Tag Archives: Nicholas Mosley

Nelson Mandela and Raymond Raynes

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), a reconciling man in a divisive time, passed into eternity recently. May his soul rest in peace and may light perpetual rest upon him. His passing reminded me of an earlier divisive time and another man of love (perhaps saint?), Raymond Raynes C.R., an Anglican monk who was born a generation before Mr. Mandela, whose work in South Africa has not been forgotten by those for whom he cared. 

Father Raynes (1903-1958), late Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, built missions, schools, and churches in South Africa, first in Johannesburg (Rosettenville) and later in the Southwest Township, Soweto. This Anglican monastic Community had a missionary presence in South Africa since 1902; Father Raynes arrived in 1933, shortly after his profession as a monk. After ten years of devoted work, his asceticism and labor took a toll on his body. He became severely ill and was recalled to England in 1943. Father Trevor Huddleston was assigned to nurse him, and it was Father Huddleston C.R. whom Raymond sent to South Africa to continue his important work. 

Nelson Mandela came of age in the early 1940s about the time that Raymond was recalled. In the course of the next half century, it was Trevor Huddleston who stood alongside Nelson Mandela, working to reverse the curse of apartheid that gripped the nation from 1948 to 1994. Father Huddleston did indeed continue Raymond’s work. He died in 1998 having seen his friend Nelson Mandela released from prison and elected President of South Africa.

I became interested in Father Raynes many years ago, having read his biography by Nicholas Mosley, a remarkable man in his own right, a novelist and Lord of Parliament. Raymond Raynes converted him to Christ, brought him home. When Father Raynes died, Lord Mosley paid him tribute by writing his biography, with the support of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield. 

My husband and I visited Mirfield in 2002. We saw the church and the cluster of buildings set in park-like grounds; we honored the grave of Raymond Raynes in the monks’ cemetery. Some of my impressions found their way into my third novel, my story set in England, Inheritance, about the great Christian inheritance we have been given, about the call not to squander it or take it for granted.

My Mirfield impressions and my introduction to Father Raynes by way of Lord Mosley’s biography has since led to a new edition of the biography, recently released by the American Church Union, an American Anglican publishing group. In this biography the South African story is told with color, poetry, and insight. It was a great privilege to edit this biography and see it once again in print. 

So with the passing of Mr. Mandela, I think with gratitude again about the Anglo-Catholic Father Raynes. Father Raynes loved the African people. In the 1930s the black South Africans lived in shanties and worked long hours for little wage in the mines, but aside from the poverty which was dire in itself, they were denied basic rights: the right to own land, the right of due process and other legal rights, the right to vote. For any reason, for no reason, they could be arrested, sent away, and never seen again. Into this setting came this young, handsome, energetic priest with his long black cassock who walked the neighborhoods sharing the love of God and also sharing his food, shelter, and knowledge. The children loved him and followed him around on his home visits. Father Raynes built a huge (“barn-sized”)  church with a high altar and colorful frescoes. The church was packed with thousands of worshipers weekly. He led his people in processions with incense and candles and chanting, often through the dusty lanes of the community. He gave them a vision of another, a more beautiful world. He showed them God and His love for each of them. He gave them dignity and worth in the love of God their creator. 

Father Raynes also became their political defender. He rescued many from prison who had been falsely arrested. He fought for sewers and lighting and water pipes in the neighborhoods. He campaigned for schools and teachers. He prayed night and day for these people whom he loved so. He fasted.

The children did not forget Father Raynes after he was called back to England. They grew up to become the future leaders and priests and teachers of South Africa. They had been educated in Anglican schools; many had become devout Anglo-Catholics with a mission for the poor. This generation birthed the new nation, brought it into a hopefully more democratic world of freedom and reconciliation.

