Francis Macnab

Francis Macnab

A Fine Wind is Blowing: Psalms for the Bible in Words that Blow you away

2006. VIC: Richmond. Spectrum Publications

This is a very good book. Francis Macnab, long-time minister at St Michael’s Uniting in Melbourne, founder of the CairnMiller Institute, and Fellow of the Jesus Seminar (Westar Institute), has used his expertise in both psychology and progressive theology to offer very helpful resources for those who are often called upon to shape Sunday morning liturgies, or who share or lead in meditation groups.

Divided into five parts, by far the largest is the section containing 70 (plus five second versions) psalms where Macnab has turned “the psalm inside out” to see if he can “discover or reasonable assume what was bothering this philosopher of life, and what led him to say what he said”.  Macnab has done this well.  And, yes, Psalms 23, 121, 139 and 150 are there.

Parts Two and Three see Macnab doing the same to a few other biblical passages from both the Old and New Testaments. Part Four is a collection of metaphorically addressed public prayers (away from the usual anthropological disasters we too often hear, or the glossed over three-tiered universe much of our language is still shaped by), while Part Five is a progressive liturgy for the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

All come out of his 40 plus years in parish ministry - 30 of them at least spent at St Michael’s in the city. He has blended the traditional with the contemporary although in the Psalms he has not always used inclusive language - still uses the pronoun ‘him’ when addressing God.  Which jarred on this reviewer’s ears somewhat.

And while there is a strong echo of a previous Macnab book of prayers (‘Hope: The Deeper Longings of the Mind and Heart in these Prayers’), this collection shows Macnab is still prepared to push theological and liturgical boundaries. And that is a refreshing experience as well as helpful permission for those struggling in reactionary parish settings, where 21st century liturgy, language and theology is yet to dawn.

A very useful addition to my liturgical resources, I reckon. I hope it will be yours as well.