Local books: Escaping, Embodied Living, Improvising Church, Indictment & more

Dennis Wilkinson with his first book.

This is my first ‘local books’ round-up of 2024, and I’m already way behind. I posted five such updates last year – Metro Vancouver / Fraser Valley authors are really doing their job!

This week I will look at 11 books from last year and this year, covering a wide range of topics. The write-ups are generally from author / publisher sites or Amazon.

  • Dennis Wilkinson: Escaping the Mortal Cage: A Cautious Rebellion Against Life Without God (independently published)

MortalOne who cannot live forever.

CageA structure meant for confining.

I found myself stuck in a mortal cage. I was increasingly convinced that the material world is all that exists and that death is the end. I didn’t like this conclusion. I felt entrapped by it, suffocated by it, but I despaired of finding a way out.

It hadn’t always been like this. From birth, I had lived under the assumption that humans were immortal. Within this worldview, I embraced heaven; hell; God; eternity; grand, overarching purposes; deeper meanings; spiritual realities; an unseen world; divine interventions in human history; and hope beyond the grave.

In my youth, these were obvious truths – ‘no brainers’ drummed into my mind and heart through believing parents, plus countless Sunday school classes and church services. But then life happened, and all my assumptions were sorely challenged. This book is the story of my descent into the mortal cage and my slow, improbable and still struggling escape from it.

If you or someone you know has left the faith or has serious misgivings about continuing in the world of Christian belief, this is the book they need. It is not a confident apologetic bursting at the seams with all the latest arguments proving the reliability of the Bible or the historicity of Jesus. Instead, it’s a brutally honest, story-filled struggle. There is plenty of skepticism and despair in these pages, but ultimately glimmers of hope for a better story to emerge, and faith, however shaky, lives on.

Escaping the Mortal Cage has been warmly received since it was published last month; here are a couple of commendations:

The stories in this book share so much in common with the author – always personable, usually intense, sometimes startling, never submissive to easy moralizing. Wilkinson writes earworm stories that tunnel into your brain and (I think) open pathways for the Spirit’s light to shine in. This book holds no mystical or magical key for unlocking your mortal cage; but beware: it is a sturdy crowbar that just might bend apart some of your cage’s stoutest and most stubborn bars.

– Tim Kuepfer: English congregation pastor, Chinatown Peace Church

What an inspiring and insightful look at the culture we’re living in and witnessing. In this very personal account of Wilkinson’s journey, you will see the world through different lenses. The book is full of fascinating and engaging stories that get you thinking and cause you to evaluate your presuppositions.

– Ron Leonard: Canadian Director of the C2C Collective

Dennis Wilkinson is “a writer currently masquerading as a building administrator for a hard-to-house men’s building on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Before entering into the challenging field of supportive housing, Dennis spent 23 years in pastoral ministry, including 10 years as a church planter in Vancouver. He is happily married to Mistin, and together, they have four wonderful children. He also enjoys reading great books, playing hockey and going on epic adventures with his family.”

  • Hillary L. McBride: Practices for Embodied Living: Experiencing the Wisdom of Your Body  (Brazos Press)

In The Wisdom of Your Body, clinical psychologist and award-winning researcher Hillary McBride explored the ways many of us inherit a broken understanding of the body and offered a more compassionate, healthy, and holistic perspective on embodied life. In this follow-up book, McBride takes the principles of The Wisdom of Your Body and puts them into action in practical, tangible ways.

Practices for Embodied Living offers an experiential guide – centred on prompts, activities, and opportunities for reflection – to support readers who want to practice embodiment. This approachable, visually stimulating book helps individuals and groups resist cultural myths about ideal bodies, get in touch with the goodness of their bodies, and more fully inhabit themselves.

Topics include disembodiment, stress and trauma, sexuality, body image, pain and illness, oppression and more. Each topic includes various exercises to help readers restore the mind-body connection.

