Merry Christmas from SCM Press

We’d like to wish all our blog subscribers and readers a very merry Christmas, and we look forward to seeing you next year. In the meantime, as a festive treat, here’s a beautiful extract from Andrew Rumsey’s Parish

We arose to snow: a great creaking carpet laid over yesterday’s green and grey streetscape. So, unknown neighbours are out, working to the bark and spark of spade on driveway, rallying like a curling team to assist the antic, skimming motorists. A man I have never met before (or since) grins over the gate: ‘Hilarious, isn’t it? The snow gives us that sense of belonging together’, he said, ‘… which we crave’, he adds, before trudging up the hill. It’s the ‘which we crave’ that stays with me – he probably knows I’m the vicar, but it was quite far to go, for a momentary exchange. Extreme conditions build neighbourhood, little doubt about that. We behave differently when deluged: familiar territory is transfigured, new routes are taken: the myth of independence thawing instantly. Different place: different rules.

According to American sociologist Erving Goffman, prevailing norms of local behaviour tend to be suspended at times of ‘crisis’ and ‘festival’. Parish priests, it strikes me, spend a fair proportion of their time inhabiting these contrasting states – explaining, perhaps, the curious permission we retain to act in public as if it was always snowing. That, in one sense, is the vocation of the local church: to live as if, in Christ, normal service has been permanently suspended. The old has gone: the new has come.

It being Advent, this symbolic blizzard – unifying crisis and festival – will be in the air whether or not the real stuff melts by morning. December deals in belonging, after all: shovels it on in deep, muffling drifts. We become attuned to our displacement with every keening carol, each cultural sign directing us homeward. Snow on snow. And though a cold coming for so many, the path to Christmas is the right one for rearranging our ideas of society. Here along the Surrey Hills – ‘the place where London ends and England can begin’ in G. K. Chesterton’s somewhat miscarried phrase – we have, for several years, engaged in a kind of festive psychogeography called the Oxted Adventure. Every night in Advent, for an hour in the evening, one small space (a garage, perhaps, or porch) opens its doors like a calendar to a gathering of locals. On some nights there is live music, or a seasonal story; on most, there is the familiar, indigestive blend of warm wine and mincemeat. The Adventure aims to be a journey home by another route, a parish map in the making. This year the North Downs are appealingly portrayed in Tolkienesque style: Middle England as Middle Earth.

It’s the opening night, but I’m delayed in another small space: a recess in the wall of the boiler house behind Morrisons supermarket. Here abides Simon – a man become, in the psalmist’s words, a monster unto many. A kind of local portent or parable, Simon made and lost a fortune developing the sizeable homes that decorate the A25, just yards away. Beside an acrid barbecue, attended by Magi firefighters, he now raves in the car park, paraoikos.

‘You do not believe, because you do not belong to my flock’, Jesus chides the Pharisees, inverting the usual criteria for religious community. Believing in belonging is an attractive idea, perpetually frustrated by our desire that the world should belong to us (for ‘belongings’), rather than to the Lord, thereby finding our place as the people of his pasture. However, if creation is defined not by an almighty accumulation, but a kind of divine allowance, stepping back to make space for another, then let it snow, let it snow.


Our 2017 Highlights…


With 2017 drawing to a close, it’s a good chance to think back on a few of the highlights in a busy year…

Back in January we held a panel discussion at St Martin-in-the-Fields entitled “Word Made Flesh”. Panellists including Lincoln Harvey (St Mellitus College), Steve Chalke (Oasis Trust) and Sam Wells (St Martin-in-the-Fields) came together to discuss whether the church needed the academy. The evening offered a rich and fascinating discussion chaired by Julie Gittoes, Canon Theologian at Guildford Cathedral.

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In the same month, we also published a new addition to our popular Studyguide series – the SCM Studyguide to Preaching. We also published Becoming Friends of Time  by John Swinton. Professor David Ford described it as:

“a profound and moving book, both pastoral and prophetic. It takes further the insights of Jean Vanier, and above all invites us into the truth that ‘time is for God, God is love, time is for love.”

In February, we published a new edition of Bonhoeffer’s moving Letters and Papers from Prison , and in March came Global Poverty: A Theological Guide by Justin Thacker. In a review, the magazine Reform described Justin’s book as “readable, resolute and profoundly relevant to the concerns and pains of a divided world”.

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As always, SCM Press, and our sister imprint Canterbury Press were represented at the Society for the Study of Theology conference in Nottingham in April . The event was a great opportunity to introduce academics to some of our key frontlist and backlist titles, and a chance for delegates to discuss book projects.

May saw the publication of the first title in our new SCM Research strand – Animals, Theology and the Incarnation by Kris Hiuser. SCM Research aims to publish new and innovative research from some of the most exciting scholars in theology and biblical studies, and demonstrate something of the field’s breadth and relevance. We’ve published 2 more titles in the series since May, and more are on the way next year.

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June saw the publication of two of our standout titles of the year – Walter Brueggemann’s God, Neighbour, Empire  and Andrew Rumsey’s Parish: An Anglican Theology of Place . The reviewer for Church Times found a particular resonance in Brueggemann’s account of the ways that the Old Testament counters the imperial narrative of ancient times and of the present, saying that:

Brueggemann’s analysis could not be more pertinent in the wake of the catastrophe of Grenfell Tower. It requires all who exercise power to ask those serious questions that this study evokes, and that includes the Church.

Rumsey’s book received similarly high praise, with Andrew Davison describing it as “magnificent”. If you’ve not seen it yet, do take a look at Andrew’s video introduction to the book.

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In July we once again hit the road, this time to the BIAPT conference, held this year at St Mary’s University Twickenham. We also published Michael Moynagh’s follow-up to his seminal book Church for Every Context. His new book, Church in Life , is “groundbreaking” according to Kirsteen Kim, Professor of Theology and World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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At Greenbelt in August both Justin Thacker and Andrew Rumsey featured on the programme, and proved to be popular speakers, and in September Kate Bruce, author of Igniting the HeartPreaching and Imagination was a popular speaker at the inaugural Festival of Preaching  which SCM Press was proud to support.

We were involved in yet another event in October, this time co-hosting with Church Times a ‘moral maze’ style panel debate on whether the parish has a future. Held at St Mellitus College in London, the speakers during the evening included Paula Gooder, Graham Tomlin as well as SCM authors including Alison Milbank (who recently co-edited Preaching Radical and Orthodox), and Andy Milne (author of The DNA of Pioneer Ministry)

As well as attending the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting in Boston in November, we published several books, including Blue Planet, Blue GodThe Bible and The Ocean. Watch Dr Meric Srokosz , an oceanographer based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, who co-wrote the book with Rebecca Watson, Dean of St Hild College, speak about the book in this video.

Phew – a busy year! There’s lots more to come in 2018 – in a couple of weeks we’ll give you a sneak peek at some of what’s coming up in the spring.

In the meantime, we’re offering 20% off 5 key titles from this year. Click here to find out more.