LIFE WITH BUCHMAN
Brown's Hotel in Dover Street, just off Piccadilly, had been Buchman's first stopping-place in London after World War I. This unpretentious-looking, Swiss-managed hotel, with its faithful clientele 'of country gentry, retired colonial administrators, distinguished service officers, not the aristocracy',1 was, during the 1920s and most of the 1930s, Buchman's only permanent address for mail and co-ordination. On every visit to London he returned, and in the late twenties began to keep a permanent foothold there, a bedroom which others used when he was away.
Few people knew of Buchman's long-term link with Brown's. In 1932 Sir Henry Lunn, who ran the Lunn travel agency, questioned him about it and about his finances generally. 'I want you and your great work to be encased in triple brass against the darts of hostile criticism,' he wrote. He had heard it said that the Group people always travelled first-class, and why did Buchman make his headquarters at a West End hotel like Brown's?2
'Just in from two overnight journeys on the Continent,' replied Buchman, 'one happens to have been in a second-class carriage, the other the typical crossing in a boat on the North Sea, which was none too quiet.
'I enclose at once the statement of the American accounts. As far as my own personal finances are concerned, I have no investments; my mother had left me what she hoped to be a small annuity of several pounds a week when I was 65; this has all been wiped out in a single week by the closing of a bank.* I have no personal funds.
(* The bank failed because of a dishonest cashier. Buchman was warned of the impending collapse and could have withdrawn his money, but said he would suffer with his fellow townsmen. On a later visit to Pennsylvania he called on the cashier in prison and on his wife. The $50 a month from his brother's insurance policy went after his mother's death in 1926 to his old cook, Mary Hemphill, until her death in 1937.)
'As for Brown's Hotel, let us get at the facts. I pay ten shillings and sixpence a day when I am in residence, for which three rooms are placed at my disposal. In addition I receive stationery. I have the service, seven days a week, of letters being forwarded, etc. This saves paying a secretary when I am out of town. . . The meals I take in the hotel are given at a reduction.
'If there is anyone who could give me a constructive answer to the problem of my being housed somewhere at less expense, and as efficiently, I should be very glad to have their suggestions.
'As to travelling, I do not know when any of the Group has travelled first-class. A telephone call to Cook's in Berkeley Street will tell you that they always travel tourist class.'3
Buchman's quarters in those days were described by a visitor as 'a tiny room almost completely filled by the bed, round which were large piles of a newspaper which he was sending out to friends around the world. The only light came from a small well going up past every floor to the outside air far above. On the other side of the bed was another door opening into a minute bathroom which had no right angle between any of its walls.'
The occasion was a typical one. The visitor was Francis Goulding, then an Oxford undergraduate, and the time about three in the afternoon. Buchman was lying on the bed. Goulding continues:
'Frank raised his head and said, "Well, what do you want?"
' "Oh, nothing really," I said. "I just wanted your advice on something. But I'm disturbing you."
' "No, no, no. Not at all. I was up till 4.30 this morning sending out these papers and I thought I'd have forty winks. I'll get up now. You go and ask Salvo to bring up tea for one and two cups. He knows."
'Salvo was happy to comply. Frank insisted I eat the cakes and we talked about my future.'*
(* Salvo, an old Italian waiter, used to say, 'I should like to see the Ten Commandments plastered up in every street in London. They keep people cleaner than Pears soap!' Buchman was one of three, other than his family, present at his funeral.)
