WHILE it could be suggested that society is becoming more secular as people move away from organised religion and the number of people filing into the pews on a Sunday dwindle, West Belfast man Jim Deeds has published his fifth book ‘A Look of Love’ which explores the scriptures through the eyes of those who were around at the time of Jesus.
Recounting his journey in faith, Jim recalled the first time he became interested in scripture.
“I grew up in Andytown and had a fairly typical upbringing,” he said. “I was an altar boy and did all they typical things that young fellas did in the 70s.
“I was always connected to the Church in some way and when I went to St Mary’s I got a book of Psalms and the New Testament.
“I remember spending a lot of time reading it and rereading it. I was interested and curious. I wanted to learn more and I would say that I have had an interest and love of scripture from then.”
However, as Jim was to move into adulthood and start a family, that love of scripture was to develop.
“As I got into adulthood, got married and had children it caused me to reflect on the nature and purpose of life,” he continued. “It was only when I had children that I grew up in a sense. I found myself reconnecting with my faith, mass became something that was very important to me and I began to enjoy it.
“I then began to read more and when I was about 30 I dug out the book of Psalms that I was given in school. For Lent that year I read from the Gospels and Psalms each night. That restarted my love affair with scripture.
“I have been a writer on and off for most of my life. When I was younger I would have written plays, short films and dramas. Over the last 10 years or so I have been writing my own books in the field of spirituality.
“I have two or three books that reflect on the nature of life. One of the things that I am deeply influenced by is Ignatius spirituality and the idea of Ignatius of Loyola that you can find God in everything.
“There is a lovely quote from a priest called Father Richard Rohr who said that God is either in everything or in nothing. So a lot of my books are around that and trying to find God in everyday life.”
For twenty years, Jim worked with some of the most marginalised in society as a social worker and this he believes sparked his interest in telling the stories of those on the margins of society at the time of Jesus.
“This book is different from anything that I have written before. It is much more of a story. Rather than these being stories from the Gospels these are stories about the Gospels.
“They are written from the perspective of people who would have been there when Jesus was about. I am more interested in the characters at the side-lines rather than those who were in the middle of the events.
“If I had been there, I wouldn’t have been in the middle of things and I would have been watching on. This book explores what those people might have thought and that is why it is different than anything I have written before.”
Discussing the format of the book, Jim said: “The book relates to 28 different stories from within the Gospels. People who will have read the Gospels will know the stories but this will introduce a few characters who they perhaps haven’t thought about before.
“For example, the book begins with the wedding feast at Cana and rather than have Jesus or Mary as the central star of that story it is told through the eyes of two of the servants who were at the feast.
“I think there is a wisdom that happens at the periphery of things and that is a wisdom that we are often blind to if all we think about is the central characters in the story.
“They had a unique view of things and creatively as a writer, it gave me more scope to explore what the Gospel is about.
“Some of the characters weren’t there and discuss what they heard about Jesus. Often they are sceptical about what they have been told and I used that as a technique to explore my own doubts."
Jim says his purposes isn't to convert.
“This book is not written to try and convince anyone of anything. It is just an initiation to become curious about what Jesus was really at. If it encourages someone to go back to church then that is fantastic but that is not my main aim.”