A divine visitation and a brief encounter on the 1st April 1972,
via The Daily Telegraph & the TV documentary on the Papacy.
For about seven years prior, I had serviced a local Church of England in almost every aspect of her life, resulting in a calling to become an Anglican priest, a missionary and join the VSO, that in some way the Holy Spirit affirmed it would encompass all three, with a conviction that I was to remain in England at all costs. The latter two years I helped found a Christian Training Centre in which the premature death of its founder a former Church Army Officer precipitated me into an unexpected leadership role to continue with the ministry which he founded. Events dramatically unfolded in which I was wrongly accused in irony, very much in the likeness of the accusation made against the Biblical Joseph in Egypt, which to this day in 2013, still remains.
At that time I was swiftly led away from this venture to a beautiful Gloucestershire farmhouse to consider my future. In this farmhouse, I was awoken early one morning by a unique Voice which uttered, ‘I will supply all your needs.’ I quickly arose from my bed looking to see if someone had entered my room, but I was restrained in a position not of my own will. The same voice then entered into my head through my heart and hovered in front of my face and continued; ‘ Complete the work which I had begun.’ I was then able to arise out of my bed and quickly wrote soberly in my diary the voice as; Holy, Fatherly, Ageless, full of Wisdom and Authority. This I felt was God the Creator speaking to me in the English language.
About two years after, I considered the ‘…work’ was to ‘revise’ the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England’s Prayer Book since 1662, and so I asked God to confirm that this was what he had in mind. Thus I compressed these seven years into a definitive ‘prayer of faith’ on the Saturday before the above date. My father, a very godly man, from whom I inherit all my convictions from his spiritual integrity, whom knew not of this presiding prayer at the time. On a Saturday, it was the custom in our home for my father to read The Daily Telegraph first, after which I would only glance at its picture pages which it featured at the time, I rarely read the papers at all, but when I came across the main article relating to what many felt was a very unsuccessful attempt at the revision of this 400yr old Prayer Book, I saw immediately this to be an irrevocable sign from the Almighty acting in providence to endorse my vocation. For the first time I felt the severity of what I was being led into. I pondered deeply at the immediacy, clarity and appropriateness of such an endorsement, for I clearly saw that The Daily Telegraph, the Book of Common Prayer and the Church of England were all very deferential in character, a ‘Trinitarian’ endorsement.. I felt the deepest presence of the Most High and in a fraction of a moment, I acknowledged that if one had been chosen for this particular task would it also indicate becoming a future Archbishop of Canterbury.
Having spent some time in reading this article and offering to God this spontaneous prayer, I noticed that my father had drifted into a quiet slumber and that the TV had also muted. For a very long period some ten to twenty minutes, a caption of the silhouette of a man had laboured on the screen with no explanation as to what had happened to the presiding programme. As I pondered upon this caption I felt it held a faint resemblance in outline to a self portrait which I had sketched only a few years earlier, ( Joseph ) However at length the length the caption finally gave way to a documentary entirely upon the Papacy! I was immediately thrust into a devastating conviction that what God was alluding to by this ‘Brief encounter,’ was the impossible endorsement that I would one day become this person also!!! I cast this devastating experience into the furthermost parts of my mind until 1999, when I realised that my vocation spanning 30yrs would lead me to this very position.
Only in 2004, I visited my local library to trace this documentary and to my utter amazement discovered there to be no record of such a TV programme. What had happened must be this documentary had replaced a scheduled programme. To my profound thoughts entered this engagement which I also only knew about in 2004. That same afternoon, a scheduled film was also about the Queen visiting the Far East. Shanghai in China is where I was born and our family lived and first came to England in 1954, the same time frame as Her Majesty’s Accession and Coronation.