THE PRIVATE BUCHMAN
The writer Hannah More said of William Wilberforce that he lived in a 'kind of domestic publicity': 'in such retirement', she added with gentle irony, 'that he does not see above three and thirty people at breakfast'.
With Buchman, in the days before his stroke, the figure would often be a couple of hundred; and afterwards, at Caux or Mackinac, the numbers constantly around him were even larger. Moreover, for the last twenty years of his life, all his immediate colleagues would come in and out of his room, without knocking, at any time of the day or night. On a 'holiday', as in Ganda in 1946, his party might start with five or a dozen, but would generally increase before long to at least thirty or forty. For him, as he said, a holiday was 'a change of location not vocation'. It was made easier because he genuinely liked people. Yet at heart he was a very private man. He once said what a wrench it was when finally he had to let others pack his bags for him.
This bias towards privacy was masked by the intertwining of his two roles, as an individual and as a symbol of the work he represented. It was this which bewildered Peter Howard when, during their first meeting in America, it was agreed that he should write a book to be called That Man Frank Buchman. Straight from Daily Express journalism, which had taught him the value of the personal angle, he was amazed to hear Buchman add, 'Of course, there must be nothing about me in the book.' Buchman meant that the book should be about his work and must not go into 'irrelevant' matters like his tastes and habits, his likes and dislikes, his looks and dress - the very stuff of Fleet Street writing. This avoidance of all personal information may not have been well-judged for, where there is a vacuum, rumours soon fill it. It may be one reason why this much discussed man was so little known and so little understood. Once, when I talked with Buchman about this, he said, 'When I am dead, everything must be told.'
The practice of privacy went deeper than his public attitudes. Buchman very seldom spoke of himself in private conversation - and then only to a few. Part of this his doctor, Paul Campbell, believes, went back to a decision Buchman once made 'never to think of himself again'. If taken literally, it is a decision which sounds impossible. It could perhaps be translated as 'never to put himself first again'. But at the least it meant that he spent much more time thinking of others than of himself.
Another reason for this reticence may have been a consideration which faces any leader of a moral and spiritual crusade. Although it was accepted that the final reference-point for the thousands working with him should be God, not Buchman himself, he did not care to unload his own unhappinesses on others, who might as yet be spiritually immature. He said frequently that he was not without sin, and sometimes publicly specified that he was fearful or had done an injustice or lost his temper. But he was often forced to take up King Alfred's attitude: 'If thou hast a woe, tell it not to the weakling; tell it to thy saddle-bow, and ride singing forth.' Buchman had often to bear his burdens alone, as few had the courage or insight to ask him how he was getting along. He said on one occasion, 'I am surrounded by people with great faith, but they lack love.' He was, by nature, an ebullient person and too many believed that the exterior was the whole man.
Oliver Corderoy, Stella Belden's younger brother, who began to work with Buchman soon after the war, remembers walking on the lawn at Caux with Buchman one evening in the late 1940s. 'Are you depressed?' Corderoy asked him, putting his hand on his shoulder. 'Does it show?' replied Buchman. Then for a quarter of an hour Corderoy listened. He said nothing in reply. At midnight the buzzer went in Corderoy's room. Buchman wanted some mint tea. It was full moon, and the mountains across the lake looked like black velvet. 'There are many people more committed to God's plan than you,' Buchman said. 'But not so many who do for me what you did this afternoon. You didn't say a blooming thing. I felt your peace.'
Buchman, in fact, was not only a private, but often a lonely man. The few who did take the risk of breaking through his reserve found a man who was informal, relaxed, often groping his way uncertainly, on occasion as lost as he sometimes looked. At one point Bunny and Phyllis Austin felt that they should return to Australia, leaving Buchman in Europe. 'Oh, no, no,' said Buchman. The Austins, after reflection, still thought that this was what they should do, and told him so once more. 'Come back and see me tomorrow morning,' said Buchman. The next morning, he said to them, 'Yes, go to Australia. The truth is I just didn't want you to leave me.'
