For many a good sermon has been determined by the quote of a well know theologian, or probably more importantly a prominent bishop. Archbishop Rowan Williams is very quotable in many respects, he is rather well read and this is reflected in his writings. However this volume, Why Study the Past (2005), is a book that many may over look, but shouldn't. Unfortunately for those who like to quote bishops, and in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury, there are few usable sermon quotations from Why Study the Past, but Williams does open doors to understanding the past and the Scriptures.
This book is definitely about the history of the Church - why we should study the past and effectively who we have become and why. Williams is critical of the assumptions and opinions made by certain historians and how this influenced their writings.
Why Study the Past is readable. It, like so many other books from an academic, is the product of a series of lectures delivered, meaning that it requires some concentration (a quick search at Wikipedia or Christian Classics Ethereal Library may serve helpful). The text ought to be consumed by those who week after week attempt to translate the early Church for this present day. As well, for anyone actively engaged in a Bible study group, in particular those leading such a study, the implications of this book should both challenge and encourage.