Hillary McBride (PhD, UBC) is a registered psychologist, an award-winning researcher and the host of the Other People’s Problems podcast. She is a sought-after speaker and retreat leader whose work has been recognized by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. She is the author of Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image and coeditor of Embodiment and Eating Disorders. She is also an Ambassador for Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries, which is based in Vancouver

  • Mark R. Glanville: Improvising Church: Scripture as the Source of Harmony, Rhythm and Soul (IVP Academic)

The post-Christian cultural turn is creating the conditions for a crisis of confidence in the church and in pastoral ministry. While such changes can be disruptive and disconcerting, our new cultural reality makes the present moment a uniquely exciting time to reimagine churches that bear witness to Christ.

How do we move beyond cookie-cutter approaches (which may have worked in the past) to building the creative, compassionate and incarnational churches we long for?

Biblical scholar and accomplished jazz pianist Mark Glanville plays with a metaphor of improvisation to chart 12 themes as the key ‘notes’ on which Christian communities play as they bear witness to God in the world today.

Building on these two dynamic traditions – jazz music and Christian community – Improvising Church unfolds a biblical, practical and inventive vision for churches seeking to receive and extend the healing of Christ.

I posted an excerpt from Improvising Church here. There will be a Jazz Book Launch April 5 at Regent College.

Mark Glanville (PhD, Bristol University) is associate professor of pastoral theology at Regent College, and an Old Testament scholar. He is the author of Adopting the Stranger as Kindred in Deuteronomy and Freed to Be God’s Family: The Book of Exodus and has written articles for a variety of publications. He was a pastor at Grandview Church before Regent, and has worked professionally as a jazz pianist. He currently plays on the Vancouver jazz scene. Mark is an Aussie, and he likes to express his masculinity by snapping a crocodile’s neck with two fingers. He now lives in Vancouver with his wife Erin and their two children.

  • Benjamin Perrin: Indictment: The Criminal Justice System on Trial (Aevo UTP)

#MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Decriminalize Drugs. No More Stolen Sisters. Stop Stranger Attacks.

Do we need more cops or to defund the police? Harm reduction or treatment? Tougher sentences or prison abolition? The debate about Canada’s criminal justice system has rarely been so polarized – or so in need of fresh ideas.

Indictment brings the heartrending and captivating stories of survivors and people who have committed offences to the forefront to help us understand why the criminal justice system is facing such an existential crisis.

Benjamin Perrin draws on his expertise as a lawyer, former top criminal justice advisor to the prime minister, and law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada to investigate the criminal justice system itself. Indictment critiques the system from a trauma-informed perspective, examining its treatment of victims of crime, Indigenous people and Black Canadians, people with substance use and mental health disorders, and people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and unemployment.

Perrin also shares insights from others on the frontlines, including prosecutors and defence lawyers, police chiefs, Indigenous leaders, victim support workers, corrections officers, public health experts, gang outreach workers, prisoner and victims’ rights advocates, criminologists, psychologists and leading trauma experts. Bringing forward the voices of marginalized people, along with their stories of survival and resilience, Indictment shows that a better way is possible.

Shortly after Indictment was published last fall, Perrin spoke at Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey; I posted his article, based on that talk: ‘Jesus and Justice: A Christian Perspective.’

Benjamin Perrin is a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. He has served in the Prime Minister’s Office as in-house legal counsel and lead policy advisor on criminal justice and public safety. He was also a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. He is the author of Overdose: Heartbreak and Hope in Canada’s Opioid Crisis.

  • Benjamin Perrin, David Milward, Michelle Lawrence and Myrna McCallum, editors: Criminal Law: Canadian Law, Indigenous Laws & Critical Perspectives (Canadian Legal Information Institute)

Perrin was also a co-editor of Criminal Law: Canadian Law, Indigenous Laws & Critical Perspectives, an innovative open access eBook for Criminal Law & Procedure JD/JID courses. It is also a valuable resource for Criminology and Law & Society courses as well as for students, researchers and the general public.