His own answer to the natural question of why he never married was invariably, 'Because I have never been guided to.' In his early twenties he had, like most young men, his list of 'possibles', and seems a little later to have taken more than a friendly interest in Edith Randall during their encounters in Europe. But he wrote to his mother from Seoul in 1918, 'It may relieve you to know that I am still single, and expect to remain single for the rest of my life.'1 Whether, as his cousin Fred Fetherolf believed, he, like Bacon, regarded wife and children as 'impediments to great enterprises' we do not know, though it is clear that Buchman always and increasingly felt called to such enterprises. Mrs Adams, his hostess in Kuling and long-time friend, wrote to his mother in 1922, 'Our prayers and love will mean more to him as the years go by, especially if it does not seem God's purpose to bestow upon him the companionship of a wife - though he deserves one of the very best.'2 There was no lack, until far on in his life, of women who would cheerfully have risked marrying him; but he seems to have accepted, equally cheerfully, that his life was destined to be a single one.
The home-making instinct never left him. He put it to use wherever he went, always making sure that his friends and visitors were properly looked after in every respect. 'This is outrageous,' he said in the middle of a large international conference. 'This is not the way we are meant to live.' He had spotted dirty water in a flower vase; so all the flower vases had to be cleaned and refilled. Meals, too, had to be served properly: 'My mother never stacked.' But he did long at times for his own surroundings. Once, standing outside his home in Allentown when it was let to other people, he said, 'You know, the thing I would really like to do would be to live in that house and run it perfectly.' Whether this would have satisfied him for long is doubtful; but the constant journeying was not without its unseen cost.
What then was Buchman's private life like? What did he enjoy doing, apart from following his vocation which he undoubtedly relished?
He did not smoke or drink alcohol. Coming from a home where wine appeared on the table as a matter of course, he gave up alcohol while at Overbrook in order to help his dipsomaniac cook, Mary Hemphill. But here, as elsewhere, he was not iron-clad in rules. When entertained by a modest French family, Buchman accepted naturally the quite ordinary wine which they served. Next day, when offered a fine vintage by a prominent French couple, he refused. When a Swiss cigar manufacturer asked him what he should do about his business, he replied, 'Make the best cigars in Switzerland,' and to an English brewer who wanted to help to remake the world, 'Make better beer.'
Buchman did enjoy eating. 'His stroke was not only due to worries about his men being taken into the army,' Campbell once said. 'He did love rich food - thick soups, nice creamy desserts, roast duck, vacherins - all the things which modern doctors abhor. In his mind, these foods were a source of energy.' Needless to say, this diet had to be modified thereafter, though he continued to provide such food for his guests, in accordance with the Pennsylvanian motto, 'Good food and good Christianity go together.' In later life he was not a big eater, and he may never have been, in quantity, up to the Pennsylvania-Dutch norm. He needed, however, to keep an eye on his weight and did not always welcome his doctor's comments. Lacking, or taking less and less time for, exercise did not help.
In the days before his stroke he walked in the country whenever he could, and he also loved horse-riding. His last ride seems to have been in December 1940. With half a dozen others he had spent ten days in Mexico. On their way back north they stayed at a hacienda which took guests. 'We breakfasted at a magnificent huge oak table,' recalls John Cotton Wood, who was one of the party, 'and then Frank took us outside where horses were waiting for us. We climbed into our saddles, and off we rode around the ranch with Frank in the lead.'
Even after his stroke he enjoyed walking, when he could be got to do it. 'He took delight in the world of nature around him,' writes Wood. 'He noticed the fine tracery of twigs and branches of a tree. He noticed the birds. Whether he was walking in a lovely park overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate or in an orchard in the Tyrolean hills of northern Italy, he would often be lost in wonder at what his eyes and senses took in. He would sometimes simply stand and stare with his mouth open.'
