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Dean of Chapel wins prestigious theological book prize

"The Splash of Words will bring alive poetry to anyone who reads it and shows us how vital poetry is for all Christians"

The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Dean of Chapel at St John’s, has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury named Canon Oakley’s book The Splash of Words: Believing in poetry as the winner of the prize at the Greenbelt Festival. As the winner of the prize Canon Oakley will receive £10,000.

The Splash of Words: Believing in poetry argues that belief in poetry is vital for understanding that God is in the world as poetry is in a poem. It contains 40 poems, both contemporary and historic and each poem is accompanied by a reflection from the author.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Revered Canon Mark Oakley

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Revered Canon Mark Oakley

Awarding the prize, The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said: “Mark Oakley’s work shines with an infectious love for poetry and for theology. Written with power and subtlety, Mark shows us how poetry can change our whole view of the world. He sees poetry not just as a tool for expressing faith but as a way of understanding: God is in the world as poetry is in a poem.

Canon Oakley said: “Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that ‘Best’ is not a theological category, and, having read the other nominated authors, I know he’s right. I’m just very grateful that the judges found something of worth in a subject that feels so important to me — the native language of poetry to the person of faith.

“It’s been said that we ought to like poetry the same way that children like snow — it helps us reimagine our world, its excitement and its ice help us see our own human breath and dare us to distil. For me, poetry is a spiritual exercise.”

Canon Oakley was one of six authors shortlisted for the prize including Rachel Mann and Keith Eyeons.

The Michael Ramsey Prize was started by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in 2005 and is awarded once every three years. It aims to encourage the most promising contemporary theological writing and share it with a wider Christian readership.

It is named after Dr Michael Ramsey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974, and it commemorates his commitment to increasing the breadth of theological understanding among Christians and non-Christians alike.

Published: 27/08/19

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