This I Believe

Wrench, Evelyn


  • Sir Evelyn Wrench describes how an encounter with extreme poverty shook his faith in God, and how an experience at the funeral service of King Edward VII restored that faith, as he became more inclusive in his beliefs and practices.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sir Evelyn Wrench started his professional career by establishing the biggest picture post card business in Britain when he was 21. He then went into the field of journalism and in 1925 became the editor of the Spectator. He is now the chairman of this British weekly magazine. However, he has devoted much of his time and interest to bettering international relations. He is the founder of the Overseas League, the English Speaking Union and the All People’s Association. Here now is Sir Evelyn Wrench.
I was brought up in a strictly religious household. Before I was 18, I was hard at work trying to make my fortune in a business which I’d started in London. Its affairs took me to most of the large industrial cities in the land, and I saw slums and human degradation such as I had never imagined. The year was 1901. The faith I had imbibed in our well ordered and comfortable home in Ireland did not stand up to the horrors I witnessed. How could an all-powerful, all-loving God permit such things, I asked myself.
For some years, I went through a phase of agnosticism. I was then too busy attempting to build a prosperous career on Fleet Street to have much time to bother about the “whys” and “wherefores” of existence.
In my strenuous life, there was no time to ponder on the doctrines upon which I had been nurtured.
After being involved in a difficult personal experience, however, my soul was evidently in a receptive state when I was present at the funeral service of King Edward VII in Westminster Abbey in 1910. I was deeply moved by the strains of the organ and the wonderful voices of the boys in the choir. A veil seemed to drop from my eyes, and for a moment, I saw distant and unfamiliar vistas. I was face to face with reality. I had a spiritual awakening, and my soul went through the process of what is termed “rebirth.” Many of the problems which puzzled me hereto became clearer.
I understood in a flash the mysteries of suffering and realized that there was war between the constant forces of light and darkness. And in my view, while God was all loving, He was not all-powerful. And if there were great evils in the world, they were largely due to our human frailty. Christ in his ministry on Earth certainly never minimized the influence of Satan and was always attacking forces of darkness. I emerged into the streets of Westminster a completely different being. Personal ambition had left me, and my standard of values had entirely changed.
While I belong to the Church of England, which with its comprehensiveness means very much to me, I have never been strictly orthodox in my outlook.
I’ve touched reality in many climes and in many environments. To me, it seems that the godhead is larger than any one creed. I have worshiped, surrounded and inspired by the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church and by the magnificent singing of the male choirs and liturgy of the Orthodox Church. I have been moved as I watched the rhythmic bowing of a vast congregation of devout Muslims. I have taken part in open-air services of the Salvation Army, in Java and elsewhere, in languages which I could not understand. I’ve discussed the fundamental unity of mankind with leaders as different in outlook as Mahatma Gandhi, Wilfred Grenfell of Labrador, or Cardinal Gibbons.
In a world threatened by anti-Christ, I believe that men of all faiths should cooperate with all those who recognize that the human race cannot live without God. Vast issues are before us in the world. Our relations with Asia and Africa will, in my view, depend very largely upon how far we of the West can convince those awakening millions of the genuineness of our faith in the divine.
That was Sir Evelyn Wrench, chairman of the British weekly magazine The Spectator.