Connect Interview: ‘Conversations by the Sea. Reflections on Discipleship, Ministry and Mission’ by Andrew Rollinson
Andrew, Congratulations on the publishing of your new book!
The title is already calling me to head to the beach for a hot cuppa and a blanket to read the first few chapters? Can you give us an idea of what we can expect?
‘Conversations by the Sea’ is an Easter book – an Easter celebration! So if the weather is still Baltic on your Scottish beach, Lyndsay, the season is certainly right to read it. It is essentially a set of fourteen reflective essays based on the conversations of the Risen Lord with seven of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. The whole book arises from John 21, a chapter replete with evocative images about discipleship, ministry and mission. The project is thus a set of theological, biblical and pastoral reflections on key areas of ministry, mission and discipleship, some areas rarely touched on.
What is the significance of the title; what made you settle on it?
The main reason – I’ve already outlined. However, although the book is autobiographical in only a very limited way, most of my pastoral ministry has been near the sea. Ministry began for me in the rather lonely context of rural evangelism on the East Coast of Yorkshire. Many a day I would walk the beaches, sometimes discouraged or lonely and talk with the Lord. Full-time pastoral ministry ended in St Andrews; the West Sands being a great context for many a pastoral conversation. For eight years my role as Ministry Advisor for the Baptist Union of Scotland often allowed me conversations with colleagues overlooking stunning seascapes.
Who do you imagine reading this book and what conversations are they likely to have afterwards…..by the sea or otherwise?
The book is primarily intended for church leaders – deacons, elders, mission/ youth/ community workers and pastors. But I do hope its emphasis on ministry as ‘exemplary discipleship’ will give it a wider appeal. Those who have already read it (pre-publication) have said that, though it is perhaps academic in parts, its feel is warm, accessible, down-to-earth and encouraging. I hope this is the case.
Each chapter tackles a ‘live issue’ so I hope it will spawn many an honest conversation. The opening chapter, for example, is on ‘disappointment and disorientation in ministry’ (based on Peter returning to Galilee, fishing all night and catching nothing.) There are key chapters on what characterises discipleship (a comparison of Peter and the Beloved Disciple), on ministry starvation and its remedy (breakfast on the beach), on self-awareness and self-deception in ministry (‘Lord you know all things, you know I love you’), on ministry failure and restoration (Peter’s re-commissioning)…..and so on!
What inspired you to write this book at this point in your life?
Time! I’ve had an outline of this book for about six years and taken notes over many years. But there has just not been the head space to put thoughts down coherently – until retirement and lockdown.
It has been so interesting to see the ways that lockdown has given space to creativity. How do you hope this book will challenge/ inspire/ encourage the reader?
At three levels. First, John’s Gospel is such a rich text and its final chapter, for me, not an add-on appendix but the climax. It can’t fail to inspire! The Fourth Gospel can be characterised as a celebration of God’s gift of fullness and fruitfulness through Christ, with the first ‘sign’ being Jesus turning water into a ridiculously large amount of wine and the last ‘sign’ a jaw-dropping catch of 153 fish. The whole text is an invitation to live and serve with the promise of such fruitfulness.
Second, the images reflected on are deeply suggestive. I was very keen not to write predictable stuff about ministry. These images of John 21 shape, I hope, the contours of discipleship, ministry and mission in fresh ways.
Third, and far the most important, John’s Gospel ends, not with closure but with a delightful openness to the future. The central need of all of us is to meet the ‘Stranger on the Beach’ and to spend our lives being renewed and resourced by his living, resurrected, joyful presence.
Can you share with us what you have learned about yourself through writing this book?
Wow! Great question Lyndsay! I have learnt so much. It has helped me realise how privileged I have been to serve alongside so many inspiring people. It has reinforced a deep conviction that foundational to all Christian service is a deep, deep security in God’s love in Christ. Without that we will never be free to truly assess ourselves and serve others. And I guess compiling a (rather long) bibliography has reminded me of how regular theological reading has been so enriching personally.
And finally, where can we buy a copy?
It can be purchased through the Handsel Press website, on Amazon, in certain Christian bookshop outlets or directly from me. Today I heard I have managed to secure a grant from the Drummond Trust to keep the price down.
Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time Andrew, and for sharing those insights behind your new book. We really pray God will continue to bless your time in retirement and look forward to diving into Conversations by the Sea!
Andrew has kindly included an invitation to the launch of his new book, on April 19th at Newton Mearns Baptist Church.
Lyndsay Cameron-Ross, Communications Lead, BUS