R. S. Thomas on wonderful people, and on Non-Conformity

(c) DACS and Sir Kyffin Williams; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationJ. B. Lethbridge’s interview with R. S. Thomas, published in the Anglo-Welsh Review, is a delightful compliment to a mid-morning strong cup of tea. Here are two enjoyable moments from Thomas:

‘I’m very conscious as an idea that there must be wonderful people in the world, but I don’t meet them’.

‘I’m sort of Non-Conformist without agreeing with the Non-Conformist way of worship. I find the average Non-Conformist place of worship so ugly. Not that the [Established] churches are much better, but the average Non-Conformist chapel is such a hideous place – I can’t worship. And yet I like the sort of freedom, their emphasis on the Bible as being the sort of direct word of God to the individual, that you don’t need a priest to come between you and God. I like their disassociation from the Establishment in England, the King and Queen and this sort of rubbish. I like it for that side. I don’t like the system of deacons … I dislike cathedrals on the whole, big places, because they are associated in my mind with English imperialism. I see these royal processions and the bishop in all his regalia and the Union Jack flying, you know, hanging in the corner. I look upon the Church of England as having betrayed Christianity by its acquiescence in war and this sort of thing’.


  1. Jason, thanks . Is this interview available online somewhere? I have always seen Thomas as one of the grumpy old servants who ground the church in truth.


  2. RS also says of Nonconformity (in a letter to Simon Barker, 21 March 1983):

    “Language where the deity is concerned certainly fascinates me. One of the things which least attracts me about nonconformity is that ministers pray as though God were listening at the keyhole… My portrayal of God in the way you mention has often been as a smack against bourgeois cosiness — the ‘our heavenly father’ gang.”

    Thomas also hated hymn-singing!


  3. @ Kim: Yes, that too ;-) The absolute scandal of public infamiliarity with ‘the great absence in our lives, the empty silence within, the place where we go seeking, not in hope to arrive or find’.


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