Theology & Religion

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‘Bridging the Gap’

The Christian Sacraments and Human Belonging

Roger Grainger is the author of a number of books, including The Language of the Rite (Darton, Longman and Todd); The Message of the Rite (Lutterworth); and The Drama of the Rite (published by SAP in 2008), the final book in the trilogy. He has also written about therapeutic theatre, group spirituality, and bereavement; and combines parish work with his practice as a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. His latest book is The Uses of Chaos (Peter Lang).

The Bible and the sacraments go together as the cornerstone of Christian identity. Wherever Christianity is practiced in traditional ways, converts are baptised and bread is broken together. Countless books have been written about the theological significance these events, but their strictly human meaning and value as ways of helping people to make sense of themselves and enjoy their lives together has sometimes been overlooked. The sacraments are first and foremost signs of belonging, to God and with one another. They are sacramental not only because of the circumstances surrounding their origin, but also because of their function in incorporating the personal belonging to which they point.

Roger Grainger explores the human side of sacrament – the emotional hunger which it addresses, and what this means from a theological point of view; and what it still means for us today, despite all the changes which have taken place over the ages in the world in which we live. By looking at the way human beings relate to one another we can begin to see the amazing relevance of these traditional ceremonies – their God given ability to heal our personal woundedness and bring to the forefront the reality of belonging together in community.

The significance of sacramental worship for human growth and development is examined in some depth, using the insights to be gained from the anthropological study of religion, while its contribution to psychological health and the establishment of individual identity through personal relationship is identified as the basis of our sense of belonging. This book proceeds from its author's conviction that a better understanding of the dynamics of our belonging would contribute to the Church's mission within a fragmented society.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-512-0
Paperback Price: £15.95 / $27.95
Release Date: November 2011
Page Extent / Format: 96 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Chapter I Distance and relationship
Chapter II Relationship and belonging
Chapter III Past and present
Chapter IV The movement to higher ground
Chapter V Symbolizing commitment
Chapter VI Rite and sacrament
Chapter VII Launching out
Chapter VIII Travelling onwards
Chapter IX Reaching outwards


Appendix I
Appendix II


This is indeed a book to be read with profit, a book about the gestures of God – the sacraments – which as Newman said 'furnish a mingled argument to the conscience and the imagination,' and which are at the heart of truly transforming worship.
From the Preface by The Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

Clearly, the Christian sacraments have among their purposes the creation of community. Nevertheless, the temptation toward individualism still lurks in the shadows of the church. In this very helpful little book, Grainger draws on insights from his trilogy, The Language of the Rite (1974), The Message of the Rite (2000), and The Drama of the Rite (2009), to describe the sacraments as mediators of human belonging. He argues that the mission of Christ "is fulfilled in the transformation of the world through the action of bridging the gap, cancelling out the divisions between and among human beings" (67). G.'s experience in dramatherapy informs his approach as he explains the dynamics of distance and presence, separation and belonging in the sacraments. The "gap" is G.'s way of describing divine transcendence and human alienation, but also of indicating the separation that marks the first movement in rites of passage. Through the sacraments we are invited to participate "in the action which overcomes the distance between ourselves and our world and the true source – the essential source – of our identityas human beings" (32). The Eucharist reveals the climax of the drama as it "proclaims, initiates and celebrates the restored relationship between God the Father and his human creation manifested in and evidenced by the presence among us of Jesus Christ" (67). Throughout, G. interprets sacraments as rites of passage from isolation to relationship, especially relationship with Christ and with others in Christ. ... This text should be a welcome addition to undergraduate courses or parish-based adult education programs.
Theoloogical Studies, reviewed by Joseph C. Mudd, Gonzaga University, Spokane

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