INTO THE POST-WAR WORLD
The 1945 Mackinac assembly lasted from 1 July to the end of the first week in November. On arrival Buchman was greeted by a large company of teenagers who had come back from a nationwide tour with two plays which they had written and produced. He wanted Artur Rodzinski, who was there with his wife Halina, to meet them, as he realised that they could probably get through to him when no one else could. Rodzinski was reluctant because, as he told everyone there later, he had, in spite of decisions made at the time when Halina and his son had been 'miraculously saved' in childbirth, 'got confused about all four standards'. Two of the youngsters came to invite him to their play. He told them he was unwell. 'Popski, you're all right. We've got your number,' one of them said.
'They were right,' Rodzinski told the assembly next morning. 'They had my number. I was ashamed not to go. The readiness of those youngers to lead a God-guided life, to do without what older people call the spice of life. I had had it, so I admired them. This morning I had clear guidance. My disobedience. God talks to me all the time, but I don't obey. We had a quiet time after breakfast, Frank walked in just as we were finishing. He smiled, and I knew he knew everything which had happened.'1
It was also while the Rodzinskis were at Mackinac that the newly formed Mackinac Singers gave their first performance. Rodzinski's comments encouraged Buchman to make wide use of this chorus, singing its own songs, as part of the growing array of productions and publications being deployed by his team.
Various Allied officers now found that their duties somehow led through Mackinac. One of them was Edward Howell, a Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force. After being seriously wounded in Crete, he was imprisoned at Salonika, and, although gravely ill and without the use of either arm, had escaped over the walls and covered the length of Greece on foot. This escape plan had started in hospital when he recalled his brother David's belief that people could be guided by God and experimented with listening. On his return to London, Churchill had had him to dinner to hear about it and he told Churchill how he was guided from point to point, at one stage following a star. 'That was how I escaped from the Boers,' commented the Prime Minister. Howell told his story at Mackinac, where he was meeting Buchman for the first time.*
(* Howell tells his story in Escape to Live (Longmans, 1947, Grosvenor, 1981.)
During a birthday dinner for Bernard Hallward, the Canadian who had repaid $12,000 to the Customs in 1932, the end of hostilities in the Pacific was reported on the radio. Buchman, his voice shaking, announced simply, 'The war is ended.' Then everyone at table said the Lord's Prayer together. In the evening they met in the barn. 'There is only one war left now - the war of ideas against materialism,' Buchman said. 'Now let us ask God to show us together our part in world reconstruction.' Then he prayed: 'We pray for the entire world, especially for Japan. Hold them in the hollow of Thy hand, and give them Thy peace and freedom. May future years be undimmed in God's Holy Spirit in Germany. Give her the answer of sound homes, teamwork in industry and a united nation. For the Allies we pray that they may be kept by Thy Holy Spirit pure and unsullied in victory. May the Lord bless and keep them all, and all of you, and give His peace, now and for ever.'
More and more friends and colleagues from Europe began to arrive. Swiss and French were the first, followed by Dutch, Danes and Norwegians. They brought news of heroism under Nazi occupation and in the Resistance. Buchman was keen as well to see some of his British friends, but travel from there was still strictly controlled by the Government. On 21 July word came of a Foreign Office cable to the Washington Embassy that a Member of Parliament, Sir George Courthope, had requested that a group might join Buchman in the States: 'In view of President Truman's well-known interest in this work, does the Ambassador see any reason why they should not come?' A cable had gone back from Lord Halifax, now Ambassador in Washington, that there was no objection at the American end, and permission had been given. Foreign Office minutes now available show that this was the conclusion of a rather devious delaying action in some sections of the Foreign Office. Halifax had, in tact, strongly supported a similar request made by Lord Salisbury to Anthony Eden the previous year. Eden had written across Salisbury's letter in red ink, 'Surely these are deplorable people? and it is staggering that Lord S should wish them well.' A minute of 3 August 1944 recording Eden's view added that since travel restrictions had been mitigated, 'the delegates would probably obtain exit permits if they applied for them' but 'there is no need to inform Lord Salisbury of that'. Permission had been refused.2 This time the weight of favourable American opinion evidently determined the Foreign Office to grant permits for a delegation of five.3
They arrived at Mackinac on 13 September. They were Roland Wilson who, at the age of 32, had been left as Secretary of the Oxford Group in Britain when Buchman went to America six years earlier; Buchman's old friend Arthur Baker, chief of The Times parliamentary staff; Peter Howard, whom he had never met; George Light; and Andrew Strang, a whole-time worker with MRA who had been caught by German armies in Scandinavia and spent the war in detention camp. Buchman was ready an hour ahead to go and meet them. On the dock, sitting in his ramshackle carriage with Brooks, a friend's black chauffeur, beside him, he waited patiently, a curiously unpretentious figure. When finally the British arrived, Buchman introduced each to the head of the local ferry service before greeting them himself with tears in his eyes. The next day turned into a combined meeting and large family party.
