Anyone who has followed the career of the former Bishop of Edinburgh through his extensive writing, or the colourful newspaper headlines he has attracted, is already likely to hold an opinion of the man.
Reviewed by Catherine Larner
He challenged the institution, was known as a radical, and experienced a widely reported crisis of faith. Whatever we think of the decisions and conclusions he reached, in this book, his first account of life and how it has shaped him, he reveals his earnest pursuit of integrity and sensitivity in a world he felt was changing at a rate with which the church was unable to keep up.
Richard Holloway was born to a working class family in Alexandria, a small town north of Glasgow. He discovered religion through visiting the local rectory and, at the age of 14, leapt from this introduction to ‘otherness’ to devoting his life to a religious order in Nottinghamshire.
National Service intruded after four years, but the interruption caused Holloway to acknowledge that, largely due to a reluctance to accept celibacy, and later realising he was uncomfortable in institutionalised religion, he should leave to pursue the ministry elsewhere.
His career saw him as a curate in the Gorbals; overseeing a wealthy parish in Boston, America; endeavouring to live in community; and engaging in the debate over the ordination of women as bishop. He married and had a family. But he never quite shook off a sense of failure that he wasn’t able to devote his life fully to God.
This is an intellectual account which is thoughtful, starkly honest, and at moments touching in its understated wisdom and sensitivity when coming alongside those who are hurting. It is not a book of anecdote, and friends and family are presented as shadowy figures, but it is an engaging examination of an individual’s growth as a compassionate human being.