'He was very fastidious in his living, without being demanding on those round him,' writes Loudon Hamilton. 'He spotted, and preferred, quality.'3 This instinct for the genuine encompassed both people and objects. 'What an awful man that is,' he remarked once after a visitor had left. 'He makes conversation.'
He did love beautiful things. Sir Neil Cochran-Patrick had in his Ayrshire home some fine pieces of china which had long been in the family. He was astonished when Buchman could tell him where each piece originated. When my wife and I gave him a crystal bowl full of wild Swiss flowers, his eyes lit up with genuine appreciation. But his judgement could be overruled by the desire to encourage an individual. A certain lady presented him with an imposing Italian marble statue of one of the Muses, to be put in 45 Berkeley Square. Some of his friends thought it a little overwhelming and Mrs Nell Glover, the talented Yorkshirewoman who was blending the furnishing of the house into a harmonious whole, told him so. 'That is great art, and I know,' he replied. 'It stays.' And it did, in a corner of the front hall.*
(* He was right. When 45 Berkeley Square was sold the statue was bought by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.)
He never bought any picture, china or work of art for himself. Indeed, he seldom bought anything except to give to others. People who attended the Oxford house-parties remember him best in flannels and a grey herringbone tweed sports jacket. In Caux it was more usually a suit. His wardrobe, according to Campbell, generally consisted of two suits - one blue, one grey - a sports jacket and flannels, plus dress and morning clothes for rare official occasions. There was also a much-prized old jersey and an ancient dressing-gown. The only time anyone remembers him weeping about his disabilities was once when he struggled to get his paralysed hand into that dressing-gown. 'Oh, this thing! ' he cried in frustration. 'I'm a cripple.'
Many times in his life he wore other people's cast-offs, and he urged his friends not to be too proud to do so. 'Your trouble is that you refuse to be one of the deserving poor,' he once said to a Scottish colleague. Yet he always managed to keep that spick-and-span look which Begbie and Russell noted in the twenties and thirties.
He lived, according to Campbell, mainly on gifts which came to him at Christmas or on his birthday - or sometimes personal gifts given to him during a conference. The money was apt to pass through his hands quickly. 'He'd look at you and say, "You need a new suit." Or if someone gave him $500 at Christmas, he would call in the team with him and give them $10 each.' Campbell adds that never, through all the years he served him, did Buchman give him any money except such a small gift at Christmas. 'He paid the bills where we had to stay with him. But he knew we served on the same free basis as himself.' In later years, his birthday gifts could amount to sizeable sums. In 1958, for example, gifts from 138 people are listed amounting to just under $67,000, ranging from two gifts of $5,000 to one of $5.00 from Brooks Onley, a friend's black chauffeur, and $1.00 from Martha Lambert.
Campbell states that Buchman 'never worried about money'. Corderoy says he sometimes did. The nearest I heard him to expressing such worry was at Caux, when, in the face of one crisis, he said, 'I know I should have no fear, but I do wonder how we'll make it.' However, he never confined his enterprises to the cash, if any, which he had in hand or could reasonably expect.
Buchman's favourite reading was the newspapers. He read The Times whenever he could get it, always starting with the obituaries. His favourite books were biographies. The diaries and letters of Queen Victoria fascinated him. He loved inside information about public figures - including gossip - although he did not pass it on. He was interested in anything which gave him the feel of a country, a government or a community. Countries, for him, were the people he knew in them. Sometimes this gave him a lop-sided view, but generally news gleaned from many angles kept him very well-informed.
What John Wood chiefly recalls is Buchman's 'delight in life, a delight in parties; a delight in towns and cafes, a delight in what was happening'. He could never resist a parade, a band or a procession. He had to go and see, and took everyone who would go along. He also liked public lunches or dinners, because they helped him to sniff the atmosphere of a country or a community, besides giving him a chance to meet people. Not that he wanted to meet everyone, however 'distinguished'. When his host wanted to introduce him to Anthony Eden, at the height of Eden's popularity, he was not interested. 'It's not our job to help lame dogs over stiles,' he said.
