From the Archives: Lambeth Conference, 1948

 

By Mary Klein, archivist

As Bishop Noble Powell made plans to attend the Lambeth Conference of 1948, the Standing Committee of the diocese surprised him with the announcement that a fund to send not only the bishop, but his wife to England had been established. Mary Rustin Powell accompanied her husband aboard the U.S.S. America, leaving New York on June 23 and departing from England on August 13. After the trip Mrs. Powell wrote the ladies of her home parish, Emmanuel Church, Baltimore, who had contributed generously to the purse making her adventure possible. That letter was published in the Maryland Churchman so that all you had contributed to the purse could glimpse the exciting journey. Following are excerpts from Mary Powell’s reminiscences of her nearly two-month sojourn abroad. Among the notable events shipboard, she wrote, “Those were six wonderful days enjoyed to the full, especially by me, perhaps, for never in the 24 years since I’ve been married have I known just where I could find my husband.”

Remarking on the scarcity of food and consumer goods in England, even three years after the end of World War II, Mrs. Powell noted, “I don’t understand how they can be so cheerful eating such rations year after year. In fact, we Americans are spoiled in every way. I can think of nothing I would rather do than send everyone I met a nice box of food and clothes.” The sight of the ruins in London touched her deeply, and at her first sight of Canterbury she observed, “I walked under the beautiful Cloister Gate, and as we climbed the steps I noticed some snapdragons growing out of ruins. There was no earth to be seen, just the stone; yet flowers were growing. I couldn’t help feeling it was typical of the British spirit – flowers growing out of ruins.”

Thrilled by the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, Mary Powell made some observations, “The Princess Margaret came our way. She is quite small and lovely looking in a pretty robin’s egg blue taffeta suit, hat and shoes to match. The Shah of Iran was there with his retinue; several Indian potentates with their lovely wives exquisitely dressed – their clothes floated around them. Probably the most interesting people were the former Prime Minister and Mrs. Churchill. He was jolly and gallant to everyone – seemed to know everyone and never stopped smoking his cigar. When they left everyone cheered, and I wondered if Mr. Atlee were around and what his feelings were.”

In closing to her friends at Emmanuel and throughout the diocese, the bishop’s wife wrote, “And so my trip abroad is over, but the memory of it will always remain, and with it my gratitude for your generosity in making it possible. Thank you again for these thrilling weeks.”