cathedral, Brisbane.



When you accept the findings of critical biblical scholarship your ideas of God, Jesus and the Church are radically transformed.

You begin to view with suspicion many of the "official" doctrines framed within creeds and doctrine.

It can be an unsettling time.

But what happens when all this occurs as an ordained minister of the church?  How can you be true to academic research and uphold church formularies?

More significantly, what do you expound every Sunday morning as you are called upon to explain from the pulpit "the Word of God?"  What do you say to the faithful? How many academic insights dare you pass on?

Rex Hunt is an Associate of the Westar Institute and for many years was on the front-line, preaching to Uniting Church congregations.

In Against the Stream we are treated to a series of sermons that are an honest attempt to bridge the gap between the academic and the pew.

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BOOK REVIEW


Against the Stream.
Progressive Christianity between Pulpit and Pew

by Rex A E Hunt. Morning Star Publishing, 2012.
184 pages. RRP $27.95


Review by Rev Dr David Merritt,
Secretary, Progressive Christian Network of Victoria



Few people in Australia have an opportunity to hear someone well informed about progressive biblical and theological scholarship reflect regularly on what it means to understand and live open to the complexities and richness of contemporary life.

This collection of reflections and sermons preached by Rex Hunt between 2002 and 2012 offers that opportunity.

Rex Hunt is now retired after a long ministry in the Uniting Church in Australia as journalist and parish minister.  He was founding Director of the Centre for Religious Thought, Canberra  http://www.progressivereligion.org.au  and continues as an organiser of the Common Dreams Conferences for Religious Progressives that are held every three years in Australia.

The sermons are brief – “To preach much longer than twelve minutes these days is bad communication no matter who you are”.  The print layout preserves the structure of a spoken message designed to be heard.

Why Weren't We Told?

Review by Jim Burklo
Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California
6 February 2013


Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on 'progressive' Christianity

Edited by Rex A. E. Hunt and John W. H. Smith. (Polebridge Press/Westar Institute).
RRP $27.50. P/back.


WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD? - that you don't have to take the Bible literally in order to be a serious, faithful Christian?  That's the question engaged in this book edited by progressive Christian leaders from "Down Under".

WHY WEREN'T WE TOLD? comprises a richly eclectic introduction to theologically and socially progressive Christianity.  Australia and New Zealand have many lively progressive churches and lay groups, from which much creative liturgy, music, and theology have emerged.

Rex Hunt and John Smith, both of them pastors of the Uniting Church of Australia and Associates of the Jesus Seminar/Westar Institute, gathered writings of biblical scholars and progressive church leaders from around the world.  It's an anthology of writings about the development of progressive Christianity, its current manifestations, and creative ways of interpreting scripture and tradition.  Thirteen of my "musings" - poems, prose-poems, hymns, and liturgical materials - are scattered throughout the book.

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BOOK REVIEW


Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on Progressive Christianity

Polebridge Press, 2013. RRP $27.95
Edited by: Rex A E Hunt & John W H Smith


Reviewed by Rev Bryan Gilmour
[Past Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland]



As a conservative evangelical Christian of the latter decades of the twentieth century, I always felt ill at ease with the narrow confines of the dogmatic creeds and the "straightjacket" formulas of belief that Christians were expected to adhere to within the confines of regulated denominations.

There was no acceptable freedom to step outside those regulated boundaries for fear of expulsion or moving beyond the dogmatic confines of our denominational heritage.

Today, in a world of unlimited resources and enquiry, people are asking the pertinent question of their denominational leaders, Why Weren't We Told?

This book of selected writings is a powerful stimulus for Christians to explore the mysteries of their own faith walk.

It will open new horizons that stimulate spiritual growth and enable a freedom for people in small groups to share together in these many critical areas of human spiritual discovery and fulfilment.

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Book Review: A Goldmine of Progressive Resources

Reviewed by Alan Coles
(Free to Believe, Britain)


Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on ‘progressive’ Christianity
Compiled & edited by Rex A E Hunt & John W H Smith,
Polebridge Press, 2013


I’m usually turned off by extravagant and often inappropriate hyperbole used widely as a sales tool to sell almost everything. However, ‘excellent, inspiring, informative, encouraging and fascinating’ is an accurate description of this richly packed 266-page paperback. Since I bought it in July, hardly a day has passed when I have not picked it up.

The majority of the content and its contributors are from New Zealand, Australia and the USA. The purpose of the book is to provide material for further study and to stimulate readers into clarifying their thinking on a great variety of issues. It provides examples of ‘work in progress’ as well as concise cameos written mainly by ordained scholars on a host of topics. Most contributors are fellows of the Westar Institute/Jesus Seminar.

New Life

BOOK REVIEW


New Life: Rediscovering Faith. Stories from Progressive Christians.
Edited & Collated by John W H Smith and Rex A E Hunt.
Morning Star Publishing, 2013. P/Back. RRP $32.95. 240 pages

Reviewed by Tom Hall
Retired English teacher, an active long-time Associate Fellow of Westar Institute,
Editor of 62 books for the affiliated Polebridge Press, and for over thirty years a lay preacher,
presently happy to be serving a small pastoral Quaker meeting in Rhode Island.



Testimonies, once a staple of Protestant evangelism, are largely absent from mainstream churches today.  No doubt it is a salutary development that emotional and often self-centered effusions now find little place in the context of community worship.

