Austin Smith’s reflections on inner-city monasticism — republished
“A must-read for Christian disciples, justice activists and new monastics.” —Rev Dr Ash Barker
In 1971, two priests from a Catholic order left their monastery in order to reinvent the contemplative life amid a Liverpool community oppressed by poverty and systemic racism. Foreshadowing the ‘new monastic’ movement, the members of a 300-year-old religious order began to translate the radical, self-sacrificial values of monastic living into an open, hospitable, practical life on the margins of society.
Passion for the Inner City is a probing spiritual reflection on the first twelve years of Austin Smith’s life in the inner city. He describes a new model of faith—not just giving up his possessions, but letting go of assumptions, dependencies, all his rationalisations—until he sees the poorest in society outside of his own agendas. By living and suffering alongside them, he calls out the deep offensiveness of the inequality we daily permit.
Now freshly re-edited and reformatted, with a new foreword by Toxteth community organiser, Sonia Bassey MBE – Passion for the Inner City is the first publication to be released by the Passionists’ brand new book imprint, Lab/ora Press, which will be republishing out-of-print works from Passionist authors and other social justice voices.
“I have gone on marches in the inner city; I have fought for better housing; I have been part of the struggle for better education for our children; I have stood on the street in riots; I have been part and parcel of the struggle for community power; I have set my face against my own racism and the racism of others. Why? Because I believe where creation is sinned against, where human beings suffer, Jesus is being crucified.”
Praise for Passion for the Inner City:
It is now commonplace in Christian social ethics to talk about the need to ‘be with’ rather than ‘doing for’ or ‘to’ our neighbours. This book, published forty years ago and now re-published, offers an early articulation of exactly this Christian social ethic for our times. Austin Smith’s extraordinary writing and his lived witness prefigures much of our current desire to move to modes of place-based accompaniment, mutual common life and radical social friendship – a desire that has notably present across Christian denominations and beyond. The re-publication of these reflections offers us a chance to think again about a generation whose stories we are at risk of losing in exactly the moment when we most need to pause and to hear, reflect and be inspired by them. This is a wonderful chance to share in the journey the Passionists undertook in 1970’s and to ask about our own ways of seeking to be open to love of Christ and neighbour.
Dr Anna Rowlands, St Hilda Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, Author of Towards a Politics of Communion: Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times
“Challenging and deeply relevant given all we face today with race, justice, poverty and what Christian faith has to offer. It’s a strange comfort to know that others have gone before us and learnt hard won lessons for change. Indeed, insights here could not only help inspire a new generation to take up the call for radical discipleship and community building, but sustain them for the required decades needed for transformation. This is a must read for any would-be Christian disciples, justice activists and/or new monastics.”
Rev Dr Ash Barker, author/speaker/activist, leader of Seedbeds
“Passion for the Inner City is a powerful reflection on entering into life with others from a posture of humility, humour, grace, mercy and constancy. The narration grips: as a pastor and inner-city dweller I was sucked in, churned around, disturbed by the spirit, moved by the story, changed by its grace and inspired by its courage to exist with and suffer with. Theologically it asks profound questions of the church and our lives.”
Revd Dr Deirdre Brower Latz, Principal and Senior Lecturer in Pastoral and Social Theology, Nazarene Theological College
“Austin Smith’s humble, slow story of co-existing in the joy and pain of inner city life whispers quietly into our attention-grabbing disembodied world and reminds us of another way. It’s a costly way but it’s the way of Christ. Anyone considering investing their lives anywhere would do well to read this first.”
Andy Flannagan, Director of Christians in Politics, author of Those Who Show Up
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