In 1933 a new arrangement was made by which Buchman had the use of seven rooms, including a very large sitting room, for only forty-four shillings a day. His sleeping quarters do not seem to have improved much. Mrs Harold Taylor, wife of the headmaster of Cheam, remarks of this period, 'People used to say to us, "He must be a very rich man if he can live indefinitely at Brown's." Well, I saw his bedroom once. It was a coathanger, a bed and a bag.'4
The large sitting room included in the new bargain was hardly more adequate than Buchman's sleeping quarters. 'I remember being in that room when it was so crowded that if, by mischance, you lifted your foot off the ground, you had to be a stork for the rest of the time because your neighbour's foot had occupied your place,' recalled Nora Cochran-Patrick.5
'Brown's really was a hive of activity at that time,' wrote John Vinall, who joined Brown's in his teens and became head porter. 'He was always surrounded by people. Dr Buchman would see about thirty or forty people in a day; he would never get flurried ... I believe that more than half the visitors to Brown's were Dr Buchman's friends... Whenever there was a birthday party in Room 1, the staff would always go too.... At Christmas he went . . . through the kitchens and the steward's room - down mysterious passages he went, and ... gave an envelope to each one of the staff. There were one hundred and fifty staff, and one hundred and fifty envelopes.... It was really a personal gift from a friend.... Dr Buchman was the making of me - you have got to model yourself on somebody, and for me that was Dr Buchman.'6 He was a very homely sort of man, seemed to fit in with everybody, rich or poor, talk to anybody, and talk with you and help you,' Vinall said in old age. 'I'm trying to do what Dr Buchman was doing. Not that what I'm doing it so good, but still, I'm trying in that way.'
From the first Brown's fitted Buchman perfectly. It was small enough to become a home, central enough that anyone could drop in and distinctive enough that anyone could be invited. It was here that he met people like Kipling and Siegfried Sassoon. King George II of Greece came to live at the hotel while in exile because Buchman was there, and often came to his room to talk. Workers from East London and miners from Wales and Scotland came too. 'He just treated everyone the same,' said Vinall.
Alan Thornhill remembers calling in one day, like Goulding, to talk about his future. He had lost his job at Hertford College and the Principal of the Oxford theological college, Wycliffe Hall, had asked him to join the staff. 'I was floundering a bit at the time and was not living as a Christian should. I had been hurt by the abrasive tongue of Principal Crutwell at Hertford College and I wanted Frank's approval for my plan. Frank asked me to tea. On the way, feeling unsettled and unhappy, I slipped into a show at the Windmill Theatre that wasn't too good for me.
'Frank was alone in the sitting room. He greeted me and I started to tell my plan, but he interrupted me in the first sentence, "Alan, could you straighten that picture on the wall. I don't like being in a room with something crooked." I started to do it. Frank bawled at me, "No, no. This way, not that way. . . no, no, no, that way, not this way!" I was swivelling it this way and that. Finally, he said, "That's fine." It was only afterwards that I realised what he was talking about, me and not the picture.
'I was very self-important. It was a great spiritual opportunity and so on. Frank listened. "How much will they pay you?" He registered it was less than what I had got at Hertford -"Uh-uh". Then he said, "My conviction is, nothing less than another St Francis." Such a shattering and, in a way, absurd remark. He repeated it two or three times.
'We had a quiet time. The sentence from him which I remember was, "Alan needs persecution." Which annoyed me. I'd been thrown out of Hertford. I saw Wycliffe would be a softish job. He absolutely refused to discuss the job - that was for me to decide. He just gave me perspective. I accepted the job.'
Buchman's relationships took no account of age or gender. Where he found solid ground, he built on it. The young Canadian, Eleanor Forde, was a trusted colleague from their first meeting. 'You have a remarkable concept of the Gospel message,' he wrote her in 1925,' and it is a privilege in these days of loose thinking to find one who has so thoroughly gripped the truths of Christ.'7 From then on he confided in her his plans, his hopes, his thoughts and dilemmas about people, in much the same way as he did with his older male colleagues. 'I certainly want you to hold me to God's best,' he wrote to her, 'and I haven't forgotten that you want a full hour to tell me where I have fallen short.'8 Buchman counted on her intuition and wisdom with individuals, as well as on her public leadership in his work. She describes how he sent her off one day in 1928 during her first visit to England. 'He got hold of me in Brown's one day and said, "I think you'd better go out into the country today and have lunch with Queen Sophie."
' Frank, I can't go and see a Queen like that. What would I say? How would I behave?" I replied.
'He said, "Don't bother about behaving. Just tell her how you have changed, how you gave your life to God and what a difference it has made." I found he had made all the arrangements and off I went and did it. A year later, the Queen thanked me.'
