Sometime in the late 1930’s, the Anglican thinker and writer Evelyn Underhill wrote a letter to Cosmo Lang, then the Archbishop of Canterbury. In her letter, she reflected on just what it is she believed the church needed to be about, and made some fairly poignant comments on how and where she thought it had gotten itself off track. Some 70 years later, excerpts of her letter have shown up in a very fine piece written by John Longhurst in the July 13, 2008 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.
“God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God.” Many of her prescriptions had to do with the formation of clergy, who all too often had become “consecrated philanthropists,” and not guides in the life of faith and prayer.
I’ve read the letter countless times over the years, and as a priest I find it a good and challenging reminder of the need to stick to what is right, true, and “interesting” in my vocation.
Ironically, there is no evidence that the letter was ever sent. A copy was found in her papers after she had died, but there was no sign of any letter back from the Archbishop. Maybe she did send it, and maybe he did read it and take its message to heart. Maybe. But more importantly, maybe if a few of us read it in our own day, we’ll find there something to help us steer the course in the formation of our own community.
You can read the full letter by following this link.