MildredPortraitcropcomp2It seems that Cyril looked up to his big sister Mildred, not just when he was a little boy, but also in retirement! She was bright, intelligent and her services to education as Headmistress of Bradford Grammar School earned her the OBE in 1953. As a young woman, her father, George Archer, always enjoyed a discussion with her and often introduced religious and political questions into his correspondence with her. So it is perhaps not surprising that Cyril should do the same. It seems that he sought some guidance and direction from her as to how he should proceed with the Bible Study Group that he wanted to start at St Mark's Bexhill in October 1958.  Sadly we don't have Cyril's letters but we do have some of her replies.

Crossways Cottage, Kingston, Cambs

14 Sept

My dear Cyril,

     I have found the study outlines we used in Bradford. You will see that it promotes a much more intellectual approach than the simpler one you showed me. I thought I would send you this first and then you could decide whether you would like me to post the book - I think the “Outlines” would seem less alarming if the book were read.

“The book is designed for the general reader though I realise that some sections of it must make a rather heavy demand on him.” Preface

Part II of the book has these headings for the Chapters.

1. The Family

2. Citizenship

3. Spending & Getting

4. The Life of the World to come

The Outlines deal into Part I

     Barry begins with The Problem of Modernity - he says “the moral chaos of our generation” (published 1931) and speaks of the question the whole world asks daily “Why shouldn’t I?” “We do Christianity a grave disservice if we identify the customs and conventions of an age that is now naturally passing from us with permanent Christian moral principles."

     Directly I began to read the book again I realise its value. “In the modern West, everything tends to be dragged down to the level at which it is intellectually understandable and emotionally satisfying to the man who has neither justified his principles, disciplined his will, or cultivated his mind.”

     You could turn away to a book by Evelyn Underhill on the Lord’s Prayer. I tried to make the Lord’s Prayer mean more to the girls at School by taking one phrase each day for a week and making the Hymn, the Reading and the Prayers centre around it and Evelyn Underhill’s book helped me. It seemed to make the phrases more significant afterwards. It is really more a devotional little book - I have a copy.

     The enclosed ???? I find as a note I made when I wanted to explain to the school. One day in the week was set aside for the different forms in succession to arrange prayers in consultation with their Form Mistress.

     I never intended to write all this!!

Love M.

CrosswaysCotThe following letter is written in large scribbly scrawl and it is very clear that Mildred was in a rush!

Crossways Cottage, Kingston, Cambs

Sept 17

Dear Cyril and Elaine,

     First, thank you very much for birthday wishes and book token.

     Next about Cyril’s possible discussion group. What age limits? I realise the paper I sent is not suitable for a range of minds such as you’ll get!

     With my book token I have bought the Lambeth Conference Report and lending it to you as it has much material in it for thought.

     Next I send for The Xian as a Citizen - see how to use this book.

     Next I send Moral Problems - questions on Xianity. These are just to set you considering. See p23 in S.C.M Press for younger people. I do not know these books - I discussed the matter with Mowbray’s and these were suggested as possible helps.

With love, Mildred.

Crossways Cottage, Kingston, Cambs

Oct 2

Dear Cyril,

     I had rather hoped you’d collect a group of young people as I feel the Church should do more for them. With the older people it will certainly be interesting and helpful but how are the young ones to be helped to think and judge? I suppose Bible Study must mean discussion! and it is inevitable that it should lead to social problems, I should think.

     We had a very interesting sermon at Harvest Festival -weekday service. I think it was too hard for many of the villages but though difficult it provoked thought. It was about Creation - it was “good”. How has all the evil crept in? Would you say a Bible study group was concerned with deepening personal faith and belief and understanding, rather than being concerned with applied Xianity?

     I have just been reading Glubb and the Arabs. You certainly should get it from library - depressing in the mistakes we made - the murder of Abdullah Adorham a fine man and the loss of a good ruler meant sad changes in his state. Glubb thinks highly of the Arabs in Sudan - writes very critically of the behaviour of the Jews in the struggles for Palestine. Do read it.

     On my own – k away for 2 weeks - frustrated by so much hard rain.

Love to you both, Mildred

The following letter is part of a much earlier correspondence between Cyril and Mildred, written when she was still living in Bradford, presumably before her retirement as Headmistress . It would be intriguing to know the seven points/questions that Cyril made; we can only speculate from Mildred’s answers!

MildredHTyoungc/o Mrs Cook, Rosse Erne, Heaton, Bradford

My dear Cyril,

     I only got your letter this morning so that I am not sure if I can get anything to you by tomorrow as I must post early.

     I feel much sympathy with No. 1. L. E. Seems like the Quaker (Friend) in disposition - the Spirit of God coming in quietness. But in a way he expects the church to be kept in existence and cared for with little help from him. So many seem to think an established churches, as it were, the responsibility of the State and there is the lovely collect “where two or three are gathered together.....

     2. Could not sermons in church do more? For a time in Birmingham I went to Carrs Lane (Congregational) - not liking the service (or the ugly building) as much as the lovely church service, but the preacher really made me think and he would take passages from the Bible and met the difficulties as they arose in our minds. I think of course that childhood is the key. I used to pour over the “??? Bible” at home on Sunday evenings and the pictures led me to read.

Too many sermons slide on the surface into a special kind of language – “the blood of the lamb” etc etc. when a simplicity (crossed out) directness of expression in dealing with the meaning of Bible teaching is what we need. School has to illuminate the Bible to non-churchgoers.

     3. I was asked years ago to spend £100 from the Dick Sheppard Xmas appeal fund for those in Bradford I knew of, to whom a gift of £10 or £20 would come as a relief of strain, to meet some special need. It was most exciting, I had to furnish a report on my selections. The letters I got in return for gifts were wonderful. The surprise - the gratitude. It was before the National Health Service so provided much needed new teeth, it gave a simple country holiday to those who never had had one etc. the gifts were not intended for those in dire need but for the courageous people who went on daily with courage managing with very modest incomes, hard-working, often looking after invalid friends or relatives.FrancesGrey

     4. It is human to express the longing but not very sensible to think it can come that way! When you were in France 1916-18 I used to pray for your safety even though it seemed hardly fair to other sisters and to mothers to expect preferential treatment.

     5. Miss Gray, when she said goodbye to me at St Paul’s, answered my words, “How can I be worthy of all School has done for me?” by these words, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths”.

     6. I have not time to attempt this.

     7. I like the offering of the child to God in infant baptism and confirmation seems to me better than adult baptism.

The conclusion of the letter is missing.

Cyril Hooke - Church and Faith

Cyril Hooke - Family Letters