Not all Buchman's team were so easily overawed. Cece Broadhurst, a cowboy singer straight from the Canadian prairies, used to call everyone 'George'. Bouncing into Brown's one morning, he greeted an unknown gentleman emerging from Buchman's quarters, 'Hiya, George!' The foreign gentleman bowed politely. 'I had no idea you knew His Majesty so well,' commented one of Cece's companions.9 Buchman himself treated royalty much like anyone else, even if he was more old-world in his greetings.
'Did you meet those princesses?' he asked Roger Hicks, an Oxford graduate who had joined him after teaching in India, when he came into Brown's at about this time.
‘How were they?’
‘I thought they would be,’ said Buchman. ‘I told them the truth. If I can’t have fellowship with them on that basis, I don’t want it at all. Now let’s go on.’10
Besides interviews of every kind, the rooms in Brown’s were used to send off a mass of literature. 'We would make the midnight post in the box in the hall,' says Vinall. 'We were always catching that post! There was a tremendous lot of work to be done with the mail, and with the literature as well, sending it out all over the place.'11
All the secretarial work was done there, too. Stella Corderoy 12 describes some of the hazards involved. Once, when Buchman's usual secretary was away, she went to take dictation from him for the first time: 'He was marching about the room, talking to half a dozen people. He suddenly said, "My, you have started with a team." I waited. "My, you have started with a team," he repeated - and someone whispered, "That's the letter." It was to a Dutch couple who had just had twins. I started in, but I had to guess when he was talking to someone else and when he was dictating.
'On one occasion when he was off to America,' she continues, 'Grace Hay had taken dictation till the last moment in London and on the boat train, I was to take it on the boat, and Enid Mansfield was to type all the way to Cherbourg and send the letters back from there to be posted. We had thirty minutes on the boat, saying goodbye to innumerable people, walking up and down the deck, going up and down in the lift and in his cabin. I think I took seventeen letters in the time, nearly half of them to children - wonderful letters. Then everyone had to go ashore, so I stood at the top of the gangway with Frank waiting for the sailors to lift it. There we got some more down.'
'One of the endearing things about him', Stella Corderoy adds, 'was the way he saw that everyone possible was in on the big events. He took all of us who worked with him at Brown's to the Command Performance in honour of the French President at Covent Garden. Somehow, he got most of us in to the musical evening at the Austrian Embassy when the Trapp Family Singers first sang outside Austria. And this did not stop as the team grew larger. He found several hundred tickets for his friends and guests to see the Coronation procession in 1937, and we all went each year to the Albert Hall carols. Frank looked after you and saw you had a good time.'
At the same time he did not find so constantly public a life easy. When once for a short period he rented a small house, he said, 'I feel like a child with a new toy.' And during house-parties held in large hotels, he would at times choose to eat at a small table by himself.
Arthur Strong, a young and successful professional photographer, spent a weekend with him and his secretary, Michael Barrett, in the English Lake District in the late 1930s, partly with the aim of finding and photographing the chapel in Keswick where Buchman had had his decisive experience in 1908. Buchman was now aged 60. 'Frank's gaiety is immense and he chips Mike like a schoolboy,' Strong recorded in his diary. 'We had constant laughter.... In the car going there FB sang and whistled, he was so happy not to have any plans and engagements for two whole days. He sang old hymns and it was then that I realised his age. To Keswick.. . . Then the chapel. There were several possibilities . . . Frank warned us it was an ordinary place with nothing particular to distinguish it. Found the Tithebarn Methodist (Primitive) Church; opposite it is a bus depot.
'He sat where he had done thirty years before; then read the News Chronicle - he'd already read six other papers that day. .. Back at the hotel we changed for tennis and I played Frank. His energy is amazing; he serves well and has a good eye. He ran too.'
Strong was impressed by the vigour with which Buchman played, but as he had previously taken part in Junior Wimbledon, 'gave Frank pat-ball' at the beginning to try to make the game more even. Buchman strode to the net: 'You're not going full-out, Arthur! That's not fellowship!'
Strong had first worked with Buchman the previous year, taking time off from his flourishing business to help with a picture magazine Buchman was planning. At the Oxford house-party that year he had felt the need to make some spiritual sacrifice, and said in a meeting that he thought he should sell his cameras. After the meeting Buchman sent for him.
'I hear you feel you should sell your cameras,' he said. 'How much are they worth?'