Public occasions and places also gave him a welcome break from a team life in which he was always surrounded by people wanting to consult him. One night in early 1946 he told Corderoy he had to get out of 45 Berkeley Square. 'I feel cooped up here. In Brown's there were always new people coming and going.' They went to the Berkeley Grill, where Lord Bossom bowled up and asked them to join him at dinner. Bossom was very worried about coal, and said he had seen the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, who was worried too. Buchman mentioned The Forgotten Factor. Wherever could he put it on in ruined London? 'The Cripplegate, near St Paul's. It's still standing among the rubble and it's empty,' said Bossom. 'Now, that was a well-spent evening,' said Buchman as he hobbled back into Berkeley Square. Then looking across at the lighted windows of the house, he said, 'Only history will show whether we were right or wrong to take that place.' In the next twenty years other centres in other countries were given or acquired, and Buchman welcomed, even initiated, them. But he never lost an element of nostalgia for the freer life of a hotel, where he could meet unexpected people and see the world go by. 'You will never understand him', an early associate said, 'unless you remember he was brought up in a hotel right on the railway tracks.'
In America in the 1940s and 1950s he would never miss the Charlie McCarthy show on the radio if he could help it. What he liked, according to Campbell, was the irreverent treatment of the great by Edgar Bergen's dummy. Indeed, he would take extreme measures to hear it - slipping out of an important meeting, cutting short an interview with a movie mogul, disappearing with the nearest imitation he could manage to his invisible quicksilver motion of the thirties. One day he listened to both the programme and its repeat, and then remarked, 'Charlie must come to Caux!'
Three of his friends, Campbell, Cece Broadhust and Charles Haines, often put on their own 'McCarthy show' at parties, mocking him and other colleagues with affectionate or pointed cheek. Broadhurst and Richard Hadden,* a gifted pianist in everything from Chopin to jazz, also had a topical patter act which delighted him. Evenings full of hilarious and often brilliant humour were a feature of the life around him, and a frequent element in house-parties and conferences. Buchman would laugh and laugh, the tears rolling down his face, while people feared he might fall off his chair. 'That was sheer worship,' he remarked after one such evening.
(* Hadden and his wife, Frances Roots, were the first Western pianists to give concerts in Communist China after the cultural revolution.)
By contrast he also loved to sit in complete silence with friends. One of his French colleagues, Michel Sentis, remembers one evening at Caux when they sat for an hour looking out as the sun went down over the lake and tinged the mountains opposite, 'saying nothing, just enjoying the silence. There was no need to say anything, because we were aware of the third Person above the two of us who was keeping the conversation going.' Sitting with some friends on one occasion, he mused, "God be in my head." As long as God is in my head, I can have a good laugh.'4 On another, with Campbell, Austin and Martin, he said, 'I'm an old man of 72 and I'm glad to have you with me. Not many old men have friends like you.'
He was unmusical, and did not enjoy serious concerts. He would only go for the sake of some guest or more often some musician friend, like Artur Rodzinski. He liked something with a beat and a tune. 'That's beautiful music,' he said when a Souza march came on the radio. 'That's music I understand.' After a concert by Gracie Fields, which he enjoyed to the full, Buchman remarked thoughtfully, 'I don't think I'd be a success as a concert singer.' That night he prayed for Gracie Fields and that Capri, where she lived, might be 'cleaned up'.
