Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement

by Archbishop Rowan Williams. Morehouse Publishing, 2002.

The Archbishop of Canterbury explores images of childhood, our awkwardness at speaking about community, our unwillingness to think seriously about remorse, and our devastating lack of vocabulary for the growth and nurture of the self through time. All of these issues presuppose that "we cannot choose just any course of action in respect of our human and non-human environment and still expect to 'make sense.'"

Williams laments that 'fashion' now seems to dictate how we understand and respond to the world around us, rather than long-accepted behavioral and relational norms, or 'icons'. Fashion comes and goes, but cultural icons arise from generations of conversation, and "represent some of the basic constraints on what human beings can reasonably do and say together if they are going to remain within a recognizably human conversation."

The Christian creed and Christian vision "have within them a life and a richness that can embrace and transfigure all the complexities of human life," write Williams. They are not counter to normal, daily human life, but a transfiguration.

Williams' prose can be somewhat thick, but the book draws upon traditional categories to provide new perspectives on modern life. Leaders who are attempting to understand the cultural contexts of their congregations will find this volume enriching.