Retired priest and former Dean of Belfast Cathedral John Mann has published a devotional book for Advent and Christmas.
John, who lives in Laxey with his wife Helen, sees Journeying to the Light as his ‘small contribution to balance the hectic rollercoaster of busyness in December with a 20-minute daily thought as to why Christmas, as a Christian festival, in fact, started’.
The book, published by Messenger Publications, was launched in Belfast in September and an island launch, attended by Dean of St German’s Cathedral Nigel Godfrey, was held last week.
John explained: ‘The book is an attempt to give people a short reading and meditation for every day from the beginning of Advent, through Christmas, right up to the Epiphany.
‘It is designed for those who want to think a little about preparing for Christmas by going back to the roots of the festival, reading what the prophets - especially Isaiah - were saying for centuries before, about the child who would be born to bring transformation and hope.
‘Then I go on to talk about the main Christmas readings, mostly from St Luke’s Gospel, that are very familiar.’
The format is 41 daily readings. Each meditation/reading is stand-alone, so if a reader misses a few days it can be picked up again without requiring the in-between days to be caught-up on first.
‘I give personal reflections, some from my own life, some from news items, some from familiar texts from the Bible,’ he said. ‘I suppose it is like a reflective Advent calendar building up towards Christmas, but then carrying on afterwards for the 12 days of Christmas.’
He explained that he wanted to do Journeying to the Light after writing a book of readings from St john’s Gospel, with meditations to accompany them, covering every day in Lent leading up to Easter. Published by Columba Press nine years ago, it is now out of print.
John said Journeying to the Light will primarily be read by people who are church-goers of any denomination. ‘But I suppose in my heart of hearts, the people I would really like to encourage to give it a go, are those many individuals who in the past have gone to Church, but now, for whatever reason, feel they would rather not, or maybe are disillusioned, or perhaps have just fallen out of the habit,’ he said.
‘I have a feeling that there are quite a few people about who believe in God but are not attracted to Church - at least not on a regular basis - but think about things deeply, and wonder about the huge impact of the life and teaching of Christ.’
In its review, The Church of Ireland Gazette said: ‘His writing reflects both the heart of a priest and the pen of a poet, making this book a good example of the best the devotional tradition of Anglicism has to offer.’
John was born in London and moved to the island in 1973, with his family. He studied theology at Queen’s University Belfast, and in the holidays worked on the trams.
Eventually he was ordained in the Church of Ireland, served in a number of parishes, ended up as Dean of Belfast Cathedral from 2011 to 2017, then went back to parish life for five years in Swanage, Dorset, before retiring back to the Isle of Man last year. His wife Helen is from Laxey and they have always retained a base here.
He has been involved in reconciliation, peace-building and ecumenical matters in Belfast, especially while in the cathedral in the centre of the city.
Journeying to the Light has a RRP of £11.95. Copies are in stock at The Churches Bookshop at St Thomas’ Church in Douglas or order through bookshops or online.