Dr Raymond Winch

Today, I found the Liturgiae Causa article by a charming young man who lives in Kent, with whom I occasionally correspond. I met him in London recently in the company of a dear friend who is also keen on the liturgy and deeply critical of Roman Catholic traditionalism. He recently announced his intention to become Orthodox. My prayers and good wishes accompany him as he makes his slow, thoughtful and prayerful journey.

We who are now in our 50’s remember another period when we were through with Series III in the Church of England or the Novus Ordo. Our reaction was not ideological or political but rather more liturgical. The scales quickly fell from our eyes. We also remember our elders sharing that same experience of disillusionment with us. We have figures, often odd personalities, but who had their sensitivities. I particularly remember John Tyson from my early days with the SSPX in 1981 (I never went to their seminary, unlike what some say about me). His speciality was compiling an Ordo for the Roman rite as it stood in about 1920, and as his health failed, the work was taken over by Rubricarius (as he is known on the Internet).

Throughout my life, I have tended to befriend men some thirty years my senior, sometimes more. Their memories went back to the 1950’s and sometimes were mature young men in the 1930’s. One friend I had in the 1980’s was born in 1914 and became a Roman Catholic in 1930. Fr Coulson, who taught me how to serve Low Mass and ideas that served as an antidote to SSPX extremism was from 1912, served in World War II in the Italian campaign and joined the Camaldolese monks. He returned to his native England and was taken care of by a couple of Carmelite tertiaries living in Wimbledon. These and other men of that generation (about fifteen years older than my father) had a tremendous influence on me. They lived their youth in the “good old days” with the same difficulties as we lived through the 1970’s and 80’s.

One such man, whom I met during Holy Week in 1988 was Dr Raymond Winch. I went to spend some days with the Dominicans in Oxford to explore the possibility of a vocation with them. During a foray to Blackwell’s Bookshop, I stumbled across The Canonical Mass of the English Orthodox by Dr. Raymond Winch and another pamphlet with the title Orthodox Manual and Calendar. The Gregorian Club was based at 41 Essex Street, so I just went and rang the doorbell. That is how I met Dr Winch and enjoyed his company and immense learning.

He was as eccentric as they come, living in a very untidy and unkempt house. I had known others, and my own office gets into a mess, even though I am married. At the time, I was still doing my licentiate studies at Fribourg. He was an academic liturgical scholar with a doctorate in philosophy and many years experience in school and university teaching. His real subject was philosophy.

I never learned the details of this man’s life, but he seems to have been in his late 60’s when I met him. I would place his birth at around 1920. A cradle Roman Catholic with a fascination with Anglicanism, he would have been about 30 when Pius XII made his “infallible” definition of the Assumption of Our Lady. That seems to be the event that alienated him from Roman Catholicism. He became Greek Orthodox, as did another in about the same era, Timothy Ware who became Archimandrite and then Bishop Kallistos. Dr Winch never received Orders and remained a layman.

When I knew him, continuing to see him at his home in Oxford, or at his “other home” – the Oxford Union or the Bodleian Library, he used the Benedictine Office and attended Liturgy at his local Orthodox parish. He organised lectures at Pusey House and invited me to talk about my work on the Tridentine / Pius V reform (codification) of the Roman missal.

I and others have observed that he stood out by his gentle manners and courtesy, never judging and always ready to listen. I have even heard Dr. Winch referred to as a “new Joseph Overbeck“! Having spoken with him about this work and many other subjects, I was aware that he put in many hours of work and research from the wealth of manuscripts and published books in the various university and college libraries of Oxford.

Needless to say, the ideas expressed in his research never came to fruition in any recognised Orthodox Church. From about the mid 1990’s, he became highly disillusioned with Orthodoxy. He was a medievalist. As his health failed, Dr. Winch began to attend the Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in the old rite without being officially reconciled or receiving the Sacraments. If I remember well, I received an e-mail in about 2000 to inform me that he had died and that he requested a secular funeral.