'About £150,' replied Strong.
'Hand me my coat,' said Buchman, who then took out his wallet and handed over £150, almost all the money he had. Then he said, 'Now, Arthur, you can look after my cameras until I need them.' So Strong took the cameras and money, and used both for a photographing trip he had long wanted to make. A year later, he gave up his business and came to work full-time with Buchman.
At Whitsun 1935 Buchman's secretary, Joyce Machin, died suddenly of a tumour of the brain. Michael Barrett and another young Scot, Lawson Wood, volunteered to take on her duties. Barrett was the son of an Edinburgh printer and had been in the Oxford ju-jitsu team. Wood had read law at Aberdeen. Both were around 25, and each had an ample supply of Scots determination and pride. They learnt typing and speed-writing and set to work.
Barrett, who married one of Lloyd George's grand-daughters, remarked recently that he much preferred A.J. Sylvester's to the other lives of Lloyd George 'because it showed how impossible it was to be his secretary'. 'Like Buchman,' he added with a smile.
For one thing, he explained, Buchman often seemed astonished if letters he dictated were not perfectly typed and ready for the post the moment they had left his mouth, besides expecting you to know to whom he was writing without being told. Once they were in Egypt together and, while they showed their travelling companions the citadel above Cairo, Buchman remarked, 'We must write So-and-so.' Directly they got into the taxi to return to Cairo, Buchman began dictating, and continued, without let-up, through a series of tunnels in complete darkness. 'I got most of it, and remembered or made up the rest,' said Barrett.
'Moving from one country to another, which was frequent, was always an all-night job,' Barrett recalls. 'Sometimes I would stop at two or three, while Lawson, who was tougher, went on another hour. Then we'd be up at five-thirty, to greet Buchman as he woke. He would survey matters, note a scarf we had missed, and remark, "It's wonderful how everything gets done. "Then he'd wink. Of course, he was furious if either of us fell ill through over-work or pride.'
Lawson Wood loved driving long distances. In August 1937 he drove well over 600 miles - from London via Oxford and Glasgow to Acharacle on the West Coast of Scotland - to deliver a guest to Buchman, who was staying there. He arrived in time for breakfast and insisted he would drive on another 175 miles, without a break, to join his family in Aberdeen. Everyone tried to stop him; for he was obviously too tired to drive, though too stubborn to stop. Finally Buchman led him to the room which had been set aside for him and pointed to a card on the door with his name on it. 'You can't waste all that ink,' he said. Wood began to laugh, and stayed.
A year later, however, Wood relates, 'I was desperately ill at Partenkirchen in 1938, because I had driven on wilfully across Europe through ice and snow, leaning out through an open window because the windscreen was frozen over. So I deprived Frank of help he urgently needed. It was Christmas time and as I lay, unable to lift my head from the pillow, an exquisite Christmas tree was brought to my room, decked with white candles, each studded with little red hearts. Then the door opened a few inches and Frank's long nose and twinkling eye-glasses came round the edge. "Do you see all those candles? That is just to show how much we love you," he said.
'Later, when I was recovering but still in bed, Frank came to see me with Frankie Bygott. I received a royal wigging for my sins and particularly this one. Then Frank turned to Bygott and said, "Do you ever talk to him like that? If not, you ought to." '
On another occasion Wood experienced Buchman's tenacious attention when, leaving Germany during the Nazi years, he forgot to pack Buchman's precious address book, and left it in the hotel at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 'I asked a friend to post it on to New York,' Wood remembers. 'Then I told Frank. He was furious. He knew that there was at least one Nazi agent on the staff. "Don't you realise, they'll photograph all our addresses and know who we are in touch with?" he roared. For three months he rubbed my mistake in to make sure I had learnt from it.'
Barrett has never forgotten a journey around the Middle East with Buchman and a party of fifteen, who included an East London leader of the unemployed and two sisters of over eighty, Lady Antrim and Lady Minto, the latter a former Vicereine of India. Barrett was detailed to get the ladies to cut down the quantity of their bags as some of the journey was to be by air - something neither had previously experienced. He managed to reduce the number from twenty-seven to eighteen. Then he impressed on Lady Minto the need to be ready to be picked up in time to catch the boat train. 'Catch?' was the reply. 'I am accustomed to trains waiting for me!'
