The Calling: The Story of a ­Pioneering Woman Priest

2009-11-25 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

The Calling: The Story of a ­Pioneering Woman Priest

Nancy Charton

Edited by Dr Billy Meyer

Cluster Publications

THE author was on the staff of the politics department at Rhodes University when I was a quaking undergraduate and I remember her well. She was one of the ­academics who wasn’t intimidating but warm and human. Consequently, I took on the task of reading and reviewing this book enthusiastically.

Charton’s life story provides a valuable record of social, political and church history. With the current debate around mental health issues, her experiences of mental illness are pertinent and poignant. People interested in the history of women’s ordination in the Anglican Church will enjoy the work, as will those who enjoy ­biographies. This is also the hope of the editor, Dr Billy Meyer of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who also knew of the author from studying at Rhodes. This is what drew him into editing the book. He commented: “I hope it will appeal to people who read biography and struggle biography because … she did significant struggle work.”

Meyer said he also expected the audience to be church members and felt it was “theologically an important story to tell” because of the ongoing controversy around the ordination of women in the Church of England.

It also has wider appeal, he felt, because “it is also a story of survival and triumph for a woman who had to jump so many hurdles and tells a significant story about South Africa in a way that is different from many others.” It certainly is that, but I found the minute detail became tedious and the pace was plodding at times. I was disappointed not to enjoy it as much as I had expected to.

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