"Ministry on the margins is rooted in scripture and tradition, in spite of the bias of many churches towards the ‘mainstream’ of respectability. The Bible makes the experience of marginality normative for the people of God." (Kenneth Leech - Doing Theology in Altab Ali Park)
I was saddened, but not surprised to hear of the death of Anglican Priest, activist, author, mystic and spiritual director (thanks to Carl McColman for bring the news to my attention – he has a nice piece on Leech here. See also McColman’s overview of True God - Thirteen Characteristics of Healthy Spirituality: Kenneth Leech's Manifesto for a Renewed Spirituality is More Relevant Than Ever).
Leech has been a real hero to me, and his books, along with those of Episcopalian William Stringfellow and Anglican Rowan Williams sit on the top tier of the Anglican section of my library.
The first book of his that I purchased was his Soul Friend: Spiritual Direction in the Modern World. This was followed by True God: An Exploration in Spiritual Theology, and True Prayer: An Introduction to Christian Spirituality.
One of the things I value is the deeply incarnational nature of his writing (a factor that can also date his writing). He earths his writing and reflections in his world; in the world; and in specific places and issues. He engages and brings the gospel into radical conversation with the everyday. His is often a profoundly marginal voice. Some might say subversive. And it’s this I particularly value. He had an incisive way of looking at reality, one that was at once challenging (even if you didn’t always agree with him), but also hopeful. You often find this in his short essays, which I always keep an eye out for in books. So, for example, his ‘The Carnality of Grace’: Sexuality, Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry in the 1990 publication Embracing the Chaos: Theological Responses to Aids edited by James Woodward. Or his Christendom Died Sometime Ago: The East London Experience in the 2008 publication The Diaconal Church: Beyond the Mould of Christendom. Or his Is Spiritual Direction Losing It’s Bearing? Published in The Tablet in May 1993 (I referenced it on this blog in 2005, but sadly it doesn’t appear to still be online).
While not easy to find, Leech’s 62-page Subversive Orthodoxy: Traditional Faith and Radical Commitment is an absolute gem. It would be nice to see it reprinted.
The last book I purchased was the one I now recommend to those new to Kenneth Leech was Prayer and Prophecy: The Essential Kenneth Leech.
You’ll find the Guardian’s Obituary here.
[Photo Credit - Ken with his wife Julie in 2013. Photo by Jacqueline Schmitt.]