The journey continued through Europe and the Balkans to Cairo, while it became ever clearer to Barrett that, apart from Buchman who was otherwise engaged, he seemed the one practical person in the party. The handling of luggage, tickets and hotels, as well as Buchman's typing, all fell on him. Finally, in Cairo, Buchman found him in tears, an unprecedented event for a Scot like Barrett. Buchman did not apologise, though he was sympathetic and tried to mobilise help for him. 'But he had expected me to enlist it myself,' says Barrett.
When asked why he went on when the demands were often so unreasonable, Barrett replied, 'Buchman had such infinite expectations of you. It is a kind of compliment when someone inspires you to do more than you can possibly do. You felt his will was really given to God and he expected yours to be, so you did what was necessary without a murmur. Besides, you knew he was doing as much or more himself.’ 'Of course,' Barrett added, 'there were occasions when I should have said, "Look, Frank, this is ridiculous!" '
A principal reason why people like Barrett stayed with Buchman year after year was because they believed he was, in a very real sense, in touch with God. 'When you went in to see him in the early morning, the room sometimes seemed electric with the amount of thought he had been putting in,' Barrett says. Some trained observers, coming to him fresh, noticed this quality, and concluded that he was a mystic. Harold Begbie, one of the shrewdest political journalists of his day, commented, 'Fuller acquaintance with F.B. brings to one's mind the knowledge that, in spite of his boyish cheerfulness, he is of the house and lineage of all true mystics from Plotinus to Tolstoy.'13 Van Dusen, in his critical essay written some years after leaving Buchman's work, remarked on his 'vivid mysticism'.14 'It is impossible to understand Frank at all unless he is thought of as always in God's presence, listening for direction and accepting power,' wrote A. J. Russell.15
Herbert Grevenius, the Swedish literary critic, came to the same conclusion. Grevenius had written of Buchman, before meeting him, as a 'pocket Caesar issuing his dictates from afar with self-assured power and perfection'. After watching him for some days at an assembly in Sweden, he wrote, 'Well, I never knew Caesar, but I don't think he was in the least like Frank Buchman. It is not his lightning smile that forms his secret. His epigrammatical sayings, his briskness, his ability to hold a meeting in his hand and yet disappear into the background - none of these really tells you anything about the real Buchman. Look closely at a photograph of him, and you will see something in his expression, a sort of listening apart, and for once the camera does not lie. Sit a few days and study his face. You will be amazed how often he appears to be questing, at a loss, not to say helpless. And he does not try to conceal it. His enormously active life is built on one thing only - guidance for which he is on the watch every moment. He is a sail always held to be filled by the wind.'16
Buchman never spoke of himself as a mystic, although it seemed obvious to those who saw much of him that he often - even unconsciously - gained pre-knowledge of events and unusual insight into people's characters in his times of listening. He never used big words about himself or his experiences, mainly perhaps because he was so convinced that anyone who was willing to put it to the test could find the same relationship with God as he had. He expressed his relationship with God in terms which anyone could understand, by reducing it to a matter of Speaker and listener. He tried, again and again, to present it in metaphors which were in tune with the age as it developed. Thus, early on, he referred to Edison inventing the light bulb and bringing illumination into every home. Later he used the metaphors of the telephone, of wireless or of the 'electronics of the Spirit'. Yet his claim, for every willing listener, was constant - that 'adequate, accurate information can come from the mind of God to the mind of man. That is normal prayer.' 'Waiting and watching for the Living God to break through the shadows of the night,' he said, 'I came to know the Holy Spirit as the light, guide, teacher and power. What I am able to do, I do through the power that comes in the early hours of morning quiet.'
It was easy for the intellectual to think him over-simple; but behind his words was a hidden depth of experience which the Oxford theologian, B.H. Streeter, for instance, recognised. Streeter once remarked, 'You have got to make Christianity so simple that even an intellectual can understand it.' In a copy of his rewritten Warburton Lectures, The God Who Speaks,17 he wrote: 'To Frank Buchman - apart from you, much herein would be written otherwise.'