He used vocal music a great deal in his work, both a chorus and various trios and quartets, especially the three Californian Colwell Brothers with their witty topical songs. One day a diplomat came to lunch with Buchman and was duly entertained by the chorus with various uplifting songs about his country. 'He woke up when the yodelling began,' relates one of the party. 'When he had left, Frank took on the training of the chorus. They had learnt "Stars in My Crown" which they sang slowly and dully. So Frank waved his arms around to great effect and trained them how to sing it. Also he insisted on the words of "The Longest Porch" being audible. For one who claims not to appreciate music he did a wonderful job with them.'5
The theatre he always loved. His letters home from Philadelphia in the 1890s announced that he had seen Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in Robespierre and Bernhardt as Ophelia - 'Think of it, the most noted actress in the world.'6 Later in life he was to use plays as a main, often the main, expression of his message - probably the first spiritual leader to do it on such a scale since the Middle Ages. The idea struck him when, in 1937, he made a trip from a Brighton house-party to London to see William Douglas-Home's play Great Possessions, in which the Oxford Group was treated with not unkindly humour. He took a young Oxford graduate with him and on the return journey startled him by saying, 'You will write the plays which the world and we need.' That man has never written a play, but he later introduced Peter Howard to Moral Re-Armament, who subsequently wrote many. The other principal playwright among Buchman's colleagues was Alan Thornhill, to whom he had talked about theatre when they first met in the twenties.
Phyllis Austin, who had worked under some of the major directors of stage and screen, was of the opinion that he would have made a great director. 'His timing was impeccable, and all his suggestions were to the point,' she said. He could never understand, however, the need for rehearsal. 'Where have you been?' he would indignantly ask Campbell, who often acted in addition to his doctoring, when he returned from a gruelling session. For him a play was ready to go on stage the moment it was written, just as his secretaries had found that he often seemed to expect a letter, once dictated, to be already typed. Cece Broadhurst told him one morning that he had an idea for a musical. 'Fine,' said Buchman, 'can we have it tonight?'
To have a holiday or take time off would not have occurred to Buchman. He did go away to quieter environments when his health demanded it: Bunny and Phyllis Austin describe one such 'rest' in Italy when Buchman was 77. For once, the party was small - Buchman, the Austins, Paul Campbell and Jim Baynard-Smith, one of his personal assistants. They stayed in a hotel. Buchman was low in strength, but wanted to be in touch with his friends in other parts of the world. Austin rashly mentioned that he could type a little. Instantly, Buchman started: 'Then take this down - "Dear..."'. And for days Austin and Campbell struggled with the typewriter, Buchman dictating practically non-stop to prime ministers, presidents, the priest on Mackinac Island, the cook on the island ferry, and a myriad others.
While following this method of doing nothing, Buchman was also making friends with the hotel management and staff. Mario, the waiter who brought his breakfast each morning, arrived one day in tears. His father had died. Buchman had himself driven to Mario's village and carried up the wooden steps into the sitting room, and spent two hours with Mario and his family. Another waiter had escaped three times from the gas chambers during the war, had lived on roots and grass for weeks, and joined the Communist Party after the war. He and Buchman had long talks and one day he said to Phyllis Austin, 'I would be willing to die for that man.' The manager and his mother of ninety, the maid, all became friends.
As Buchman's strength returned other friends began coming in to see him, and by the time the Christmas tree and the creche were in place, Communists, royalty, old ladies, small boys, gathered round them with Buchman and his party. The chamber-maid, meeting one of the royal family later, said joyfully, 'Hullo, Mrs Queen!'7
It was during this 'holiday' that Buchman met King Michael of Roumania again. They had, of course, known each other since his childhood when Buchman visited his grandmother, Queen Marie, in Bucharest. Since then he had twice been King, first from 1927 to 1930 in the absence of his father and then from 1940 to 1947, after his father's death. In the latter period he had overthrown the Fascist dictatorship of Antonesco, but had been forced into exile by the Communists in 1947. Now, on 23 December 1955, he came to tea with Buchman, together with his mother, Queen Helen, and his wife, Queen Anne. Of this time King Michael writes: 'One thing I remember so well of Frank's caring was my own experience after meeting him again in 1955. With my sadness and unhappiness at having lost my country, my bitterness had grown because of a feeling of not belonging. After our meeting, I felt this great load was taken off my mind and soul. I realised that no problem was too great or too small for him. The greatest or the smallest problem in someone else's life received the same loving care from him.'8 After that he and his wife paid frequent visits to Caux from their home in Geneva and took part in various MRA activities both during Buchman's life and thereafter.