  • Carolyn J. Watts, MD: Risking Rest: Embracing God’s Love Through Life’s Uncertainties (hope*books)

In a world where uncertainty looms large and trials test the very essence of our beliefs, Carolyn Watts invites you to accompany her on a journey through the labyrinth of faith. At the heart of this captivating memoir lies the profound question that tugs at the core of our existence: Can we truly trust the boundless love and goodness of God, even when life seems to be falling apart?

Spanning continents and emotions, Risking Rest follows Carolyn’s unwavering commitment to faith in a good and loving God as she navigates the tumultuous waters of medicine, obstetrics and a life-altering journey to Afghanistan.

But it’s her grappling with illness and the shattering of her carefully constructed world that truly puts her trust to the test. Is her foundation strong enough to hold in the midst of chaos? Can she find a place of rest in God’s embrace?

As you journey alongside Carolyn, her experiences become mirrors reflecting your own moments of doubt, vulnerability and resilience. As the pages unfold, you will be captivated by her struggle to believe in her worth beyond her roles. With her, you’ll discover yourself safely carried by God as an unborn babe and ‘midwifed’ by the One who carefully tends new life.

You’ll discover that same One wooing you, longing to share with you his life, love and work in the world. You’ll find yourself carrying Christ’s life within you, your role to offer space, and then to cooperate with the rhythms of labour. In embracing her vulnerability, Carolyn unveils a profound truth – that resting in God’s love is the foundation of engaging in His work.

Carolyn Watts, MD, MATS (Regent College), worked as an obstetrician in Afghanistan for four years before illness ended her medical career. Now a spiritual director and writer living in Vancouver, she delights in offering grace-filled space where weary fellow pilgrims can rest in God’s love. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Castle Quay Best New Canadian Manuscript and awarded the Luci Shaw Creative Writing Prize, the Harvey-Mackey Award for Journalism and the Word Guild’s Best Blog of 2021.

  • Prabo Mihindukulasuriya: Unmasking the Empire: British Christian Humanitarians and the Ceylonese Campaign for Justice Following the 1915 Pogrom (Social Scientists Association)

Every Sri Lankan schoolchild has heard that E.W. Perera hid documents in his shoe and sailed to England to seek relief for his fellow citizens from the martial law reprisals following the 1915 Pogrom. However, very little has been known about what Perera and D.B. Jayatilaka (who joined him later) accomplished in Britain during their four-year campaign (1915 – 1919) for a commission of inquiry.

Based on extensive archival research, this book provides a comprehensive account of Perera and Jayatilaka’s battle with the Colonial Office. It sheds new light on the role of two British Christian humanitarian organizations – the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society and the Native Races Liquor Traffic United Committee – which collaborated with the Ceylonese delegates in their appeals for reprieves, redress and reforms. Their campaign for justice was a decisive turning point in the movement for constitutional reforms which eventually led to independence.

By critically exploring these events and interactions through the discursive lenses of colonialism, humanitarianism, nationalism and networks, this book poses closely argued contestations to some dominant interpretations in the historiography of Sri Lankan nationalism and proposes more nuanced perspectives on the impact of the 1915 pogrom.

The book is available at Regent College Bookstore.

Prabo Mihindukulasuriya is Assistant Professor in the History of Christianity at Regent College. Previously, he spent a number of years at Colombo Theological Seminary. From 2014 to 2021, he served as Deputy Principal and Head of Publishing, a role that also included extensive teaching responsibilities. His extensive publication history includes multiple entries in reference works, including ‘Poverty and Wealth’ and ‘Prosperity Gospel’ in the South Asia Bible Commentary.

  • Ray Harris: Fullness of Time: Devotionals, Poems, Pictures and Prayers (Mill Lake Books

Pastor, teacher, musician and writer, Ray Harris of Abbotsford is the author of Fullness of Time. The meditations are drawn from all 66 books of the Bible. They provide words of encouragement, challenge and inspiration for winter, spring, summer and fall, following both the standard calendar and the church year. In addition, the book contains photos and artwork, aphorisms (brief thoughts), poems and anecdotes (brief stories).

