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On Priesthood: Servants, Shepherds, Messengers, Sentinels and Stewards [9781529360981]

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Messenger, sentinel, steward ... these three words have been used to describe the work of a priest in the Church of England since Cranmer wrote the original ordination rite in 1550. Two more, servant and shepherd, were added in 1980. Taken together, these five metaphors provide a rich and resonant set of ideas through which to explore the nature of Christian ministry.

In this short, lyrical book, Bishop Stephen Cottrell explores each one; based on actual addresses given to ordinands on the night before their ordination, it is refreshing, challenging and accessible.

Anyone considering ordination or already in ministry will want to read this book for the fascinating exploration of the five metaphors he considers.


Preach magazine book review

Christian ministry is not only about preaching the gospel and teaching the faithful. It encompasses many other things: the personal life and example of ever fallible ministers, the sacraments, pastoral care, leadership, discerning the gifts of others and working with them, concern for justice and the environment, and so on.

This book is about all the above and more. It originated in a number of addresses given by the author (now the Archbishop of York) to those whom he was to ordain the following day. Stephen Cottrell acknowledges that what he says may be seen to be limited to Anglicans. He makes many references to the Church of England Ordinal. He hopes however that, as this Ordinal is deeply rooted in Scripture, his book will be of benefit to Christians of many different denominations.

The five main chapters explore and apply biblical pictures of Christian ministers; Servants, Shepherds, Messengers, Sentinels and Stewards. There are then further chapters on Carrying the Cross and Guarding the Heart. Stephen Cottrell’s long experience, insights and wisdom all contribute to helping the reader think freshly about his or her ministry.

A couple of quotes give something of the flavour of this book. On Servants: ‘Having good foundations does not mean that we will always have good times. It means that we will endure. It means that despite difficulties, hardship and, indeed, the opposition we will face at times, we will flourish. These foundations, first and foremost, are Christ himself, the one who calls, the one who serves and the one whose gospel saves.’

On Messengers: ‘Before people can respond to the gospel they have to hear it and understand it and see it demonstrated as a living reality. Remember: the Holy Spirit only speaks local dialects.’ Which means that everyone who wants to tell the story of Christ must learn the languages of the different cultures in which they serve.

This reviewer wishes he had had this book to read and re-read many years ago. It is a book not only to buy and keep; it is also one to buy and give to others.

Henry Whyte - Active retired vicar enjoying time with family, golf and writing. Thankful for ongoing opportunities to preach and to minister.


Stephen Cottrell is Bishop of Chelmsford and was formerly Bishop of Reading. He has worked in parishes in London and Chichester, as Canon Pastor of Peterborough Cathedral, as Missioner in the Wakefield diocese and as part of Springboard, the Archbishop of Canterbury's evangelism team.

He has written widely on evangelism, spirituality and discipleship. Among his most recent books are a series of Lent and Holy Week meditations, The Things He Carried (2008), a follow up of reflections for Easter Day, The Things He Said (2009), The Nail: Being part of the Passion (2011) and Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the paintings of Stanley Spencer (2012). His bestselling I Thirst was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent book for 2004.

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Stephen Cottrell
Hodder Faith