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Book Reviews – March/April 2013

Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence (Resources for Reconciliation)
By Samuel Wells & Marcia A. Owen
Edited by Emmanuel Katongole & Chris Rice
Intervarsity Press, 143 pp., $10.99

The Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School is living its ministry by demonstrating the power of collaboration with this book. Strongly rooted at opposite ends of the academic-professional spectrum, Wells and Owen inspire hope in times of pain but also illuminate paths toward healing in times of brokenness. God’s call for all of us to unite as new creatures in Christ is presented through personal and religious stories that teach theology in practical contexts.

As the new dean of Duke University Chapel, Wells went hunting for where Christ would most likely show up and found his beliefs about ministry demonstrated on a street corner. At a crime scene, without words, mourners were answering that immeasurable love of God in everyone. This book tells stories about overcoming the powerlessness and fear that can thrive in the violent environments too common in our societies. As readers, we learn how to reach through the problems, the poverty and the boundaries to the people, the personalities and the bounty of God awakening in strangers and in ourselves.

After theoretically exploring ways to work for, work with, be with and be for others as ministry, Owen describes her journey, as Director of the Religious Coalition of a Nonviolent Durham, through these four models of engagement. Starting on the personal, political side of being for a purpose, she was motivated to work for legal reforms embodying her convictions. Realizing through experience that being for and working for were inadequate methods, she came to work with others by inviting them into loving relationships. Eventually, she learned that being with was the power of presence that went beyond the illusion that we can fix or solve anything without a Godly connection to others.

Philosophical and functional insights are offered in further narratives about the power of silence, touch and words. The appendix “Ten Gleanings” shares insights gained from those working their way back to wholeness and the Study Guide is valuable. Be warned, Living Without Enemies might inspire and instruct you to let your life speak in answer to that of God in everyone.

Steve Olshewsky
Lexington, Kentucky