Buchman attributed his insight into people to this listening relationship with God. 'I once prayed to be super-sensitive to people, and I often wish I had not. It can be so painful,' he once remarked. Fortunately, he prayed at the same time for an enhanced sense of humour. If his insight became biased by his own personality at this period, it was most often on the side of generosity and vision. 'He understood there are cart-horses and race-horses, and that you must not treat cart-horses like race-horses or vice versa,' says Thornhill. 'He had immense appreciation - realistic diagnosis, but also great vision for people, a great belief in what under God they could do.'
Buchman, in becoming sensitive to others, had not escaped being sensitive about himself. He was far more easily hurt than people realised. He once engaged a housekeeper to help with the domestic side of his life, but she found the comings and goings impossible to understand or to cope with, and left without talking with Buchman personally. He was deeply hurt by this apparent slight. 'Spiritual brush-offs he expected,' said a friend, 'but this was different.'
Once in Newcastle, when we were there together, there was a column report of his work in the newspaper. It was broadly favourable, but contained a critical description of him. 'What do you think of it?' he asked me.
'Pretty good,' I answered.
'Even with what they said about me?' he replied.
On another occasion in the 1930s he asked me what I thought of a speech he had delivered. 'Not one of your best,' I replied. He said nothing at the time. Twenty years later, when some of us were with him, a friend came in and said how delighted a South American labour leader had been when he read that particular speech earlier in the day. 'And Garth said it was no use,' said Buchman.
He undoubtedly found it difficult to take criticism. But it was by no means always rejected. Particularly during the early and mid 1930s, when I saw most of him, he gave me considerable latitude. In Copenhagen he humbly accepted my juvenile views on how he could have done better with a newspaper proprietor - someone, I later discovered, he had known for years. He waited several years before he told me I was 'cocky'. Then he moved in massively and kept up the treatment for some time. His reaction to people was generally conditioned not by their words or even their actions, but by what he felt they needed at the time - or what he sensed they could take, a sound Pauline principle. If he felt they were trying to be led by the Holy Spirit, he would listen with attention; but if he sensed they were determined to make an impression or were motivated by pride, jealousy, ambition or fear, he would say so in the frankest way.
Buchman occasionally had black, despairing days. Lawson Wood has said that on one occasion when a promising situation fell apart because of unjust criticism, he turned his face to the wall and groaned, 'Will these people never understand me?' I was part cause of one of these despairing periods in late December 1937. I had gone to the United States to help to produce an American edition of a one-shot magazine called Rising Tide, which originated in Britain and was now being brought out in several countries.* Buchman had worked long and lovingly on every line of text, every picture and every lay-out. On arrival I found my American friends had not only inserted certain local pages, as it was agreed they should do, but were making a number of other changes which they felt would make the magazine go better in America. In particular, the original cover - a dramatic picture of young men marching with banners - was eliminated and in its place a picture of a packed mass of smiling young people had been substituted. I acquiesced in this decision, and was proud that the paper created a mild sensation in the New York publishing world - the magazine Life reproduced six pages from it and privately offered jobs to some of those working on it - and that a large part of its three-quarter-million printing was sold on the bookstalls.
(* It was printed in nine languages and 1,630,000 copies in Europe and America during I937-8.)
Buchman hated the changes. He felt that the new cover made the magazine look like a youth publication instead of a paper intending to challenge both Hitler and the leaders of the democracies at the same time. Just before Christmas my American colleagues and I received cables from him. Mine read: 'Keen disappointment failure judgement lack control guiding policy Rising Tide, making perfect instrument garish, wasting priceless opportunity secondary substitute. Once bitten twice shy. Guidance was "overreaching". Today's evidence floored me. Glad not present in America. Would be difficult. No excuse. You had perfect instrument. Frank.'18
Buchman, I heard later, shut himself up in his room for some days, would not eat and took no interest in the coming Christmas, for which he normally prepared with the greatest care and generosity. Finally, Barrett decided that he must try to lift the gloom. He went to Buchman's room, knelt down and prayed, 'Dear Father, please give Frank a glorious Christmas.' This broke the spell.
'Why am I letting that paper spoil everything?' Buchman said. He got up and hurried out to get a Christmas tree and presents for those with him.
