During WW2, as a conscientious objector, Cecil served with the RAMC in India and Burma, at one point operating on the Viceroy’s leg in Peshawar. His call to priesthood was motivated by seeing a river full of bodies during the Bengal Famine.
After ordination, with CMS he served in India as a missionary (at Bishops College Calcutta) before becoming Asia Secretary for CMS and then later returning to India at the time of the United Churches experience (1970). He married Katrina, a Church of Scotland missionary in India and had three boys
Volley Ball at Bishops College Calcutta
Here was someone else who had travelled some of the same ancient pathways for CMS in Asia. He loved music (he was also an accomplished pianist - we heard a 1937 recording Cecil played of Chopin's Scherzo in C minor, Op 39) and walking, poetry and watercolour painting – somethings I just aspire to rather than actually achieve.
In UK, he was also heavily involved in the New Jerusalem Bible project and worked as a parish priest in Marden in the 1980s. He has written a number of books including Reader on Indian Christian Theology and The Translators Freedom.
We were given a copy of his book - The Nazareth Route (Jesus Spirituality of Challenge and Vulnerability) Melrose Books 2008. I look forward to reading it as it explores various route-makers’ and ‘route-finders’, a number from Asia itself.
The CMS archives come up trumps at times like this. Ken the archivist had picked out some papers. I was drawn to one particular quote from CMS Executive Committee, 21st January 1970:
His immediate colleagues learned to look at him as a shrewd counsellor, a keen advocate of truth and justice in all things, an unfailing spring of comic relief and most gracious friend; and his fellow workers in all ranks at the Society’s Headquarters have recognised in him that rare person, a holy and humble man of God'
During the service his youngest son read a poem (cited in the book) a reminder that in all the travelling to turn aside and find the sacred places and memorable moments.
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas