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Reviews September 2023 - Reform Magazine

Reviews September 2023

A desire for justice

Bobi Wine: The people’s president
Directed by Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp
Certificate 12A, 121 minutes
Released 1 September

At the start of this remarkable documentary about Uganda, a small group of people engage in impromptu Christian prayer in a car before going about their business. While few more outward religious trappings are shown, the subject is a man possessed by a desire for justice for ordinary citizens, especially the underprivileged and voiceless, facing a corrupt regime determined to stay in power by any means possible, with the army and police under their control.

The successful pop singer and musician Bobi Wine was an orphan from an underprivileged background. He began with songs about girls but then moved on to more social activist lyrics upon which he also campaigned, went into politics and in 2017 got elected MP in the Ugandan parliament. The director Christopher Sharp first got to know Bobi around this time, thinking he seemed almost too perfect to be true. Sharp expected to find some dirt as he got to know Bobi, but never did.

Bobi stood for the presidency in the January 2021 elections after witnessing the incumbent president Yoweri Museveni change the constitution, which had prohibited the country’s prime minister from holding office beyond the age of 75 years, to secure himself a fifth term. Bobi’s campaign was characterised by systematic government repression: violence, killings, imprisonments, arrests on trumped-up charges, house arrests and more. On one occasion, his driver gets assassinated in what looks like a straightforward case of mistaken identity – they wanted to shoot Bobi, but he wasn’t in the car.

Uganda has been described as an illiberal democracy, with its elections (run under the first-past-the-post system) widely considered to have been rigged in recent years.

Almost as fearless in his pursuit of truth as Bobi Wine is the Ugandan cameraman Moses Bwayo who sticks with the campaign when the going gets really tough, capturing arrests or kidnappings as they occur before our eyes mere feet away. He also picks up the flavour of the man and his campaign – the words ‘festival’ and ‘party’ spring to mind, given Bobi’s infectious love of both life and music.

Jeremy Clarke is a film critic.


God of the pools

Life Between the Tides
Adam Nicolson
William Collins
ISBN 978-0-00829-481-6

Creating rockpools on the shore opposite Mull, Adam Nicolson observes, studies and marvels at the creatures and plants who make a home there, and at the interplay between them. Like those pools, Nicolson’s thinking and open-mindedness run deep, and he gradually sees that the interelatedness of the rockpool world is not a presumed picture of Arcadian harmony, rather it is a compelling demonstration that all creation is held together in competitive tension.

Nicolson is a thoughtful and unassertively generous polymath. Consequently, this ‘simple’ story of rockpool observation becomes a splendid tour of marine research, Gaelic folklore and etymology, the science-versus-religion tussles of the 19th century, and a great deal more. Nicolson’s conclusions have no apparent need for God, yet the book left me with a sense that here was territory in which to renew our understanding of God, not as crusher of all opposition but as the purpose behind and within the tensions which hold creation together. Seeing God, incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, through the lens of three Scottish rockpools rather than solely as filtered by the institutional Church, excites me greatly…

Ian Fosten is the book reviews editor for Reform


Jesus on the beach

Conversations by the Sea
Andrew R. Rollinson
Handsel Press
ISBN 978-1-91205-278-3

John 21 tells the story of seven of the disciples meeting the risen Christ on the Galilean seashore: he gently but firmly calls them, nourishes them and commissions them to renew their ministry and mission. In this engaging book, Rollinson reflects on this text and from it explores issues of ministry and mission today.

In his first chapter, he likens the disillusion and disappointment the disciples feel at catching nothing to the feelings of many in the Church today. He recognises how the Church has been ‘relocated to the quiet back street of private interests’ and provides a trenchant summary of the nature of our society and how countercultural our faith has become…

Elspeth Harley is a retired Church of Scotland minister and former URC minister


Paul and discipleship

Romans and the Power of the Believer
Richard J Britton
SBL Press
ISBN 978-1-62837-312-7

Richard Britton is a URC lay preacher, who undertook research with Professor Peter Oakes (once of Northern College). His point in this passionate and thoughtful book is that belief in Jesus is not passive submission to God’s one-sided grace. It is an active relationship of involvement and responsibility within God’s saving work. God trusts us to work out and exercise our faithfulness.

The argument emerges from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and explores the meaning of well-known terms and images in the letter by referring to secular documents of the period. So the word ‘faith’ implies ‘good faith’ or mutual trust, rather than one-sided ‘blind faith’; business agreements use the term this way. When Paul refers to ‘gift’, he writes in a culture where giving entailed reciprocal obligation. And the grafting of trees – here Britton draws on ancient botanical manuals – embodied the sharing of life and goodness, rather than any sort of hierarchical takeover, by graft or stock…

John Proctor is a former URC General Secretary


Prayer for peace

Peace is a Doing Word
Barbara Glasson
Sacristy Press
ISBN 978-1-78959-222-1

Barbara Glasson is former President of the British Methodist Church and President of the Methodist Peace Fellowship. Using story, poem, prayer, question and biblical text, she invites the reader into a pattern of daily reflection on what practicing peace means in our daily living.

This is not a book to read so much as to journey with. The 12 four-weekly sections offer a year’s journey if you wish to be disciplined, but it is possible to dip in and out of the book. For each day there are nine moments of reflection – waking, walking, seeing, acting, creating, becoming, reflecting, resting and blessing. A thread throughout the book is a verse from the letter to Colossians: ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.’..

Lindsey Sanderson is Moderator-Elect of the URC National Synod of Scotland


This article was published in the September 2023 edition of Reform

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