The cable did me no harm, though I see I wrote Buchman that it had 'stunned' me on its arrival. Buchman wrote shortly afterwards, 'Forget the past,' and he never mentioned the matter to me again.
It is true that, in matters artistic in which he had been concerned, Buchman was both sensitive and rigid at the same time. He was an artist and felt he knew what was right. He did not encourage adaptations in the style or covers of books in different countries, for example. This may have suppressed local talent from time to time, or even affected sales.
Tournier's diagnosis of this facet of Buchman's character was, 'He never drew people to himself, but he was authoritarian.' Cuthbert Bardsley, a close colleague for some time and one of several who later became bishops, remarked, 'His word went, woe betide you if you crossed swords with him. On the other hand, he kept the Oxford Group together - not an easy thing with such a widely divergent group of people. He had to keep discipline and if you do that you have to exert some pretty heavy authority.' Paul Hodder-Williams' view, on a shorter active acquaintance, was, 'He held together a team of very different people on a very loose rein.'
John Wesley, who was known as 'Pope John' by his foes and not a few of his friends, once said, 'Several gentlemen are much offended at my having so much power. My answer to them is this: I did not seek any part of that power. It came upon me unawares. But when it came, not daring to bury that talent, I used it to the best of my judgement. Yet I was never fond of it. I always did, and do now, bear it as my burden; the burden which God lays upon me; but if you can tell me anyone, or any five men, to whom I may transfer this burden, who can and will do just what I do now, I will heartily thank both them and you.'*
(* Once when the Labour Cabinet Minister, Herbert Morrison, questioned Buchman on his leadership, Buchman made him the same offer.)
He added, 'To me the preachers have engaged themselves to submit to serve as sons of the Gospel .. . Every preacher and every member may leave me when he pleases; but when he chooses to stay, it is on the same terms that he joined me at first.'19
With Buchman the freedom to leave was even more open to all because there was in no case any formal binding to him. If, however, anyone asked to work with him full-time and continued to do so for a considerable period, he did assume that they would work in with the strategy which he felt God had indicated to him and help to fulfil the needs of that strategy. He would suggest, ask or even command people to do this or that or go here or there. If they felt guided by God to do something different, he expected them to say so - and, generally, he would listen and reconsider. As he became older, with numbers growing and health providing other impediments, exceptions to this openness became more frequent. But in the 1930s, and on most occasions throughout his life, the basis of action was the guidance of God as sought by the individual and in groups. 'Guidance,' wrote a Danish advocate, 'meant that this manifold, intelligent fellowship functioned as one force without dictatorship or any compulsion of money or power.'20
Buchman's view of the matter was expressed to Alexander Smith, then Executive Secretary of Princeton University: 'I will accept people at any point at which they are willing to arrive, and not urge them to do anything they are not led to do. If I lived on any other basis, or had any other approach, I should be surrounded by a group of parasites rather than people who are taught to rely upon God and let Him direct them individually.'21
1 Angus Wilson: Rudyard Kipling (Secker and Warburg, 1977), p. 200.
2 Sir Henry Lunn to Buchman, 14 September 1932.
3 Buchman to Sir Henry Lunn, 15 September 1932.
4 From Cross Road, produced at the Westminster Theatre, London, in 1972.
5 Later Miss Hunter of Hunterston.
6 Frank Buchman - Eighty, pp. 153-7.
7 Buchman to Eleanor Forde, 1 July 1925.
8 ibid., undated.
9 Hale, Vol. 1, p. 58.
10 Roger Hicks, unpublished MS.
11 Frank Buchman - Eighty, p. 153.
12 Now Stella Belden.
13 Begbie, p. 16.
14 Van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly, July 1934.
15 Russell, p. 163.
16 Stockholms Tidningen, 19 August 1938.
17 B. H. Streeter: The God Who Speaks, Warburton Lectures 1933-5 (Macmillan, 1936).
18 Buchman to author, 23 December 1937.
19 John Wesley speaking at Conference, 1766, quoted in Garth Lean: Strangely Warmed (Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1980), pp. 119-20.
20 Valdemar Hvidt to author, 1982.
21 Buchman to H. Alexander Smith, 1 April 1927.