A Search for Peace; Only Spirituality Can Bring Peace to the Troubles of a Crazy World, Says the Rector Who Is Trying to Create an Oasis for the Wise and the Weary amid the Frenzy of City Life. David Charters Reports
THE clergyman in the slip-on shoes curls his left leg over the right, exposing a peep of white flesh above a short grey sock, as he settles into the corner chair in his office in the church overlooking the brooding waters of the Mersey.
Nicholas Frayling, Rector of Liverpool, is one of those men who always looks slightly too long in a chair.
But when the talk turns to the quest for eternity, a passion enters his voice which contrasts with the measured tones of his public school background.
Now he is planning to bring a little oasis of wisdom to people, where for a few minutes they can contemplate the great truths, free from the ceaseless spin of daily life.
After all, spirituality is his subject, and he has just signed up an impressive list of 28 guests to give lectures at St Nicholas Parish Church of Liverpool each lunch-time during the season of Lent.
The theme is reconciliation. Men and women have been drawn from a range of faiths to offer a fresh perspective and perhaps a little hope to areas where differences seem almost irreconcilable.
So, to illustrate his programme, Canon Frayling has chosen a picture of the world surrounded by darkness and divided into the segments of a jigsaw into which are pressed the symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The Lenten addresses at the church belong to a tradition of more than 100 years. This is the 15th series to be run by Canon Frayling.
And he is pleased with this year's list which includes: Dr Ghada Karmi, vice chair of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding; Rabbi Ariel Abel of the Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool; Dr Shiv Pande, vice-chair of the Merseyside Council of Faiths; Reverend Tom Gordon, lecturer at the Church of Ireland Theological College; Ann Widdecombe, MP for Maidstone and former Home Secretary; and Professor Yasi Suleiman, director at the Edinburgh Institute for the Advanced Study of Islam and the Middle East.
AFTER an education at Repton School, Derby, young Frayling trained in management at Harrods and EMI, with a mind to a career to business.
But a growing social awareness steered him in other directions. For a while he was a probation officer, working at Pentonville Prison, London.
Then, Canon Frayling studied theology at Exeter University. His career advanced from being an assistant curate at St John's Peckham, vicar of All Saints, Tooting, and canon residentiary and precentor at Liverpool Cathedral, before taking up his present post in 1987.
The man, who now sits in a church which can trace its origins to 1257, was brought up in Wimbledon, a London suburb often seen as the model of British social affectation.
Slowly, however, notions of power and powerlessness matured in the mind of Nicholas Frayling. His father, Arthur Frayling OBE, was man who seldom put a foot wrong, having risen to the chairmanship of the Hudson Bay Company from comparatively humble origins. He started World War II as a private, but finished as a lieutenant-colonel on the War Office staff.
This was a demanding example for anyone to follow.
Although his upbringing was traditionally middle-class, Canon Frayling was aware of the injustices which cause bitterness in society.
And in Liverpool, a remarkable level of reconciliation had been achieved between the Protestants and Catholics. This showed that such gaps can be crossed.
Of course, many of the city's families came from Ireland, where it has been hard to find the goodwill for sustained peace in the North. Canon Frayling believes a recognition of past evils is central to developing the trust necessary to the process of Irish reconciliation - an opinion advanced in his book, Pardon and Peace. …