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‘Glorious Christianity’ by Dr Cally Hammond

Cally Hammond attempts the very difficult task in this book, as her publishers’ blurb says, of helping the reader ‘to make sense of the stresses of human living and dying, to explore what it means to believe in the hidden glories of heaven and to live more positively by faith in the life to come’

The extraordinary thing, in my case, is that she has come close to succeeding. Others of you further on the path will not need to make this qualification, but I was pleasantly surprised at the extent to which I was drawn in to her theology and understanding. She writes from a ‘top of the candle’ perspective (usual Anglican inference from her use of the rosary and interest in Mary) which I do not share, though I do agree with her on the Revised Standard Version of the bible. By the time I finished her book, I was wondering whether I should try to use a rosary as an aid to prayer, something I had never imagined myself doing, but I can see it as an aid to concentration and – useful for a failing memory- a reminder of where you have got to!

The structure of the book is based around the ‘glorious mysteries‘: the resurrection, the Ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, falling asleep and crowning (pxiv).  I was speaking with someone recently from another tradition: for him Christianity begins with the crucifixion, hence the ubiquitous symbol of the cross. But for Dr Hammond (and me):

we have to go backwards to where it all began: to the belief in which all Christian beliefs, even atonement and Incarnation, are rooted – namely the resurrection. It is usually imagined as a scene of blazing glory – light bursting forth…but it should not be. Not yet, anyway. The mystery of the resurrection does not begin with the splendour of revelation but within the utter darkness of the sealed tomb


Her English is not at all abstruse – occasionally it is delightfully schoolgirlish, such as the description of death as ‘always unsettling and can be dreadfully upsetting’ (p.9)- but do not be lulled into thinking this is Goldilocks theology – it is not. The intellect behind this book is razor sharp and will challenge you at every step of the way. The book is only 77 pages long, but it is not an easy read because it is not a text which you can simply skim and get the drift.


It is full of insight, some by Dr Hammond herself, but she is also not afraid to show her sources of inspiration. Two which inspired me in particular are St Augustine and Rabbi Lionel Blue. First St Augustine on how to judge whether we have understood the biblical text aright:

Whatever is not consistent with love of God and neighbour cannot be a right interpretation of Scripture (p44)


What an intelligent chap he was – in these days of nitpicking over the minutiae of Leviticus to hurl accusations at different sections of the Anglican Communion with wearying self-righteousness, it would do no harm to remember these wise words.

And secondly, Lionel Blue:

Righteous people are those who look after their own souls and other people’s bodies, while hypocrites are those who look after their own body and other people’s souls.

Dr Hammond envisages this book being used for a post-Easter discussion or prayer goup. As she says:

Perhaps you are thinking it’s a bit late to start wondering now what a Christian is. But it is exactly now, in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection, that the friends and followers of the man Jesus began to see themselves as new, different, set apart, called and chosen. They began to explore a new way of relating to God, and to discover God’s universal message of love for all the peoples of the world.



You may also like to read Richard Littledale’s review of Dr Hammonds book, which he calls ‘Glorious Surprises’; in particular, he says that despite his non-conformist background: The thing is, this little book draws the reader in.


Published by SPCK on 16 February 2012, it is available from amazon , where it has already attracted a 5-star review.

3 comments on this post:


Can’t comment on the book yet, but might have a chance to look out for it when I’m next in Oxford centre – not a lot of hope of finding it in Cowley! About rosaries, John Wesley had one, so it’s entirely kosher for low-churchers to use them. Someone said it’s like a piano – an instrument on which you can play an infinity of tunes.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, Richard. Fascinating to know that John Wesley had a rosary- I will look at him in a completely different light! I don’t know why it should make me uneasy, but suspect it is all those non-conformist ministers in my ancestry!

Her book really is a good read – it may be hard going for the non-theologians among us, but you nevertheless feel it is well worth the effort as it seems to contain a lot of wisdom. I suspect several readings over a period is the answer. Will you review it for Lay Anglicana? (Or if you prefer to put it on your blog, I would like to link to it here)

06 March 2012 12:06
06 March 2012 11:53
Stephen Heard said...

I, too sometimes use a rosary – or more usually a komboskini (the Orthodox equivalent which has fewer, often movable, beads). I don’t myself find it especially helpful to “pray the rosary” as such; I more often recite the “Jesus Prayer”, moving or counting the beads with each recitation. It’s useful when the words won’t come or when it’s difficult to focus. Also, having prayer beads on your pocket or bag is a good way of reminding you to pray, and of “keeping God in mind”.

I like the sound of “Glorious Christianity”.

08 March 2012 12:44

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