To sit by a creche at Christmas was one of Buchman's great delights. He would sometimes sit for long periods looking at it, living into an experience beyond the senses, remarking to himself occasionally, 'Isn't it wonderful? Isn't it wonderful?' Spiritual experience never ceased to fill him with this sense of wonder. He always prolonged 'Christmas' as long as possible, sometimes leaving the tree up for weeks. And New Year's Eve was part of the mingled celebration and reflection. 'I used to go to church with my mother for the watch-night service,' he said once. 'We called it "heart-searching". We used to think of the past year, and of the future. It was a solemn night.'
The strength of Buchman's effect on people may have arisen in part from his ability to concentrate on the present moment and the present person. Friends say that wherever in the world one was with him, he lived as though he would be there for ever and treated each friendship as if it were permanent, despite the fact that he might not have been in that place for years and might never return again. In terms of people too, he created his home around him, wherever he might be.
Buchman enjoyed the company of children, and took them seriously. He told one mother who was very anxious that her daughter should behave well to stop repressing the child, and insisted on letting the small girl chatter all during a long car drive he was taking with the family. He sat down with a twelve-year-old who was feeling overworked and in forty-five minutes told her the history of the trade union movement, covering the Tolpuddle Martyrs, workers' rights, hours of work, and then said, 'Goodbye, have a good term.' 'I was so glad he treated me like an adult,' she now says. One small girl, attending a conference with her parents, broke her toy horse, and immediately set off to find 'Uncle Frank - he's the strongest man here'. Children sent him letters and Christmas cards and their pocket-money, and each one received a personal reply.
Along with the warm heart and the retentive mind went a quick temper. Sometimes he was right, sometimes he was wrong. Sometimes he apologised, sometimes he did not. People found him at times an uncomfortable person to be with, because he was unpredictable. But temper, or even anger, were often the sign of friendship and concern. I asked Campbell, who saw more of him than perhaps anyone, how often Buchman lost his temper. 'Very seldom, really,' he replied. 'And he was a hard man to be angry with because you felt his motive was generally selfless,' he added. 'You didn't like it, but you didn't get mad.'
According to Corderoy, Buchman's unpredictability was not caprice, but was quite often mischief. Certainly he had a lively sense of humour. 'You will get more people changed by pulling their legs than by kicking their bottoms,' he said. And he did not take himself over-seriously. He remarked of one portrait which had been painted of him, 'Oh, it's in some cellar now, and every now and again the rats come out and have a look at it!'
Buchman did, however, take his work seriously. One of his major dislikes was 'understatement'. I remember him taking some of us British aside on our first visit to America and saying that unless we said things loud and plain, no one would listen to us. It was not that he wished us to exaggerate - Russell remarks in For Sinners Only that he many times heard Buchman tell the same stories but never heard him alter them in the smallest way for effect - but that he felt we dishonoured God if we at any point understated what He had done in our lives or in any situation. 'Speak right up to, but never beyond your experience,' he used to say.
His exhortations could, however, lead to overstatement by colleagues trying to please him, and sometimes by Buchman himself when he repeated the evaluations of others without having them researched. Something which was an important factor in the solution of a problem became, in common speech, the answer to the whole affair. In his speeches he was careful seldom or never to make a personal claim about such situations, but quoted the public opinions of politicians, newspapers or other authorities on the spot. But in his later speeches, drafted by others though always read to and altered by him, inaccuracies did at times get through. In one speech, for example, it was said that the Times of India had 'carried a full page' of MRA news when in fact Moral Re-Armament had inserted it as a paid full-page advertisement. The editor of the Times of India quite properly pointed this out in a letter to the London Times'9 It became almost an international incident. When I next met the drafter of the speech I asked him how such a silly mistake had been made.
'Mistake?' he said. 'It was carried by the paper. That's what they say in America.'
