Tuesday, February 20, 2007

D. R. Davies XXIII: Last Years

D. R. Davies was not one to stay in a post for long, and after four and a half years at the centre of things in London, Davies decided that he wanted to move out into the country (which had been his plan when he entered the Church of England). When the Bishop of Chichester offered Davies the living of Holy Trinity church, Brighton (pictured, and you can see where a building used to be), a large preaching church without parish duties, Davies jumped at the chance. He published a book of sermons preached at this church, Thirty Minutes to Raise the Dead. Despite the care he took over these sermons, and the fact that the congregation grew during his incumbency, Davies felt his ministry there a failure. He fely little liberty in preaching, although he was granted liberty elsewhere.

While at Holy Trinity, Brighton, Davies continued his journalistic activities, producing an insert for parish magazines called 'Christian Renewal.' In association with Selwyn Gummer, he started Pulpit Monthly, a publication designed to raise the quality of preaching. Still foremost in Davies' preaching was the depravity of Man, or, as he called it 'Radical Sin.'
After two and a half unforgiving years at All Saints, Brighton, Davies took the opportunity to move to St. Mary Magdalen, St. Leonards-on-Sea. Once more, he was required to do parish work. And Davies, a man who had once hated pastoral visitation found that these duties leant him new life and insight. And his preaching, far from suffering, gained a new lease of life. His writing did not suffer, and Davies spent nine happy years (the longest he ever stayed in a church) there. Only his advancing years drew Davies away from that church.
At the end of his life, Davies was appointed to the united parish of Parham and Wiggonholt cum Greatham, a small rural parish possessed of three churches. It was there that he died in 1958. Among the last words he wrote were a summary of his life:
"Were this the story of merely one isolated human individual, it would not have been worth the telling. Rightly or wrongly, I am persuaded that my story is the microcosm of a generation. Here on the smaller scale of an individual existence can be studied the history of an era - except, at present, for the conclusion. I experienced in my soul the bitter death of the illusions of the generation into which I was born, and lost myself in those illusions. But after that death I rose again, for I found myself in finding God. What I was searching for was my own identity, and without knowing it my search was for God. I had to give up myself exactly as I was, the the chaos and disillusion into which I had fallen, to find Him. I found Him and became a new man."
Next time, God willing, I shall sum up Davies' significance, trying to place him in his context.



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