So, with the passing of Mr. Mandela, I feel great pride in the timely new edition of Nicholas Mosley’s The Life of Raymond Raynes. This biography reminded me what one person can accomplish, with the grace of God flowing through his or  her mind and heart. I have read that Nelson Mandela was also a devout man in his own way, a Methodist, who kept his faith to himself, not wanting to cause division. But in his efforts to forgive those who persecuted him, I see a man who had been touched by Christ. In his long years in prison on Robben Island  and his waiting and his patience through it all, you can see the soul of a martyr willing to sacrifice himself for others.

2013 has been a year of remembrance for South Africa: Father Raynes’ life remembered with gratitude and thanksgiving; Nelson Mandela’s life remembered also with gratitude and thanksgiving. 

To learn more about the biography, The Life of Raymond Raynes, and ordering information, visit the American Church Union at http://www.anglicanpck.org/resources/acu/index.html.  To read an excellent review by Father Ian McCormack of New Directions, the magazine of Forward in Faith (Anglican), click here: Review New Directions


Palm Sunday

This week I completed the first draft of a reprint of  The Life of Raymond Raynes by Nicholas Mosley. I have been immersed in Father Raynes’s love and Father Raynes’s suffering, as he allowed God to work through his life to feed others with God himself, to help others know God.

He lived this life until he died a painful death at the age of fifty-five and entered the gates of his new life, his Jerusalem.

Raymond Raynes was a tall thin man, increasingly gaunt in his last years, a monk who ate little and slept little, but who loved a great deal, loved through his prayers and his time spent caring for others. He changed lives in the countryside of England and in the slums of South Africa, and he changed lives in Denver, Dallas, and San Francisco when he came to speak on his American missions. He wanted to stir up the Church, to wake up the Body of Christ. Why? So that they could see and know God.

Today, Palm Sunday, we re-member Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. He rides a lowly donkey, yet the people greet him as a king. Hosanna, they cry. Hosanna to the Son of David. Jesus will be their new king, they think. They learn differently in the following week. We tell this story, act it out even as we process, holding our palm fronds, around the nave and sing, All glory laud and honor… By telling the story we draw closer so that we may know God better.

It is a dramatic moment when the Lord of All Creation so humbly enters this city of man. Born in a stable to humble parents, Jesus of Nazareth lived among a persecuted people, a poor people. After his time in the desert, after his baptism by John, he gathered his followers and spoke the truth to the crowds. Often the truth was too harsh and they fled, and often the truth today is too harsh, and we flee. But, as our preacher said this morning, those who knew him stayed, and those who know him today, stay too. When he said that we must eat his body and drink his blood, many left. Just so, many leave today. But those who knew him recognized him as the Messiah, the long awaited one, the Lord of All Creation. Those who know him today, those who worship faithfully with sacrament and scripture week after week – those folks understand who he is, the long promised savior.

I have an icon on my wall that shows this scene at the gates of Jerusalem. The colors are vivid – golds and greens and reds. We re-member and re-fashion, re-creating the true glory of this humble scene, this moment in history. Our preacher today spoke of those palm branches. He said that in this arid land only the rich would have palm trees. The palm branch, with its green fronds, meant water was near. So it is particularly poignant and meaningful that children waved their branches of life-giving water and royal privilege, before this humble man riding on a donkey.

In church, as I gazed upon the purple-draped chancel – so much purple! – the giant green palm branches that rose twenty plus feet on either side of the altar filled me with joy, the hope of Easter. They arced gently, nearly reaching the purple cloths over the crucifix. They said, soon, soon, it will be finished. Soon, soon, all will be renewed, reborn. Soon, soon, we shall be resurrected.

How do I know this? Because I have tried to be faithful in Sacrament and Scripture. I have worshiped regularly, have received the Body and Blood into my own body. I have listened to the sermons and the lessons that help me know God. I have listened for God’s voice in prayer. There is no magic involved in any of this. No luck. Maybe some grace and a little blessing and some angels urging me along the way. But through simple faithfulness we can know him. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.

My novel, The Magdalene Mystery, is to be released in mid-May. It is the story of a quest to find the real Mary Magdalene, the woman who was the first to see the resurrected Christ. She came to the tomb out of faithfulness, doing what needed to be done. She didn’t expect to find the stone rolled away or the the man she thought was the gardener speak to her. But when he called her name, Mary, she knew him. Because she was faithful.

Father Raynes was faithful, and he taught us how to be faithful, how to know God. Like Christ Jesus, he tells the truth and not everyone wants to hear it. Some of his demands are difficult, some are inconvenient. But truth is the only way to life. As part of the Body of Christ, the Church, I shall be ever grateful for his stirring up, for his call to be faithful.  For in being faithful, we know God, and in knowing God, we live.

On Truth and Lies

I am nearly finished typing up The Life of Raymond Raynes, copying with minor changes the original work by Nicholas Mosley (thank you, Lord Ravensdale, for your blessings on this project). Those fortunate enough to have read Father Raynes retreat addresses, given in Denver in 1957, The Faith, will have a sense of what dipping into his biography would be like. Much of the three hundred pages comprises direct quotes from letters and speeches, so the text is largely Father Raynes’s words.

I am so honored to type these words. It is as though as I type the words enter my heart and mind in sacramental fashion. So I have spent a lot of time of late with Father Raynes, with him in South Africa, with him when he was Superior of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, England, with him as he chatted about the faith in some of the great homes in rural England. (“House parties,” one retreatant called them, “all gin and confession…. they were wonderful…”)_

Our small publishing group hopes to produce more of these out-of-print books that tell of our Anglican way of Christianity. The more I live and experience Anglo-Catholicism, the more I am fulfilled by its rituals, sacraments, theology, and the more I appreciate our place in history and the telling of the Gospel.

Which brings me to interpretations, and ways of expressing the Incarnation and what it means. It brings me to the Gospel – what is it, what does it mean for me, for my family, for my community, my nation, the world. There are numerous answers to these questions, numerous interpretations.

Just as there are many interpretations of sacred texts. There are, our preacher reminded us today and I had to smile at its appropriateness for me at this time, interpretations of interpretations.

And this all leads to the question of truth. Can we know it, does it exist, are we merely beings of impulses and instincts. Is science so very incompatible with religion. I think not. They support one another.

My fifth novel, I hope and believe, will be released in May. The Magdalene Mystery asks these questions of interpretation, of truth. Can we know Mary Magdalene? Can we know who she really was? This question leads to the next, can we know what happened in that first century of the Early Church? Which of course leads us to Holy Scriptures and the challenge posed by many doubters in the last fifty years, can we know that a man named Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? Indeed, can we even know that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived and walked the earth?

I suppose much of this quest for truth is personal for me, since my father left his Christian faith and his pastorate in the sixties’ upheaval of doubt. He believed what he read, what so-called New Testament scholars were writing. The Jesus Seminar soon “validated” his new creed of unbelief. American culture, drunk with freedom from moral restraints, and celebrating the birth control pill, launched into a party that is still going on (the devastation caused by the sexual revolution is a topic for another day). My parents read themselves out and away from their living faith and into something sterile and self-serving.

So today I type quickly, my fingers tapping the keys. Father Raynes’s telling of the truth will be one more expression that will feed a culture starving for the real thing. Of course each of us must read, evaluate, and judge. That’s what free will is all about. But this biography that seems to be emerging through my fingertips, like The Faith, encourages each of us to decide on our own and not be swayed by media and false testimony. Father Raynes’s words point to true authorities, not bestselling journalists and sensational novelists and fads. His words inspire us to embrace the traditional morality of the Gospel, to see that right and wrong do exist, that selfishness is not an admirable trait. His words encourage us to have backbone, to stand up and be counted in our world today. His words encourage us to meet God and enjoy him forever.

And my little novel, soon to be in print, hopefully will do the same thing in a different way, with a love story set in Rome and Provence, and a mysterious quest with clues in breathtaking basilicas. A predator stalks, and folks spread lies like spiders spinning webs.

So I must get back to my typing and back to the joy of telling, retelling, and telling once again, making all these words come alive on the page.