• Book Review of Sacred Friendships by Ian F. Jones

    Posted on October 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    Review of Sacred Friendship by Robert W. Kellemen and Susan M. Ellis

    By Ian F. Jones


    Mark these names and remember them: Vibia Perpetua (181-203), Macrina the Elder (270-340), Gorgonia (325-375), Marcella (325-410), Dhuoda (803-843), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Amelia Wilhelmina Siereking (1794-1858), Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898), and Betsie ten Boom (1885-1944). These are ten members of an assemblage of over fifty women, formerly unknown to most of us, but now revealed in a remarkable book by Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis.


    Sacred Friendships (BMH Books, 2009) reveals an area of church history that has been overlooked for too long—the important role that women have played in nurturing and preserving the faith and in teaching us today how to minister one another based upon their legacy.


    The subtitle of the book, Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, captures the essence of the authors’ purpose. Kellemen and Ellis introduce us to each of these women by telling their stories in ways that are, at once, profound and moving. We read of Perpetua, who consoles and comforts her family and her fellow prisoners facing trial and martyrdom, and in her own dying shows us how to live.


    Macrina, the grandmother of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, demonstrates spiritual nurturing, particularly of her daughter Emmelia, and reveals to us the important influence that women have had over the centuries upon the Church Fathers, whose names hold greater familiarity.


    Gorgonia, mother to two bishops, is eulogized by her brother, Gregory of Nazianzus, as a woman of godly character offering wise counsel based on the Word of God.


    Marcella chooses a life of biblical meditation and spiritual mentoring that influences her tutor Jerome. Hildegard of Bingen reveals one of the greatest intellectual minds in her spiritual letters of truth, love, confrontation, and comfort.


    Julian of Norwich builds bridges of reconciliation in human relations, and Catherine of Siena provides spiritual consolation and compassion as she comforts people facing execution and death.


    In the nineteenth century, Laura Smith Haviland opened schools for indigent and African American children and participated in the Underground Railroad. In the twentieth century, Betsie ten Boom provided a model of Christlike hospitality, trust in God, comfort, inspiration, and forgiveness to her more well-known sister Corrie, up to the time of her death in a Nazi concentration camp.


    Kellemen and Ellis uncover a vast storehouse of wisdom, spiritual counsel, and practical direction in the lives of these women. In so doing, they provide a refreshing antidote to an empty feminism void of biblical content and to an equally unbiblical blind dismissal of the value of women. The stories, drawn from five continents and covering nearly two millennia, offer practical wisdom, biblical insight, and inspiration for current approaches to counseling and soul care. 


    There is no claim that these women are perfect; however, their stories and their lives resonate with a desire to know God and His Word. This is not a book to be consigned to the dusty corner of a library shelf, suitable only for reference in some esoteric research project on church history. Rather, it is a book to be read, studied, and applied in our daily walk of faith and ministry.


    To that end, the authors end each chapter with a discussion guide comprised of a series of questions designed to engage the reader in personal and/or group assessment and application drawn from the truths learned from these women.


    Read the book and you will be humbled by the spiritual strength, power, wisdom, and influence of these women.  Gone, but now no longer forgotten, these women teach us how to live godly lives and give spiritual counsel to others, as Kellemen and Ellis draw back the curtain of church history and tell us their stories.


    To learn more about Sacred Friendships and to order your copy, you can visit: http://bit.ly/MG1l5