Another visitor from Europe was a Dutch Catholic priest, sent by his Archbishop to 'observe' Buchman's work. On his way he had allowed himself to be trapped by a reporter into making some rather sweeping statements about Moral Re-Armament, and some of those at Mackinac regarded him with veiled suspicion. After he had been there about a week Buchman called in a few of his friends and said that he felt Father Frits should lead the morning meeting. They all raised objections. Would he want to speak? What would he say? Who would he get to speak with him? But Buchman held to his thought, and in the end a number of his colleagues met with Father Frits and suggested he might speak.
'Yes,' said the Father, 'I have things I would like to say.'
'We thought you might lead the meeting,' they added.
'Well, I don't know about that, but we can ask God.'
So, after a song from the Mackinac Singers, Father Frits began: 'I thought I would say things just out of my heart, very simple things. My heart tells me to, and my reason tells me not to. As I am trained to let reason prevail, it is difficult for me.
'When the bishop speaks we obey. I assure you it was not in a very nice spirit that I agreed to come. On first coming I tried to be an honest Catholic onlooker. You simply can't look on here. Soon I felt utterly humble and ashamed. For my impression is that this is a great school of love. You cannot resist it. The first thing I did when I went to confession on Sunday was to make a resolution to imitate the quality of life I had seen.
'I am convinced people like you can play an immense part in the unification of all Christians. Charity always unites. Never have I seen it more clearly than in this place. I had expected, maybe, not to hear Christ's name mentioned as it should be. But it was not true. I found here the real living of the mystery of Christ.'4*
(* Father Frits, Frederic van der Meer, later dedicated his book Augustine the Bishop (Sheed and Ward, 1961) to Bernard Hallward.)
The Swiss who had come over made what was perhaps to prove the most far-reaching decision of all. Their time at Mackinac crystallised in their minds the idea that Europe needed a similar centre where some of the wounds of the continent might be healed. And where better than in Switzerland? This idea had originated, the previous year, with Philippe Mottu, who was working in the Swiss Foreign Office. It worked powerfully in two young engineers, Robert Hahnloser and Erich Peyer, who accompanied Mottu on this, his second visit. The three of them went back to Switzerland to start turning dream into reality.
From Mackinac Buchman and two hundred others, including many from Europe, returned through Minnesota to Seattle. En route Buchman took his friends to see the home and grave of his uncle, Aaron Greenwalt, who died in the Civil War. Then he obtained special permission to take them through Yellowstone Park in winter, where they saw elk, deer, buffalo and mountain sheep. Buchman was, as ever, an eager sightseer, and spotted the sheep before the forest ranger with whom he was driving.
In Seattle it was probably a sign of his returning strength that Buchman was seized with impatience at what seemed to him inadequate and unimaginative planning. True, Dave Beck of the Teamsters was putting Buchman and others of the party up at the Olympic Hotel,* but there were no plans to see Beck or to 'personalise' the city. 'It was one of those days when everything went wrong or felt as if it did,' reads his secretary's diary. 'One by one we were mowed down by his wrath...Frank moved quietly like an avenging thunder cloud among the faithful.' Next day, 'A few rifts appeared in the clouds of yesterday, but they swiftly passed and Frank was greatly dissatisfied. We all walked, like Agag, delicately...The fight to meet the Governor, Mayor and Dave Beck began to be carried to a successful issue. The Mayor agreed to see twenty of the team tomorrow, but Frank forcibly pointed out that there were 200 and he should see all of them.'5
(* Beck had asked the hotel manager for ten double rooms. 'Very difficult, Mr Beck,' the manager replied. 'I wouldn't ask you personally unless it was very difficult; if it was easy I'd get someone else to do it,' said Beck. He got them.)
Buchman was now using six plays, ringing the changes at will. They had been raised to a high standard of performance through the participation of professionals, now turned whole-time workers, like Phyllis Konstam, Marion Clayton and her husband Bob Anderson, Cece Broadhurst, Howard Reynolds and others. They were accompanied by the Mackinac Singers under the leadership of the Edinburgh musician, George Fraser. Peter Howard often introduced the plays, and sometimes there were speakers afterwards. In one city, under Buchman's personal drilling, twenty-seven spoke in twenty-two minutes.
So a versatile and trained force moved through Detroit, St Paul, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Salem, San Francisco and down to Los Angeles for Christmas. Meanwhile, word had come that General George Marshall had decided to release all MRA full-time men from the armed forces immediately so that they could resume their life's work. On 26 December, the first six arrived together at Los Angeles airport. Buchman, in tears, greeted them in silence. Then he turned towards the cars saying, 'Well, you're home. And now let's get into the fight.'
