Review from the Baptist Times
The gift for ‘making connections’ is essential for effective preaching, teaching and pastoral care and Jeannie Kendall, a Baptist minister, has it ‘in spades’, demonstrated in a book which is more important for its methodology than its content. Not because there is anything wrong with the content (there isn’t) but because the content (like sermons) lends itself more to impact than to critique in a context where ‘impact‘ depends more on the hearer (or reader) than on the creator.
Finding Our Voice is of that genre. Eleven chapters, each with three sections. First, an imaginative presentation of a Bible passage, in this case an unknown Bible character. Second, the biblical version in context. Third, a true, anonymous story on a similar theme from today, giving readers (or groups) the opportunity to discover the Bible in a new way, to find echoes of their own story and the confidence to own it and talk about it, and to discover and explore a world or experience different from their own. Thus we encounter life in Leaving Home, Losing a Child, Long-term Illness, Abuse, Death, Hope alongside Depression, Love and Forgiveness.
Inevitably some chapters click better than others, some connections are more immediately obvious and some may be a bit obscure, but to dismiss any because ‘this is not my voice’ (or ‘my experience’) is to miss the point. Of course not. It is their voice and Kendall’s contribution is not to propagate their voices but to introduce us to a method by which we may find our own. An alternative title might indeed have been ‘Finding Your Voice‘ but then that would have introduced a didactive element which Kendall skilfully avoids as she smartly sums up with a Reflection introducing us to the Ignatian notion of ‘our lives’ and ‘the lives of others’ as ‘God with skin on’.
Visiting our church on behalf of United Bible Societies in the 1950s, Edwin Robertson, introduced us to Depth Bible Study, essentially a lay non-professional approach for house groups, with a leader whose only ability was the skill to draw out others. An evening of 90 minutes was split into three equal periods. First, an exchange of ideas on a Bible passage; how members saw it, its impact on them and what puzzled them. Second (unrelated and with Bibles firmly shut) a fairly free chat over a current issue (personal, local, national or international). Third, (after five minutes of silence for reflection) 25 minutes to identify and discuss possible connections between the two previous sessions.
Over the years I discovered its riches, not least in sermon preparation. Suddenly to find something so similar in print was like the cherry on the cake, to be warmly commended, and to any who question its value my only response is that of Augustine: Take and Read.
Review by Alec Gilmore, a Baptist minister
Review by: Shirley Alarie, on Finding God Among Us website
A poignant portrayal of the interconnectedness of people and of common human conditions that transcend time and place.
Timeless Human Condition:
For too many people, the Bible feels like an un-relatable outdated work of fiction, irrelevant to today’s modern world. Finding Our Voice brings Bible stories to life in a unique, creative, and powerful way.
In Finding Our Voice: Unsung Lives from the Bible Resonating with Stories from Today, UK Author Jeannie Kendall ties the poignant and difficult human challenges from unsung biblical characters to corresponding contemporary voices with similar circumstances and challenges.
Kendall’s debut book artfully portrays the universal interconnectedness of people and proves that common human conditions transcend time and place.
The unsung voices from the Bible are revealed in a delightfully creative way at the end of each of their stories. Examples of unsung Bible voices include a Magi (one of the Wise Men) and the mother of a child who was killed after Herod’s edict to murder all boys under the age of three.
Corresponding Bible verses relate the unsung voice to the familiar Biblical context.
Circumstances that unite us:
The journeys include realistic and painful challenges, such as losing a child or facing long-term illness.
The themes are universal and relatable to anyone, such as depression and forgiveness.
The stories have a wide-reaching impact and are sure to resonate with readers. In regards to forgiveness, I personally related to the voice who struggles with self-forgiveness: “What I did know was that I could never shake off the things in my life that I had done wrong.”
And then there's the multitude who struggle with forgiving someone who’s wronged them: “Then there were the things other people had done to me. I stored them up too, a putrefying hoard which I knew I should not keep but somehow could not part with.”
And for those who doubt that Jesus understands the magnitude of their struggle and pain: “One of the most helpful realisations was that, before the crucifixion, Jesus found himself powerless and at the mercy of the soldiers, abused and broken... he gets it, really understands.”
“It is so easy to take life and vitality for granted.” Kendall’s book left me feeling a deep connection and empathy for others, an appreciation for the blessings I have and a kinship to Jesus and his contemporaries that I don’t always feel when I read the Bible.
Book is most suitable for:
Finding Our Voice is sure to delight Biblical historians, anthropology lovers, anyone who loves true, inspirational stories, and introspective bookworms.
And here an author interview from Godspace
Tell me a bit about yourself and your life journey.
I grew up in Cornwall, a beautiful but rugged county in the south-west of England. Being surrounded by beautiful countryside had a profound influence on me. My growing up years were not always easy though. We lived in a remote hospital (remote as originally it was for TB patients) as my father was a doctor there so I was surrounded by people who were ill or dying. Then when I was 12 my father died after a long illness and so we lost our housing and had to move into a nearby town.
When 16 I started attending a local church, mainly to be disruptive. However I became a Christian and my life changed – and is still changing. My journeying has always included questioning, and enjoying a wide variety of worship styles.
I am married, with two grown up children and two grandchildren, currently aged 9 and 4. My husband, children and grandchildren teach me more than anything else.
All my life I have loved stories, whether reading them, or hearing them from all the people it has been my privilege to listen to in my various roles.
Tell me a bit about your book - In a nutshell what is the main theme?
The books looks at eleven of the unnamed men and women of the Bible, telling their stories imaginatively (as if them), then with the text, a little context and explanation, but then, importantly, a story from people living now, also not named, who have faced the same challenges. The book examines important themes, including being a refugee, finding forgiveness, looking for love, abuse, death and hope. Some of the stories are brave and gritty.
What inspired you to write the book?
For a long time I had been writing poetry on the unnamed women of the Bible, and thinking imaginatively about their stories. However the full idea literally came to me on a clifftop watching birds! Incredibly, at the same time my husband, who was also quietly been bird watching, felt God told him that I should write a book in my upcoming sabbatical. The other inspiration has been all the many stories it has been my privilege to hear and be a part of, which are not directly in the book but have made me the person I am today.
What is the main “take away” that readers will gain from your book? How do you hope they will be changed?
Both that the Bible is incredibly relevant and also that their own stories are important and known to God. I hope that their understanding of the Bible will be enhanced, or refreshed by looking at some of the stories again, or even that they will look at the Bible for the first time, as I hope the book might be gifted by Christians to people who would not normally read the Bible or do church but love stories and find people fascinating.
Writing a book often changes our own perspectives. How have you been changed by writing this book and what do you continue to learn about the topic?
Well I’ve learnt a whole lot about publishing, a new world for me! I think the way the book came about – more than I can include here – has been a reminder of God’s grace and the way he works quietly through us in so many different ways. I have been humbled by the bravery of the people who shared their stories for the book, and also by the response to it so far.. I am continuing to reflect on these and other stories and I am sure always will.
Where can readers connect to you on the internet and what is the best way for them to purchase your book?
My website – www.jeanniekendall.co.uk is a good way to make contact, though I am also on Facebook, including a specific page for the book – search Finding Our Voice. In the UK books can be bought via the website, postage free. In the States they are available through Amazon – and possibly other sources too. Authentic Media are the publishers.