An Encounter in a Library

Back in 2008, knowing that we were shortly to move from Canterbury to Malvern, I asked the Lord one day if there were any particular books that He wanted me to track down while I still had the use of the facilities of the University Theological Library. Quite clearly, I heard him tell me to look up the name “Weston” in the archives.

To my delight, I came across something I had no idea existed: In His Will and The School of Sanctity. The first of these two books consisted of a series of retreat addresses that my great uncle Frank delivered in 1914 in London, to the Associates of the Community of the Sacred Passion that he had founded in Zanzibar.

I had long heard of Frank as a man of great standing in the Church, who had done remarkable things to develop black Christianity in Africa. It was only now, however, that I had the joy of really discovering him. The very first words I read were enough to show me that I had struck gold, treasure from Heaven that would prove a feast for anyone hungry to draw close to the Lord’s heart.

Having scribbled down some section of the talks, I read them aloud a day or two later to an invited group of friends. It was one of those spine-tingling moments when everyone present felt the anointing that rested upon Frank’s words. They noted immediately the similarities in theme and tonality between his writing and my own, and urged me to find ways to make this resource available to our own generation.

I have long been eager to bring Frank’s insights and wisdom to others, and hope to share several of these meditations with you over the course of this coming year. His turn of phrase sounds somewhat old-fashioned to a modern audience, however, so I began work on updating it. So far as possible, I wanted to keep the beautiful cadence of his writing and, if I may to dare borrow the example of the Bible translators, move the text on from the KJV to the RSV.

My desire in this has been to convey the heart of Frank’s insights and challenges, rather than simply to preserve as much of the original text as possible. If you will forgive the ongoing analogy with Scripture renderings, I have progressed by stages to something more akin to the freer paraphrase of the NLT, as well as having no hesitation in resequencing paragraphs as the flow required, especially bearing in mind that Frank delivered the original talks without notes. In many instances, I have also changed the viewpoint from exhortations and statements about God, to direct address to Him. It is always so valuable to go beyond talking about Him, to connecting directly with Him.

Because they were given in the course of a three-day retreat, the material was intended to be approached slowly and prayerfully. Perhaps you can make your own private mini-retreat into the Heart of God out of some of these meditations, allowing Him time and space to show you whatever He has in mind to show you through it. May they be manna to your souls.