Mark Oakley wins the 2019 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing

Jacket of winning book

Rev Canon Mark Oakley was awarded the 2019 Michael Ramsey Prize (MRP) for Theological Writing at the Greenbelt Festival on Sunday 25 August. Oakley's book, The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry contains 40 poems, both contemporary and historic. Each poem is accompanied by a reflection from the author.


Awarding the prize, Archbishop Justin Welby said: “Mark Oakley's work shines with an infectious love for poetry and for theology. Written with power and subtlety, Mark shows us how poetry can change our whole view of the world. He sees poetry not just as a tool for expressing faith but as a way of understanding: God is in the world as poetry is in a poem. I'm grateful to have had the chance to read six varied books as part of the Michael Ramsey Prize shortlist. The Splash of Words will bring alive poetry to anyone who reads it and shows us how vital poetry is for all Christians – rather than just an elite activity. Reading poetry alone and together will help us grown in faith, hope and love.”

Rev Canon Mark Oakley said: “Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that 'Best' is not a theological category, and, having read the other nominated authors, I know he's right. I'm just very grateful that the judges found something of worth in a subject that feels so important to me — the native language of poetry to the person of faith.
“It's been said that we ought to like poetry the same way that children like snow — it helps us reimagine our world. Its excitement and its ice help us see our own human breath and dare us to distil. For me, poetry is a spiritual exercise.”

Six books were shortlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize 2019:-

Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness >>Ilia Delio (Orbis) The Theology of Everything: Renaissance Man Joins the 21st Century >>Keith Eyeons (Ellis and Maultby) God Beyond Words: Christian Theology and the Spiritual Experiences of People with Profound Intellectual Disabilities >>Jill Harshaw (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) God is Stranger: What happens when God turns up? >>Krish Kandiah (Hodder Faith) Fierce Imaginings: The Great War, Ritual, Memory and God >>Rachel Mann (Darton Longman and Todd) The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry >>Mark Oakley (Canterbury Press)

The judges will announce the winner at Greenbelt on Sunday 25th August 2019.

book jacket 9781626981362 Making All Things New Ilia Delio (Orbis)

The bestselling author of The Unbearable Wholeness of Being introduces a new paradigm for being Catholic: Catholicity, destined to become as familiar in this century as the word Catholic was in the 2nd century.

Catholicity is a conscious awareness of how everything - the sun, moon, stars, Kepler, Saturn, maple trees, muddy rivers, amoeba, bacteria and all peoples of the earth - form a whole. It is a dynamic quality of being which burst forth in the life of Jesus with the power to make all things new. It is now beginning to connect all the dimensions of life: religion, spirituality, the sciences, art, culture, and society.

Sr. Ilia fully describes this unitive principle which is being expressed by Pope Francis and emerging in the lives of sincere seekers everywhere. Making All Things New is at once an important stand-alone work and the first volume in a new series unveiling the reality of catholicity and wholeness under the guidance of Sr. Ilia Delio.

book jacket 9781999763114 The Theology of Everything: Renaissance Man Joins the 21st Century Keith Eyeons (Ellis and Maultby)

Human beings have gathered a vast amount of knowledge, but we each know only a little of it. We become specialists in narrow fields, from Airbus pilots to Zulu historians, then find it difficult to see what all of these areas of expertise might mean together.

This book makes two radical claims. The first is that all of our human faculties have evolved to show us important things about the universe, including our appreciation of beauty, our ability to make scientific measurements, our awareness of meaning and goodness, and our experiences of consciousness and community. We usually divide these different kinds of insights among different professions, but we can gain a far deeper understanding of reality if we bring them all together. The second claim is that it is Christian theology which can reveal that unity, resuming a traditional role that it has largely abandoned in recent centuries.

