Friday, July 08, 2011

Book Review: Parson's Pitch

I got the loan of this 1964 book through a pastoral visit, and so it managed to jump the to-be-read queue in order to be returned before I leave this parish! It came into my brief possession through a guy who played cricket, so I lent him Penguins Stopped Play, and he gave me this one.

Parson's Pitch is a sort of autobiography of the cricketing cleric, David Sheppard, who eventually went on to become Bishop of Liverpool, having been the only Test cricketer to have been ordained. As such, there were some chapters that were more interesting and appealing than others, as the material switched from cricketing stories and matches to the story of his conversion and faith.

As I've said, the book was written in the early 1960s and so seems quite time-bound in the cricket details. I don't know quite enough about cricket, nor about the famous players from the 1930s to 60s to have appreciated some of what he was writing about. This was especially the case given the last three chapters are an almost blow-by-blow account of the English tour of Australia in the 1962-63 season, with much more detail than the casual reader would have wanted, even more so fifty years later! Perhaps it was a huge selling point when it first came out, but less so with the passing of time.

That being said, it would still be useful as an evangelistic book for sport mad men, if you had a local cricket team you were trying to reach with the gospel. They may better appreciate the cricket stories, but within they will also find a clear explanation of the good news of Jesus Christ, how Sheppard was soundly converted, and how he openly talks of his Christian faith affecting every part of his life, even his sport.

There were some choice quotes, which might whet your appetite:

'It is all too easy to handle holy things without consciously coming close to God at all.'

'I found it fascinating and important, but tried to keep firmly in my mind that all this was a background to meeting real needs of real people, and not simply some unending intellectual argument.' (On his theological studies at Ridley College)

I'm glad to have read it, and I'm sure it had a great impact when first released, but perhaps the passing of time has been less kind to this book. Nevertheless, the timeless gospel is presented clearly within, and therefore it may yet nudge people along the way as they read a cricket autobiography and find the living Lord Jesus who saved David Sheppard, Test Cricketer and Clergyman.

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