I would now like to ask if there are any who read this blog and knew Ray Winch, or who had detailed knowledge about him. He has been largely forgotten since he died, and someone who had vaguely been in touch with me is in possession of his papers and unpublished works in view to getting them published. Google is parsimonious about him apart from the Canonical Mass and the Orthodox Manual and Calendar. His passing serves to remind us of our fragility and insignificance despite however much study we have done in the world’s greatest universities.

If there is any more information or reminiscences, please send them in. Any other comments concerning eastern or western Orthodoxy, not on this exact topic – please, put them in the Orthodox Blow-out Department.

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10 Responses to Dr Raymond Winch

  1. Jacob Flournoy says:

    I first became aware of Dr. Winch’s liturgy through conversations with a non-canonical Orthodox bishop and was pleased to read your article on the same. The liturgy is approved for use in the bishop’s diocese as well as one produced by Dom Augustine Whitfield. Both are rather monastic, Dom Augustine’s is more elaborate and fellows the rite of 1570 more closely. With that said, I am surprised that neither liturgy, though both have episcopal approbation, is used in the diocese. All of the parishes celebrate the so-called “Liturgy of St. Gregory”, which is a highly Byzantinized Tridentine Mass chocked full of litanies and other borrowings from the East. It would seem the Western Rite Orthodox suffer from an identity crisis which may very well be their undoing. It is unfortunate that Dr. Winch’s excellent work goes uncelebrated.

    • I’m glad we in the Continuing Anglican world don’t have to be concerned with reconstructing what would have been had there been no schism between Constantinople and Rome. We just celebrate our “developed” liturgies and get on with it. The Carthusian rite is distinguished by its austerity and simplicity, based on the same sources as in the “Winch” rite (Ordo Romanus Primus and the Gregorian Sacramentary). The greatest problem with any kind of uniatism is assimilating the liturgical tradition of a Church the host Church finds heretical. I’m glad it’s not my problem as an Anglicanism using Sarum and occasionally the Anglican Missal.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    As I first met you thanks to Ray Winch (and remember enjoying your lecture under Gregorian Club auspices), I will contribute a couple data, or what I take and hope to be data, while wishing I had more certain ones.

    I think you will find him mentioned in one or the other (or both?) of the volumes of A.J. Ayers’s autobiography, though not as kindly as he deserves. He was a student and junior colleague and friend of Ayers, but, he was quick to add, ‘never a “disciple”!’

    As far as I recall, he was never in communion with the Pope, though he had a lot of time for the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas (among many others) – whether (1) he said, or (2) we may say, he was some sort of ‘Thomist’, therefore, (1) I cannot exactly recall, and (2) can’t confidently say. He certainly loved lucid argumentation.

    I think he had been baptized in the Church of England as a baby, but cannot recall how active he ever said he was, growing up.

    He was always, so far as I recall, generally encouraged and supported in his ‘Gregorian’ work by Archimandrite, then Bishop, Kallistos, though this (alas) never took the form of the celebration of his Canonical Mass.

    He was very active in the Oxford (University) C.S. Lewis Society from early on and for the rest of his life. The Society always took interest in the other ‘Inklings’, in Chesterton, and in George MacDonald (the ‘Seven’ of the Journal so named, edited by Dr. Barbara Reynolds, among others), and their works and thought, and Ray was particularly an enjoyer of Chesterton.

    I remember a very lively debate in Pusey House he helped organize and chaired, with Father Oddie (as he then was), among others, on one side, and a couple not-unembittered feminists on the other. (This was certainly after What Will Happen to God? had appeared in 1984).

    He came along on a bus trip organized by St. Margaret’s, Kingston Road, in connexion with the the 800th anniversary of the consecratiion of St. Hugh as Bishop of Lincoln, preparing lovely Spanish omelets we could eat cold for our ‘picnic’ lunch, and browsing around a second-hand book shop half-way up the hill to the Cathedral where I was delighted to find a copy of Dix’s Shape of the Liturgy.

    • This is just the kind of reminiscence I am looking for. I felt sure that he had been a Roman Catholic and not an Anglican – though his spirit was much more Anglican than Roman Catholic. He described in great detail his reminiscences of Latin liturgies in the 1940’s and the more noble aspects of the Liturgical Movement from Germany, France and Belgium.

