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Alan Wilkinson: One Foot in Eden

Alan Wilkinson

One Foot in Eden

ISBN: 0902 834 304.

Mirfield Publications, 2011, £9.99

The Church History paper in the old General Ordination Examination once included the question, ‘What do we learn about the church in England from the nineteenth century novel?’ – a gift to any candidate who enjoyed Victorian fiction. Anyone faced with a similar question about the church in England during the twentieth century would find Alan Wilkinson’s novel a mine of information.

One Foot in Eden is the story of a young priest who left his first curacy in London to join a religious community. This was something his parents did not understand. And Peter and his cousin Sally were very fond of each other. But he pursued his vocation. Eventually he became superior of his community and was then incumbent of the tough Leeds parish for which the brothers were responsible.

The community and the people in the story are entirely fictitious. But the author writes from his knowledge of Cambridge, Mirfield and SSF and from his experience as a pastor and teacher. Meeting people like Charles Jenkinson (a dynamic, eccentric and compassionate priest whose political activity in the 1920s changed the face of a notorious slum in Leeds), Tubby Clayton, Michael Ramsey, John Robinson and David Jenkins, may assure the reader that the background of the story is a fair picture of the twentieth century church: indeed some will recognize our own Br Barnabas on page 11. Peter has to face the demands which religious vows make and how they affect our choices and our family and personal relationships.

While this novel assumes some knowledge of what goes on in church, it gives a clear account of the religious life and its place in the Christian life. I liked particularly the wise and encouraging confessor in Chapter 6.

 Reginald SSF