Upon small incidents like this Buchman's opponents, with a near monopoly of the press in some countries, built up an illusion that all the achievements attributed to Buchman - and which he attributed to God - were exaggerations if not plain lies. What made this particularly ironic was the fact that, at the deepest level, such 'results' meant little to Buchman personally. He felt a tremendous urgency to get the potency and relevance of God through to everyone, and that many were so secularised that they would only pay attention to practical results - but this very urgency sometimes provided ammunition which defeated his own intentions.
There were times when Buchman felt shaken in his belief, that God had left him. 'I'm lost,' he said at one such period. I’d be surprised if you weren't sometimes,' the person with him replied. This feeling is well known to anyone who tries to orientate his or her life towards God. In Buchman's case he was also very often on unfamiliar ground, reaching out for the next step for some person or some large group of people. As well as feeling lost, he was frequently fearful. 'No fear' recurs constantly in his written or dictated thoughts. Once in the middle of a meeting he suddenly said, 'Oh, no fear, it's so stupid,' and stood up and shook himself to be rid of it. It seems to have been a mixture of ordinary human fears - of making mistakes, getting plans wrong, missing God's direction - and a more mystical fear. 'Do you fear the love of God?' a friend once asked him. 'Yes,' he replied, with emphasis. This is a fear presumably only known to those who have come close enough to the love of God to understand its power. And there is no doubt that the relationship with God was the one which Buchman most assiduously cultivated for himself and most urgently wanted to share with other people.
He was willing to feel, and look at a loss. 'Wakeful, like the bird on the bough, with mouth open, eyes and ears wide open, looking absolutely gaga in a crowd sometimes, but deeply at peace, listening to catch the faintest whisper of God,' Baynard-Smith describes him at cocktail parties or diplomatic receptions. 'Then, like the sail filling, he was off on a fresh tack, mind and body bending to the prevailing breeze of guidance, full-running, free. That was the impression he made, totally careless of what others might be thinking of him.'
What satisfied Buchman most deeply was to sit quietly and search for the mind of God. He liked to do it with others but also spent much time doing it alone. Thoughts often came to him during wakeful periods in the night. After his stroke, when he could not write, he always had a bell by his bed. 'The buzzer would go at two or three in the morning,' says Campbell. 'Often his first words would be, "What's your guidance?", when you couldn't even see straight. He'd been listening to God and he assumed you'd been doing the same. I used to get so annoyed. Then he would dictate - usually general thoughts about plans or thoughts to go ahead with or stop some activity. He never dictated to me thoughts he had for other people. Those he would tell direct to the person concerned next day or by letter. There might just be a note, "See X".'
Then he would go to sleep again, sometimes waking to plan the day with a largish group of colleagues at seven or seven-thirty, sometimes waking only at nine with the words, 'Now let's have breakfast.' It all depended on what he had been doing the evening before. 'But', says Campbell, 'he might equally call for a few colleagues at five in the morning and start work. In the last years night and day began to lose their significance. But every day of his life he would want you to read him the Bible, first thing - always a psalm and often the New Testament too.* He always wanted you to pray with him at bed-time. He didn't often pray then himself. He was too exhausted. He'd get you to. He'd pray at other times, for his country or for his people, but he was more of a listening man. "A very great day, underlined three times" was a common thought. He had great expectations.' 'I get it in my American way,' he said one day to a friend: '69 times a very great day of power.'
(* Favourites were Psalms 23, 32, 103 and 121, 2 Timothy 2 and John 17.)
Buchman's communing with God, his 'guidance', was not, of course, just a matter of early mornings. He did not chop life up into times of listening and other times. He tried to be aware constantly, any moment expecting 'a new disclosure'. On a big decision, according to Campbell, he would often include large numbers of people, listening to what came to everyone, especially the youngest and the newest, weighing each contribution carefully, even if he made the ultimate decision. Then too there was that lost, seeking look which Grevenius observed in Sweden and Baynard-Smith remarked at public receptions. Many experienced this searching process more intimately as they consulted him on personal matters.
