Pierre Maury and some of his friends in 1937

Amongst those present with Maury (4th from the left front row) are W A Visser’t Hooft, Suzanne de Dietrich, Robert Mackie, L Lebrun, J & S Bosc, Y Roullet, Gabriel Marcel  a French philosopher, playwright, music critic and leading Christian existentialist (2nd row to Maury’s left), Fr Yves Congar and L Zander.  A young  29 year old Daniel Thambyrajah Niles,  a Ceylonese pastor, evangelist and eventually president of the Ceylon Methodist Conference, can also be seen on the extreme left hand side in the third row.

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This group photo taken at Bièvres outside Paris in March 1937 of French delegates preparing for the The Oxford 1937 Life and Work Conference, a highly important event in the history of the ecumencial movement. It met at a time of international political crisis. Within two years the world would be at war. The churches in Europe and North America were confronted by the rise of totalitarian regimes, especially in Germany and Russia. Led by Joseph Oldham the conference delegates analysed this crisis theologically. They understood totalitarian regimes to be a form of political religion adopted by people whose lives lacked meaning and purpose. The advent of secularism had removed Christian belief and practice from the West and humanity turned to false and pagan religions to fill the void. Oxford 1937 was a call to the churches to reassert themselves against this secular and pagan challenge.

 

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