A Christian life to savour, sip by sip
A VOICE WITHIN CHURCH AND SOCIETY: A Personal Anthology, by Michael Nuttall. Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg, 2015. 262 pp.
Reviewed by Fr Kevin Reynolds
This book in Cluster Publication’s series of “Christian Lives in Africa”, is a collection of the writings of Bishop Michael Nuttall during his fifty years as an Anglican priest and bishop, from 1965 to 2015. Interspersed among his spiritual jewels — in his sermons, addresses and talks — are brief biographical notes of Bishop Nuttall’s life and ministry in which his wife, Dorrie, and their children — Tim, Elizabeth and Rick — take pride of place.
The temptation facing the reader is a desire for more personal information about this obvious giant in Southern African Anglicanism.
The author suggests that his 50 years of ordained ministry “fall neatly into four main sections”. First, his Grahamstown decade (1965–75), which he describes as years of “freshness and formation”. Secondly, his Pretoria years (1976–81) when he embarked on the first phase of his episcopal ministry. Thirdly, the author’s 18 years as Bishop of Natal (1982–2000) were, paradoxically, for him a time of homecoming and heartache. Finally, Bishop Nuttall’s retirement years — since 2000 — which took a radical turn in December 2010 when his beloved wife of 51 years suffered a crippling stroke.
Before embarking on his theological studies, Michael Nuttall was a lecturer in the history department of Rhodes University in Grahamstown. His academic background naturally enriched his writings and enhanced his theological knowledge in a unique way.
Bishop Nuttall’s personal anthology is certainly not a book to be read from cover to cover. After scanning its list of contents and dipping into it, I am — as my seminary philosophy professor, Fr Norbert Carroll OFM, would have said — imbibing it like enjoying a glass of choice South African wine, sip by sip, reading reflectively a couple of pages at a time as the basis of my daily meditation.
Of course, I couldn’t resist reading immediately Bishop Nuttall’s speeches given at the launch of two books devoted to Archbishop Denis Hurley OMI. The first, delivered in December 2001 in the presence of the then 86-year-old Archbishop Hurley, was to launch Rev Anthony Gamley’s collection Denis Hurley: A Portrait by Friends. The second was given in August 2009 at the Pietermaritzburg launch of Paddy Kearney’s definitive biography of the great man, Guardian of the Light. Bishop Nuttall’s words on these occasions certainly portrayed a close relationship between two great bishops of similar minds and hearts.
At the second book launch, Bishop Nuttall suggested almost prophetically that readers should keep a look-out as they read Guardian of the Light for the human face of “the burly Hurley” especially as a child and in his old age. The same can be said about Bishop Nuttall’s own account of his beloved wife’s stroke and his subsequent care of her, and Dorrie’s own courage and faithfulness in her adversity.
With tears in my eyes I cannot but be aware of a man so like his Saviour as I read the narrative of how he continues to care for Dorrie now she is confined to the care centre of the retirement complex where they live. As he says: “There is loss to endure and togetherness to savour”.
I recommend Bishop Nuttall’s anthology for anyone seriously intent on deepening one’s relationship with Christ.
Order from www.clusterpublications.co.za at R150 plus p&p.