Mission & Ministry - Book of the Month Review: I Am with You

The Bishop's Institute Book of the Month: January

"I Am With You" by Kathryn Greene-McCreight; reviewed by The Rev. Carl M. Saxton, II

In "I Am With You" Kathryn Greene-McCreight guides her readers through an extended meditation on the theme of light and darkness and the relationship of creation to Creator.  Asked to write this meditation by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as a book particularly for the season of Lent, Green-McCreight weaves her themes into a deeply meaningful contemplation of walking through the "darkness" of Lent and Holy Week - the preparation for and Passion of Jesus Christ - and emerging into the bright light of Christ's glorious Resurrection at Easter.

In tune with her theme of light and darkness, the author has structured her work to loosely follow the eight monastic hours of prayer, moving from the setting of the sun, through the watches of the night, into the rising of the sun at dawn.  Light and darkness in our lives are illustrated throughout with a look at current themes in the contemporary world and in our individual lives.  These illustrations include our willingness or unwillingness to recognize God's call upon us to welcome and care for the stranger in our midst, the fear and uncertainty caused by terrorism and violence in the world, or our own relationship to God in His seeming absence from our lives and our world.

Greene-McCreight also examines the relationship of Creator and creation through a look into both God's address to humanity and our own address in return.  The most engaging example of this is the melding of the Scriptural story of Job and the reaction of the disciples to Jesus' sleeping through the raging storm in the Gospel of Mark.  In both instances God responds to our questions about the divine intentions by asking questions of us about our own relationship to Him.

Both themes - light and darkness, address and response - take the reader through the season of Lent in a thoughtful and contemplative way.  Each of the eight chapters ends with a list of questions for reflection, inviting the reader to go even deeper in considering the themes in light of his or her own life of faith.  This is not your typical day-by-day diet of scripture and reflection that we have come to recognize as a daily devotion for the Lenten season.  Green-McCreight's work calls us to a deeper examination of the meaning of Lent and our relationship with God.

The whole work has the unfortunate feeling that one is reading the text of a sermon series linked together by the common theme of light and darkness. The author has the habit, in the early chapters, of focusing repeatedly on the meanings of particular Greek and Hebrew words, and this can feel a bit like a sermon heard often in seminary chapels.  However, this minor aberration does not, in the end, take away from the depth and meaning of the whole.  Kathryn Greene-McCreight does indeed give us a book that guides us through the "dark" of Lent into the "blinding light of Easter."

 "I Am With You" by Kathryn Greene-McCreight. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2015 is available on Amazon. Click here to view the link.