Mrs van Beuningen, who was in America during 1939 and early 1940, wanted to return to Holland immediately Norway and Denmark were invaded on 9 April 1940. He pointed out to her that the particular things she had had direction to try and do had not been completed; they listened, and she stayed. Meeting Buchman again in New York a little later, she told him that she now felt she should go home. He was silent. Then he said, 'Yes, it is time to go.' She wanted to go back via Rome and see the Pope, to whom she had excellent introductions. 'No. Not this time. Go straight home,' responded Buchman. She did so, and reached Holland on 9 May, the day the country was invaded. Her war-time work saved the lives of hundreds of prisoners of war.10
An American friend with him in Europe heard that her mother was ill but that there was no hurry to return. She talked it over with Buchman, and they listened together. 'Go,' said Buchman. 'Go immediately.' She did not go immediately, and she was too late.
Corderoy describes Buchman as 'a growing person - not perfect, but always growing'. The man who refused to be confined by his much-loved Pennsylvania Dutch origins and the traditional methods of the American missionary establishment in China, who did not arrive in Oxford until he was in his forties, launch Moral Re-Armament until he was sixty or speak in terms of a moral and spiritual ideology until he was sixty-five, was always looking for new insights and new impetus. 'We have not yet tapped the great creative sources in the Mind of God,' he said launching Moral Re-Armament at East Ham, and in the last year of his life he told a friend, 'I am learning more about moral re-armament every day.'
Most people thought of the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament as movements he had founded - a notion he strenuously denied. Of the Oxford Group, he used to say, 'You can't join it and you can't resign. You are in or out according to the quality of life you are living at any moment. Sometimes I am right outside it myself.'
When in 1948 the film star, Joel McCrea, asked, 'Well, Frank, how is MRA doing?' he replied thoughtfully, 'Oh, I think we are occasionally illustrating it.'
One of those with him remarked to him as they drove home, 'I seem to have a different conception of Moral Re-Armament from you. I thought you founded it.'
'No, discovered it - discovered it,' Buchman replied immediately. 'All can be co-discoverers.'
'I suppose the future of Moral Re-Armament, as you conceive it, is in its future illustrations,' said this companion later that day.
'Of course,' said Buchman. 'It's God's property, not mine.'
In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a few months later, he told several colleagues a little more of how he saw it: 'At Keswick I experienced the recuperative and restorative processes of God. Moral Re-Armament is such a moment in the life of anyone. Its future is in such moments occurring in the future in different lives, in different countries, the outcome being illustrated in national circumstances. It is the continuity of such moments in the lives of all sorts of people, the outcome sometimes affecting governments...The fellowship can look with zest to the adventure of receiving further disclosures.
'The Kingdom of God is symbolic of a definiteness of experience directly observable by someone else, but not easily described. What is observable is a peace, a confidence, a recovery of freedom, and spontaneity of thought, of will and of nerve. This is not joinable. You have to experience it for yourself.'
'With the world still in the making,' he added, 'what does Moral Re-Armament aim to remake? Remaking what is wrong? It is more than that. It is adding to what is right. It is being originative of relevant alternatives to evil in economics, in government policy and so on. It is seeking God's experience for the human race, and is open to everyone.'
A year before his death, ill and exhausted, he complained one day, 'I'm not going to last.' Then he cheered up and said, 'It was here before I came. I guess it'll be here after I've gone.'
1 Buchman to mother, 23 May 1918.
2 Mrs Adams to Mrs Buchman, 15 September 1922.
3 Hamilton, unpublished notes.
4 Martin diaries, 28 June 1951.
5 ibid., 10 May 1951.
6 Buchman to parents, 12 November 1899.
7 Austin and Konstam, pp. 198-200.
9 The Times, 27 June 1960.
10 Charlotte van Beuningen: A New World for my Grandchildren (Himmat Publications, 1969), pp. 60-61, 64-6, 69-84.