A fun, helpful, insightful, tongue-in-cheek introduction to Anglican (Episcopal) tradition and practice using popular geek culture as the point of entry and reference.
Jordan Haynie-Ware is an Episcopal priest serving in the Anglican Church of Canada. In addition to writing The Ultimate Quest: A Geek’s Guide to (the Episcopal) Church, she has published on gender violence and religion, is a podcaster, and an avid gamer.
As one who has spent many years engaged in geek culture (role-playing games, video games, and various supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi television shows, movies , and books) this book was great fun. It was a delight to see my own faith tradition described with many chuckle-inducing references to the popular culture that was so formative in my teens and early adult years.
The Ultimate Quest walks the reader through the various aspects of the Anglican tradition, as lived by The Episcopal Church, presenting it much like a player’s guide to a role-playing game. General principles are described first, followed by an introduction to the Book of Common Prayer; roles within the church; vesture; equipment (material objects used in worship); Sunday worship; church polity and governance; theology; a conclusion and glossary. Each of these sections is well-written and contains plenty of pop-culture references which are both entertaining and illuminating.
My only quibbles with the book are very minor. I occasionally found myself confused as to the author’s point of view, whether an ‘adventurer’ herself, a priest offering counsel, or a narrator. Perhaps this is intentional and it was in no way disruptive to the reading, just caused momentary distraction as I tried to discern who, exactly, was speaking to me. I dislike the term ‘clergyperson’ which is used throughout; I find it awkward and see no reason that the simpler and more elegant ‘cleric’ cannot be used in its place. however, my preference of diction does not a book make or break.
Of more concern, though still in no way deal-breaking, was the use of multiple translations of the bible without any clear rationale for which came up when. Sometimes the New Revised Standard Version and other times the King James Version. Perhaps this is an effort to expose readers exploring Anglicanism to the breadth and history of our tradition, but if this intention was articulated in the book, I missed it. In a couple of places important concepts are glossed over too quickly for my comfort, such as the lumping together of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Good Friday into one brief description. On at least one occasion, common practice is presented as normative, rather than the ideal being presented with common practice indicated as a note. (The case I recall is a statement about priests preparing the altar, rather than it being the function of deacons who are not always available and priests filling in of necessity. Priests functioning as deacons because of permanency of orders is explained in detail later, making this even more surprising.)
I wish to reiterate that none of these quibbles are in any way defeating of the purpose of the book. They are subtleties that would likely not cause concern for a vast majority of readers. Indeed, limitations of space and the challenge of presenting a complicated tradition in an accessible way are going to necessitate some paring down of detail and overall Haynie-Ware has done an excellent job.
There are a number of points where, even in the brevity required by a book like this one, Haynie-Ware does a fantastic job of putting forth complicated theology without watering it down or being less than forthcoming about Anglican tradition and belief.
Ministration to the Sick is more about healing than cure, more about holistic peace than quick fixes, more about thanking God for the good work of physicians than about subverting their important work with magic.Kindle e-book, location 628.
This quotations is an excellent description of Ministry to the Sick and prayers for healing in the Anglican tradition. It goes a long way to dispelling the frequent misconception that prayers are believed to be a replacement for the work of physicians and that healing, in Anglicanism, is a long-term, holistic process rather than the curing of particular symptoms. Similarly, Haynie-Ware’s description of roles and vocations within the life of the church is excellently written and very helpfully frames these roles in a number of ways, including roles most suitable to ‘doers’ and to those inclined toward contemplation. This is not often discussed, in my experience, in churches and can be a stumbling block to people discerning where they fit in with the church’s various ministries.
An excellent book, a highly enjoyable read, and a remarkably useful lens to cast on Anglican tradition when speaking with people familiar with popular geek culture. Many thanks to Jordan Haynie-Ware for taking the time to write this and serve as an interpreter between two worlds so near and dear to my own heart.