Mar 28 2013

Dunedin Sea of Faith Library Talk

Published by under Talks

A Talk by Retiring Librarian Peter Wishart

1. The Library has more than doubled in size – thanks to Margaret Feist who generously gave over 60 of Donald Feist’s books to the library last year. The books owned by Donald are annotated by him. On the front fly leaf of each book he wrote page references as he noted the chief arguments and points made by each author. He also underlined key passages and made notes and comments in pencil – so much so that his books reveal what appealed to him, what he thought was important. So we are very grateful to Donald and to Margaret.

2. Many of the other books are owned by members of the Sea of Faith – on loan.

3. Some are books that the Sea of Faith has purchased with its own funds.

4. I believe that the library is an important part of the Sea of Faith’s resources. the most important resource is the friendships we have and the discussions we have as we explore liberal and radical thought in relation to theology, society, scientific enquiry, ecological responsibility and so on. We learn a huge amount from one another.

We also learn a huge amount from the intellectual giants of the movement whose work really inspired the establishment and growth of the Sea of Faith. They have many books in our library.

Lloyd Geering has the greatest number. There are 17 of his books in the library. Geering is New Zealand’s foremost theologian – and thank goodness, a prolific writer. His books are full of high-powered analysis and scholarship, but his arguments are not hard to follow. That is the sign of his great intellectual power. He has done all the reading and analysis and he takes us through it all with grace and kindness.

Don Cupitt, whose work in England really started the Sea of Faith has 8 books in the library. Cupitt is not as easy to read as Geering. He is very academic and philosophical, and does not have as large a following in this country as Geering. Nevertheless, Cupitt is an important figure in the Sea of Faith movement. Incidentally, the linguistic philosophy that Cupitt espouses is no longer favoured in universities in the UK and in NZ. It is passe. Will Cupitt’s work date more quickly than Geering”s?

Karen Armstrong has 7 books in the library. My admiration for her work and her writings knows no bounds. Sheer brilliance! We all need to be aware of her work, for she gives radical theology a sound scholarly foundation.

Other important writers who have books in our library are:

– Marcus Borg, a member of the Jesus Seminar and a radical theologian. He has 3 books in the library.

– David Boulton. 3 books in the library. I really like his work. His radical thinking does justice to a wide range of theological work. He is a Quaker Humanist. “The Trouble With God”, a book owned by Don Feist, an important book, is very enjoyable.

– John Dominic Crossan. 4 books. He reads well and is very scholarly.

– Bart D Ehrman. 3 books.

– Richard Holloway. 5 books. A radical theologian who has paid a high price for his honesty.

– Bishop John Spong. He is to theology what Dave Brubeck is to Jazz. He has made radical theology easy to access and understand. There are also 10 Spong books in the library.

And there are many other fine authors who have only one book in the library. In fact, 50 authors have only one book in our library.

Names of authors will be familar to us because of their local connection. Ian Cairns, Andrew Bradstock, Kevin Clements, Lloyd Geering, come into this category. Prof Fred Fastier 0f course, a member of the Sea of Faith: “From Morality to Metaphysics”, Neville Glasgow, Ian Harris, Greg Hughson (Otago University Chaplain), Peter Matheson, Albert Moore, Paul Morris and Mike Grimshaw, David Simmers, John Stenhouse, Brett Knowles (my cousin). Last but certainly not least is Jim Veitch who last year read a paper at our Sea of Faith meeting in Dunedin entitled “Who Did Jesus Think He Really Was?” A major event, and we look forward to his sequel: “How Did Jesus Become God?”.

A practical point. With about 120 books on our library’s manifest, the books are now very bulky and heavy to store and transport.

For a time when the collection numbered on 50 or so volumes, Don Feist arranged to store the library here in a room off the church. That went well until the whole library disappeared! It was found eventually under the stairs of the Roslyn Church. Someone had just removed them from here and put them there. So storing them in a public building is risky. At the moment some are at Marjorie and Bruce’s home – handy for when I am away.

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