A theologian, Nicola Slee offers bold, humble, and poetic perspectives on the sabbath. The subtitle of her book emphasises the difficult work of sloughing away our resistance to rest. The American farmer-poet Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Poems shape Slee’s approach; his emphasis on the covenant with the land and the seasons so tenderly expressed encourages us to slow the pace of our experience of this book, as well as our lives. Choice journal entries that Slee wrote during periods of sabbatical leave add honest and expansive insights. Slee marries the personal with the professional with the confidence of a consummate feminist writer.
There is a strong sense of a profound need for sleep, which may ring true for many readers in an age of endemic sleep deprivation. Yet Slee observes that sabbath is not simply a nowhere land of recovery, but a gentle and compassionate discipline that will always be a struggle to follow, no matter how paradoxical this invitation to “blessed idleness” may appear. Slee digs deep; she explores the fears that entering sacred time might unearth.
Each chapter offers questions and reflections for prayer; blank pages follow for the reader to use. Some questions are frank: “How do you regard and experience the regime of the market and the machine?” Others are asked of herself in her journal entries: “Are you seeking the pearl of great price or have you scattered your pearls before swine?”
Ultimately, we learn...that God’s gift of the sabbath is a movement of grace, not a moment to be snatched. To embrace the sabbath rest is to be embraced by God. Could this be why the call to live a sabbath life feels at once so tantalising and yet so frightening?
The Revd Jennie Hogan is Chaplain of Goodenough College and Associate Priest of St George’s, Bloomsbury, London. This review was first published in The Church
Times, 26th July 2019. Reprinted with permission.
Nicola Slee will be facilitating a day retreat at Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre, Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand on Thursday 17th October 2019. For more details and to register https://vaughanpark.nz/events/sabbath-the-hidden-heartbeat-of-our-lives
Sabbath: The hidden heartbeat of our lives, Nicola Slee
DLT £9.99 (978-0-232-53399-6)