According to Reginald Hale, Buchman told them sadly that he could never return to Europe. 'He was nearing seventy, his health was frail and his right hand paralysed. But it was not that which made him hesitate,' he writes. 'All too clearly he saw the immense task of reawakening faith in a hate-fragmented Europe ... Then the Servicemen had come home bringing stories of bridgeheads which MRA-trained soldiers had built in country after liberated country. Within a week he was planning to move to Europe.'6
Another element which influenced him was the publication of the salient points of the Gestapo report of 1942, Die Oxford-Gruppenbewegung,in the British press. A letter in The Times in December from a distinguished all-party group,* gave details of the report and commented, 'The whole report throws an interesting light on the Nazi mind, as well as finally dispelling the widespread misrepresentations which have been circulated about this Christian movement.' The letter concluded, 'It is vital that we should understand the spiritual foundations of democracy as clearly as did our enemies, and that we should sustain with all our strength what they feared and hoped to destroy.'7 DeWitt Mackenzie, the leading foreign affairs columnist of the Associated Press, had been in London that December, had obtained a sight of the original report and wrote a column in a similar vein which was carried widely in North America.8
(* Lord Ammon, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons; Harold E. Clay, Chairman of the London Labour Party; Lord Courthope, President of the National Union of Conservative Associations; the Bishop of Lichfield; Sir Lynden Macassey, Chairman of Reuters; Sir Cyril Norwood, President of St John's College, Oxford: Sir David Ross, Provost Oriel College, Oxford.)
To many reasonable people this disposed of a misrepresentation which had followed Buchman and his people on both sides of the Atlantic. But the lie did not die easily. It became known that copies of the Gestapo document had been in the hands of British Intelligence for at least a year before The Times letter appeared. An intelligence report, dated 7 January 1945, came to light in which the writer had stated that it would be better if the Gestapo report did not fall into the hands of Moral Re-Armament, as it would destroy the allegations made against them. However, a copy of the report was found in the offices of the Haut-Rhin hydro-electric works, which had been used by Gestapo officers between 1940 and 1944, and was sent by an engineer in the company, Pierre Koechlin, to Paris and finally to MRA's London headquarters. Hence the letter in The Times.
As late as February 1947 Time was questioning the authenticity of the document. At this point I took the copy which had reached London through Alsace to Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Browning, then the Military Secretary at the War Office, and asked him to check its reliability. He promised to pass it on to General Templar, then head of Military Intelligence, and a few days later I received Browning's official reply.
'The enclosed document is authentic,' he wrote. 'It only goes up, in its historical survey, till 1939. It was published by the German Secret Service Agency who were responsible for SS publications. You can rest assured there is nothing phoney about this document.'9
During March Buchman and his team spent time together preparing to return to Europe. One day, on a friend's country ranch near Los Angeles, amid the orange groves with the distant snows of Mount Baldy as backdrop, they talked together of the needs and challenge of that devastated continent which many of them called home. The seven years together in America had altered them. All, Americans and Europeans alike, were more mature. They had been through times of personal testing and had seen many tough situations tackled. Now they were determined, God helping them, to do what they could to prevent the post-war world from being drawn into the cycle of chaos and revenge which had followed the First World War. Buchman put to them his highest hopes. 'You have crossed the divide. You are going back to change the policy of governments with the statesmen. You will upturn the philosophy of government with a practical message simply applied.' They must think in terms of the nation: that was the statesman's responsibility and the Churches were not yet sounding that note.
He could not see far into the future, he said, but of one thing he was sure: 'Labour led by God must lead the world, otherwise Marx's materialism will take over.' Then he added, 'But Marxism may capture the spirit of Christ. Some of you may be working in Moscow one day. We must be ready.'
Buchman decided to sail for Southampton on the Queen Mary in late April 1946. Passages were extremely hard to come by but in March he told John Vickers, who looked after Moral Re-Armament's travel arrangements in America throughout the war, to go to New York and get 100 berths. 'I have only got six places at the moment,' Buchman said, 'and I want to see who I can invite.' Vickers approached the shipping company on arrival in New York with this outrageous request. 'Certainly,' replied the company's representative. 'The ship has been de-requisitioned this morning.'
In the end a party of a hundred and ten sailed on April 24. Their fares were paid by a New York stockbroker, by no means a millionaire, who said he wanted to try and match the sacrifice of those who had contributed so much to America through the war. To them and those who had come to bid them farewell in New York, Buchman said, 'We have learned much. We are in a global effort to win the world to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is your ideology. It is the whole message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That message in its entirety is the only last hope.'
Then he spoke the lines which meant so much to him:
Oh, Thou best Gift of Heaven,
Thou who Thyself hast given,
For Thou hast died:
This hast Thou done for me –
What have I done for Thee,
1 Martin diaries, 13 July 1945.
2 Public Records Office, AN 3313.
3 ibid., AN 2187 (FO 371 44582).
4 Martin diaries, 14 October 1945.
5 ibid., 25 and 26 November 1945.
6 Hale, Vol. III, p. 1.
7 The Times, 29 December 1945.
8 Oregon Journal, Vancouver Daily Province, etc., 10 December 1945.
9 Lt-Gen Sir Frederick Browning to author, 28 February 1947.