Far more comprehensively than atheism, a belief in God can offer a framework which makes sense of all our experiences in one coherent, rational and inspiring picture, a true theory of everything. The Renaissance can be found again in the 21st century.

book jacket 9781785920448 God Beyond Words: Christian Theology and the Spiritual Experiences of People with Profound Intellectual Disabilities Jill Harshaw (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

In this groundbreaking book, Jill Harshaw explores the spiritual experiences of people with profound intellectual disabilities with regard to their capacity to enjoy life-giving spiritual experiences in their own right. The author expertly argues that our thinking of spiritual life needs to start not with our assumptions about people who are unable to speak for themselves, but with what we can know about God.

Stimulating a much-needed discussion, this book explains why we need to respect individuals with profound intellectual disabilities as spiritual persons, and stop seeing them simply as care-receivers or uncomfortable reminders of human vulnerability. Calling for a more critical approach in practical theology, this book invites a deeper, genuinely inter-disciplinary dialogue between new and traditional theological fields, and asks why, after more than 30 years of intellectual disability theology, the impact on church life remains minimal so that debates around the right to basic inclusion continue to dominate.

The questions raised in this book not only move the discussion forward, but will spark a change on how the Church approaches inclusiveness.

book jacket 9781473648913 God is Stranger: What happens when God turns up? Krish Kandiah (Hodder Faith)

In an age of social and political uncertainty, Krish Kandiah turns to less familiar and more uncomfortable parts of the Bible to discover the true character of God - but be warned: he may be stranger than you think.

Building on the challenges he explored in Paradoxology, Krish strips us of our comfortable assumptions and invites us to look afresh at God's character. When Abraham welcomes three men for dinner, he ends up pleading for the life of a city. When Jacob meets God by the river, they end up in a fight. And when two forlorn disciples meet a stranger on the road, their lives are turned upside down.

God is Stranger challenges us to lay down our expectations of God and delight in the power that is proven by his very strangeness.

book jacket 9780232532784 Fierce Imaginings: The Great War, Ritual, Memory and God Rachel Mann (Darton Logman and Todd)

From Rachel Mann, Canon Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral, comes a lyrical and very personal story of remembrance, faith, family and identity shaped by the chaos and trauma wrought by the Great War and the flux in early twentieth century Europe. Rachel brilliantly explores the significance of the War to all of us today who live under its long shadow. Our shared memories, culture and the symbols and relics linger on all around us: she also explores the influence of the Great War on her grandparents and how it echoed through her childhood in 1970s Britain discovering her authentic self in God, undergoing a change of sex and experiencing chronic illness and disability.

book jacket 9781848254688 The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry Mark Oakley (Canterbury Press)

Whether you love poetry or haven't read it since school, The Splash of Words will help you rediscover poetry’s power to startle, challenge and reframe your vision.

Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a ‘splash of words’ whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. Through thirty selected poems, from the fourteenth century to the present day, Mark Oakley explores poetry’s power to stir our settled ways of viewing the world and faith, shift our perceptions and even transform who we are.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who will preside over the Prize for the second time, said:

“I am delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2019 Michael Ramsey Prize. In celebrating the most promising new theological books, the prize shines a spotlight on resources that will inspire and challenge Christians in our witness to the transforming love of Jesus Christ. This year’s shortlist spans a remarkable range of subjects – from spirituality, culture and the new sciences, to the impact of the Great War on our faith and rituals. Woven through many of them is an urgent concern for deep issues of justice and reconciliation – from the environment, to refugees, to being church with those who are different from ourselves. This breadth of vision shows the vibrancy of contemporary theology, and the riches that await those who explore it.

“As ever, I am grateful to Archbishop Rowan Williams for establishing this prize, which is a gift to the Church. I also remain deeply conscious of walking in the footsteps of another much-esteemed predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, whose writing is a constant inspiration to me. It is fitting that Archbishop Ramsey’s passion for enquiry into the nature of God in Christ, and the profound question of how we respond to His love, is celebrated by this prize. Every Christian is called to be part of God’s vision for a praying, witnessing and reconciling global Church. I pray that the Michael Ramsey Prize continues to play its part in highlighting resources that will help us do just that.”