But with the publication of New Life: Rediscovering Faith. Stories from Progressive Christians, John Smith and Rex Hunt have invigorated the old form with a welcome infusion of… new life!  They have assembled first-person accounts of twenty-five thoughtful and articulate seekers who had all but given up on traditional religion before they at last discovered a Christian path that was able to accommodate the twenty-first century worldview.

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BOOK REVIEW


NEW LIFE: Rediscovering Faith. Stories from progressive Christians

Editors: John W H Smith and Rex A E Hunt
Publisher: Morning Star Publishing.  RRP $32.95


By Rev Denis Oakley


Those who belong to the progressive Christian movement are keen to explain that the word “progressive” should not convey a sense of superiority about their religion.  Rather, it is descriptive of the way that some choose to approach their understanding of the Christian faith.  In a recently published book titled New Life the editors borrow a definition from the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity to explain.

“Progressive isn’t a place. It is a state of mind and the next step from wherever you find yourself entrenched. Whether in the church, in your workplace, or in your relationships, a progressive perspective is characterized by openness, passion, creativity and willingness to explore beyond wherever you are at the moment”.

Uniting Church clergy, John Smith and Rex Hunt who are both prominent in the Australian Progressive Christian movement invited 26 lay people to write their story about their journey of faith.  Most contributors had an association with either the Anglican or Uniting Church in Australia.  There was one Roman Catholic and one Baptist, both academics.

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BOOK REVIEW


New Life: Rediscovering Faith
Stories from Progressive Christians

Compiled and Edited by John W H Smith and Rex A E Hunt.
Morning Star Publishing, 2013. P/Back.

Reviewed by Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson



One of the joys of reading John Smith and Rex Hunt’s new book New Life is ‘hearing’ the authentic voices of fellow-travellers describing their experiences of church and faith.  John and Rex have shown great discernment in gathering first-person stories from lay people around Australia and New Zealand.  It is always a privilege to be taken into the confidence of anyone who opens up their own story, with its highs and lows and triumphs and vulnerabilities.  The contributors have invited the reader into a private space, where each has offered memories, precious experiences of faith and struggles to understand and belong.  Each has made himself or herself, vulnerable to criticism or misunderstanding.  Thanks are due to all of them for sharing a vital and private area of life.  Readers can only be better equipped to understand their own faith journey and richer in empathy for others going through changes and transformation.

Cards, Carols & Claus

BOOK REVIEW


Cards, Carols & Claus: Christmas in Popular Culture and Progressive Christianity
Rex A.E. Hunt. Morning Star Publishing, 2013. 260 pages.  RRP $34.95

Reviewed by Rev Dr John Bodycomb


Could be called ‘all you wanted to know about Christmas, but didn’t know whom to ask’!  This impressive compendium of general knowledge about Christmas is one of a kind.


The first two of three main sections could be considered as ‘social history’, giving an account of the festival’s development and the form it takes in Australia.  The second section is a richly informative, if somewhat exhaustive, treatment of cards and carols, with particular attention to the ‘Carols by Candlelight’ phenomenon in three state capitals, and then a profile of the cosmopolitan roly-poly with his mix of names.


Section III introduces so-called ‘progressive’ thought, beginning with a consideration of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke as midrash (a type of rabbinic commentary) or parable, and drawing heavily on luminaries we associate with the Westar Institute/Jesus Seminar.  Paradoxically, the author does not canvass a possibility advanced by at least one Australian scholar.  This is that, given the earliest extant full versions of Matthew and Luke are dated 4th century (after Nicea), could writers of birth narratives have had clear doctrinal intent?

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BOOK REVIEW


Cards, Carols & Claus: Christmas in Popular Culture and Progressive Christianity.

Author: Rex A. E. Hunt.  Morning Star Publishing, 2013.
RRP $34.95


Review by Dr. Val Webb



A book with such a title, written by a clergyperson, would suggest that the author is about to bemoan the overtaking of the religious story by secularism and commercialism - the "put Christ back into Christmas" cry.  But Rex Hunt is no Christmas Grinch or self-righteous puritan.  Rather, he is an Australian who loves the whole season for its joy, community expressions, family reunions, gift-giving, Carols by Candlelight, laughter and Christmas cards.


In fact, reading this book, packed tight with historical information and cultural analysis, gave me a warm glow and a re-energized expectancy for the season about to be upon us.  Hunt invites us to absorb and participate in all the wonder and togetherness expressed through Christmas traditions in Australia, whether or not one embraces the religious story within it all.  Hunt says:

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BOOK REVIEW


Festive faith

Cards, Carols & Claus: Christmas in Popular Culture and Progressive Christianity

Author:  Rex A E Hunt.
Morning Star Publishing, 2013.

Review by Rev Lucas Taylor
‘Crosslight’ 3 November 2013



Many products are published ‘just in time for Christmas’ (Billy Birmingham is likely working on a new 12th man box set as we speak).  But there is an irony in the case of Rex A E Hunt’s latest book, given it names consumerism as one of the various issues clouding our modern understanding of the Christmas season.

In contrast to many of the alternative offerings, Hunt’s work will educate, inform, interest and liberate as he endeavours to critically examine how the “discourses of sacred and secular [surrounding the Christmas festival] are addressing each other”.  As such, this book should be on your gift list (even as a present to yourself).

As outlined early in the first chapter, this book is clearly a work of love on a topic close to the heart of Hunt, a retired UCA minister based in the nation’s capital (to be disambiguated from the footballer-turned-commentator-turned-fisherman).

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