Journal of Contemporary Ministry (Christian Research Association) Issue No.8 2023
Living for Shalom: The Story of Ross Langmead, Woods, Jeanette. Eugene, PR: Wipf & Stock, 2021, 283pages.
The city of Melbourne (Australia) is not generally known for its theologians. This biography of Australian missiologist, Rev. Dr Ross Langmead, goes some way to changing that. Living for Shalom is an insightful, well-resourced biography written by Langmead’s sister, Jeanette Woods, during her time in enforced COVID-19 lockdowns. The book, displaying appropriate pathos while being widely informative, includes contributions from many notable figures of Australian theological contexts, along with the rich array of community-based characters who were part of Langmead’s life. Woods narrates the text in third person, creating a sense of professional distance as she surveys her brother’s life with its struggles, victories and complexities. There is a delicate balance here that is managed consistently, whereby Woods has – from her privileged familial position – been able to make the most of sibling intimacy and resources, whilst avoiding the hagiological bias that at times is present when authors write about those they love. The interest of the reader is kept as an ever-present driver of the text.
Langmead’s life is sketched in its own narrative arc, beginning with his arrival into the world, born into a Salvation Army overseas-missionary family. The anecdotes of early life are conveyed with amusement, insight and conjecture as to their ensuing effects on Langmead’s development – a theme of Langmead’s own later reflection, as demonstrated in excerpts of his private journals and public materials. From the get-go, it is clear that Langmead’s intelligence, thirst for wisdom and grounded social ethic drove him in many concurrent directions, and that deciding in which directions to pour his limited time and energy was an ongoing wrestle. Music performance and outreach, practical research, skills teaching, community development, academic writing, theological lecturing, research supervision, church responsibilities and involvement in denominational (Baptist) and wider ecumenical contexts – not to mention overseas and cross-cultural work – Langmead was involved in so much.(more…)