Fullness of Time is based on devotionals the author shared with various gatherings at Tabor Village (a residence for older adults in Abbotsford) during the years of his chaplaincy 2017 – 2021. As a coffee-table book it can be a source of aesthetic interest and inspiration.

– BC Booklook

April Yamasaki wrote an appreciation of his book here.

Ray Harris is a follower of Jesus, a husband, father and Papa to eight grandchildren. Ray loves providing spiritual care for older adults, singing with them, reading God’s word together, and coming alongside those in their journey with Jesus who need encouragement and prayer. He is a pastor, teacher, musician, a reader and writer. He lives in Abbotsford and enjoys walking along Horn Creek Trail. He holds graduate degrees in music and Christian studies.

  • Brian Norton: Being Human: Abortion and the Church (independently published)

Being Human is a 41-page eBook designed for Jesus followers who are ‘pro-choice’ or ‘undecided’ on abortion, or uncertain about the Christian legacy and beliefs on abortion.

On this highly-charged human rights debate, it can be easier to label one’s ‘opponent’ than to choose to respectfully hear and understand her or his perspective. The epithets ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ (or ‘anti-abortion’ and ‘pro-abortion’) obviously oversimplify what an individual may actually think and feel about abortion.

Being Human examines the views and practices of the universal Christian Church – Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – both past and present, on the morality of abortion and our pastoral call for helping women experiencing unexpected pregnancies.

Brian Norton was a social worker in child protection services and assisting families with children with special needs for eight years. For 30 years, he served as co-founder and executive director of the Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver, a charity providing sexual assault recovery, shelter for abused women and children, help for women experiencing unexpected pregnancies and post-abortion care. Brian is also co-founder and a board member with Pregnancy Care Canada, a national best practice association for affiliated pregnancy centres.

  • Fr. Rich Conlin: 9 Days to Corpus Christi: A Total Consecration to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament (independently published)

9 Days to Corpus Christi is the first ever consecration program to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The book is primarily created for us in preparation for, and following, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Throughout the book, you will be accompanied by six of the greatest Eucharistic saints in Church history.

  • The first part of the book, which encompasses nine days of reflections (a ‘novena’), focuses on cultivating your interior life of Eucharistic devotion, with the help of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Augustine and St. Faustina.
  • The second part of the book, which begins on your consecration and includes eight days of reflections (an ‘octave’), focuses on promoting your exterior life of Eucharistic devotion, with the help of Bl. Carlo Acutis, St. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Fr. Rich Conlin, formerly a professional golfer and accountant, was Assistant Pastor at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Vancouver, and now seems to be studying Dogmatic and Fundamental Theology in Rome.

  • Chun Tse: The Marrow of Certainty: Thomas Boston’s Theology of Assurance (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)

Assurance was a central issue for the eminent Scottish theologian-pastor Thomas Boston long before it emerged as a focal point of the theological debate in the Marrow Controversy. In The Marrow of Certainty, Chun Tse presents the first full-length study of Boston’s theology of assurance in six dimensions: trinitarian, covenantal, Christological, soteriological, ecclesiastical and sacramental.

The book challenges the common conception that Boston’s theology merely follows Calvin, the Scots Confession, the Marrow, the Westminster Standards and Scottish federalism. Boston, most strikingly, holds in tension assurance as intrinsic to faith – itself a gift from God’s sovereignty in election – while insisting on self-examination as a human responsibility.

This salient mark of his doctrine of assurance originates from his assertion that Christ died for the elect alone but all-elect or not-have the warrant to receive Christ. As such, assurance is, theologically, a divine gift and, pastorally, a human endeavour.

Chun Tse, an ordained pastor, is an Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies (New Testament) at Carey Theological College. He holds dual doctorates in systematic theology from the University of Edinburgh and electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. He is also the author of Assurance of Adoption: A New Paradigm for Assurance of Salvation (Wipf & Stock, 2020). 

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