Ethos Blog

Shopping Cart


Book Review: A Fragile Hope: Cultivating a Hermitage of the Heart

Monday, 20 February 2023  | Tim Dickau

A Fragile Hope: Cultivating a Hermitage of the Heart

By Charles R. Ringma

(Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021)


In this collection of reflections, Charles invites us to enter the hermitage of the heart, mind and soul. These reflections were penned in the years following his six-month Sabbatical on a scenic hermitage overlooking a forested valley. In my own brief visit to this site, I garnered a sense of the contemplative invitation this hermitage provides, which made me all the more curious when Charles describes how he aimed to bring that contemplative experience and practice into his everyday rhythms.

I am referring to Charles by his first name in this review, both because I have known him personally for over two decades and because this collection of essays is among his most personal writing. In these ruminations, Charles lifts the veil to allow us to peer into the depth of his more than seven decades of life, ministry, learning and wisdom. Indeed, I felt like I was sitting in the room with him as he shared honestly upon the challenge, struggle and joy of seeking to participate in the presence and mission of the Triune God amidst his daily schedules. In this way, the book reads like an intimate journal of a friend and fellow companion.

Yet there is more. The book leads us towards deep theological and critical thinking, a life of ministry among the poor and justice-seeking, and a perceptiveness of what is actually going on in our world. Reading these reflections is a reminder that the fruit of a contemplative life is not a preoccupation with oneself, but a self-aware life where one more deeply participates in the intersection of the divine and the created. Indeed, one of the features of the book that I most appreciated is the manner in which it holds together the call and challenge to seek personal, communal and societal transformation as part of our seeking the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Charles is deeply aware of the challenge of this call against the backdrop of a secular age, one where the actions and movements of God remain largely unattended, ignored, or just plain hard to discern. The reflections move easily between, on the one hand, an honest exasperation at the seeming lack of revelatory action on God’s part to the summons to recover a patient and persistent sacramental vision on the other hand. In a secular age where we often remain closed within an “immanent frame,” we need reliable and wise guides who can articulate both of these realities. These reflections invite us to discover the untrammeled trail through this secular age with our eyes wide open to the transforming action of the Triune God. By drawing upon the treasures of many traditions such as monastics and Mennonites, activists and contemplatives, Charles points us on a hopeful pathway through this secular age. If you walk this path yourself, you will also enter the land of re-formation in which the Spirit can shape and reshape your longings, patterns, and engagements as he has reshaped Charles’.

I do not believe that hope within an immanent frame is sustainable, not least in the face of death. If we are to hold on to hope, fragile as it may sometimes be, we will need reliable guides who can lead us back towards the transcendent hope of the Triune God who intersects our world in surprising ways. Charles is just such a guide.


Tim Dickau is the author of Plunging into the Kingdom Way: Practicing the Shared Strokes of Community, Hospitality, Justice, and Confession (2011) and Forming Christian Communities in a Secular Age (2021).

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment


Online Resources

subscribe to engage.mail

follow us

Latest Articles