[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A book about faith and dementia has been awarded this year’s Michael Ramsey Prize by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The Michael Ramsey Prize was launched in by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in 2005 to celebrate “the most promising contemporary theological writing from the global church.” The prize is awarded every two-to-three years and this was the first time that Archbishop Welby presided over the prize.
The winning work, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God, by John Swinton, “goes straight to the heart of tackling one of the most profound failures of our society – the failure to value people in other than economic terms and to see the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Welby said.
“John has written a book which is deeply challenging and brings to bear a coherent theological approach, with clinical background and understanding, to an issue that has touched many of us, and is one of the great issues of our society. He has done the church and our country a huge service.”
In addition to the recognition associated with the prize, John Swinton also receives a cash prize of £10,000 GBP.
“I am really pleased to win the Michael Ramsey Prize and grateful for the hard work the judges have put in and for everybody who has been involved,” he said. “My hope is that this book helps us to recognise that in the Kingdom of God everything looks different. Even in something as apparently hopeless as dementia you can find possibilities, because God is a God who never forgets us, who says: ‘I will always be with you, I will always be for you, in all things at all times.’
“It's not what we remember about ourselves that matters, it’s what God remembers about us – and that's not just for people with dementia, that’s for all of us. I hope the book will help us to open up our understanding of what it means to be a human being, of what it means to have a vocation, of what it means to trust in God in all things at all times.”
The judges for this year’s Michael Ramsey Prize considered six shortlisted books:
- Faith & Struggle on Smokey Mountain, by Benigno Beltran (Orbis);
- Healing Agony: Re-imagining Forgiveness, by Stephen Cherry (Continuum);
- Children in the Bible, by Anne Richards (SPCK);
- Unapologetic, by Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber);
- God’s Presence: a contemporary recapitulation of early Christianity, by Frances Young (Cambridge University Press);
and the winner:
- Dementia: Living in the memories of God, by John Swinton (SCM)
“This year’s Michael Ramsey Prize shortlist offers a glimpse into the riches not just of contemporary Christian thinking, but of Christian living,” Archbishop Welby said. “Each book has been a gift to the Church – helping us to think more deeply, act more wisely and witness more effectively to the glory of God.
“Writing such as this challenges, nourishes and inspires the Church to be ever more deeply and more joyfully what it is called to be: a praying, reconciling, proclaiming and witnessing community of people following Jesus Christ. It has been a real privilege to join my fellow judges in reflecting on these books, and to have the opportunity to share them with a wider audience.”
Benigno Beltran’s Faith & Struggle on Smokey Mountain was this year’s the runner up. Archbishop Welby said it contained “profound spirituality and immensely creative theological thinking.”
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, joined Archbishop Welby on this year’s judging panel, alongside the broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson; Dr Anna Rowlands, lecturer in Catholic studies in the department of theology and religion at Durham University; and Professor Rosalind Searle, director at the Centre for Trust, Peace, & Social Relations.
The prize commemorates Dr Michael Ramsey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1961 and 1974. He was known for his commitment to increase the breadth of theological understanding among both Christians and non-Christians.
It was awarded this weekend at the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in Northamptonshire, England.