Tuesday, December 19, 2006

D. R. Davies X: At War in Peacetime

The end of the war saw D. R. Davies minister of Ravensthorpe Congregational Church. Looking back on this pastorate towards the end of his life, Davies described the young minister he then was:
"I started upon my ministry with a varied assortment of goods in my bag, but amonst them the one essential, fundamental thing was lacking - an experimental knowledge of God as Judge and Redeemer. I had a keen and passionate interest in political and social problems, and a fair knowledge of them [....] I had but little more than an elementary smattering of theology in its various branches, and certainly no scholarship."

Despite the war, he remained confident of humanity, preaching 'a human gospel', as he would later recall. Yet that gospel was also a lazy gospel. Davies did not prepare until the last minute, and employed printed notes for his children's talks (the bane of many a pastor). Even so, he preached politocs from the pulpit, causing offence to many in his congregation, particularly at peacetime. He attacked the rich and praised the working man:

"My one aim was to get society right. If we could abolish war and poverty, I thought, people would automatically become happy and virtuous. I realize only too well how "the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed". I gave them ideas, but no Gospel. How could I give Good News when I myself had ne living experience of Redemption?"

Hating pastoral visitation, the young man became very isolated. He became isolated in an intellectual world all his own, coming to depend on a circle of friends outside the church, the focus of this being the Dewsbury poetry society. This allowed Davies, always sure of his own intellect, to become convinced that he possessed 'the artistic temperament,' along with his involvement in the local art circle.

"I began to breathe the atmosphere in whih Biblical Christianity was irrelevant. Curiously enough, this fortified me in my Modernism, in the belief that to appeal to the world of today the Church would have to undergo a dramamtic theological overturn. What I failed to realise was that religion of any sort had become irrelevant to the modern mind. Without knowing it, I had begun to develop in myself the mentality to which Christianity would no longer be necessary."

But this would take several more years. Before then, Davies left Raventhorpe, preaching his last sermon there at the end of September, 1922. He would move to Hawkeshead Street Congregational Church, Southport, there to enjoy a hectic, troubled ministry, years of sunshine and storms. We shall consider that next time.



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