      He was above all a medievalist and speculated on “unreformed” liturgies in the context of the medieval parish or chapter of canons in a collegiate church. He centred his conversation around a fictitious community of this kind. He developed his thoughts often frustratingly slowly and was not always easy to follow. Nevertheless, the sleepless nights (at least until about 5am) haunted me for years, and have formed many of my present ideas of “conciliar” Catholicism and something in a “natural state” or as natural as possible for anything man-made.

      I miss him.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I miss him, too.

        He was so convivial, but, even if grey winter gloom had not gotten him down, not a one for sending everyone a Christmas card, or the mere ‘chat’ of insubstantial correspondence. So, I could live with the thought of not being in regular ‘touch’ at a distance unless there was something worth writing about, but the idea of never seeing him again in this life was – and is – like a football in the face. And an ache. Then again, he was so alive, that that sense, too, remains: so vivid a sense, that it seems it can’t be merely memory. It reminds me of part of the sorts of things C.S. Lewis wrote about Charles Williams after he died, as, on 20 May 1945, a few days after C.W. died suddenly and unexpectedly, to one of his own old pupils, “The odd thing is that his death has made my faith stronger than it was a week ago. And I find that all that talk about ‘feeling he is closer to us than before’ isn’t just talk. It’s just what it feels like – I can’t put it into words. One seems at moments to be living in a new world. Lots, lots of pain, but not a particle of depression or resentment….” With my experience of Ray, there is a closeness in the vividness, and a sort of encouragement, but depression as well as grief in the inaccessibility – never to be reminded in detail by a subject taken up again, and further delighted and instructed in conversation: the weight of Lear’s pentameter is there – “Never, never, never, never, never.” It would be lovely if something further in the way of writing turns up, even if only fragments like lively vignettes – a written version of one of his detailed reminiscences of Latin liturgies in the 1940′s, for example.

        Someone must have a snapshot or two, somewhere, vernal or autumnal enough to include his full, ancient, eminently practical cloak, or enough of a close-up to reveal his equally old and eminent practical pince-nez. (Though whether any photo could do his quiet liveliness justice…)

        I remember his distinctive ‘take’ on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, not to be horrified by the thinness of the veneer of civilization and the rapid and thorough descent into vicious barbarity on the part of the majority, so much as to admire the sense and sturdiness and perseverance of Ralph as something realistic and encouraging. (All sorts of interesting comparisons occur to me, now, having written this – which never occurred to me, then – with Alfred when he hears “Naught for your comfort” in ‘The Ballad of the White Horse’, or things Lewis and Tolkien say about the heroes, gods, and the end of the world in northern mythology – O, to be able to discuss them with him!)

  3. William Tighe says:

    Just days ago I rec’d from a friend a little booklet which he picked up in a second-hand bookshop: The Assumption of Our Lady and Catholic Theology by Victor Bennett and Raymond Winch (London, 1950: SPCK). I have done no more than to glance at it, but it seems to be arguing against the then-impending papal definition on the basis of its being both inoppportune and without historical foundation. I know nothing about Victor Bennett and had I not recalled having read this posting on Dr. Winch I would have thought him to be an Anglican.

    • From my discussions with Dr Winch (I was seriously considering Western Orthodoxy at the time) his thought echoed that of Fr Guettée, Overbeck and Bishop Kallistos Ware. Dr Winch was the least polemical and quietly scholarly of them, but he did react against the extremes of papalism. I don’t think Dr Winch claimed that Our Lady returned to corruption when she died, but rather objected to such an event becoming the subject of a dogma. He had been a Roman Catholic, whereas Bishop Kallistos Ware had been an Anglican.

      I had a lot of sympathy with that movement, but my difficulty with it was that it was so academic like 19th century German and Swiss Old Catholicism. Now it can be argued that popular Catholicism is just about eradicated in the western world – except perhaps in the main places of pilgrimage like Lourdes, Fatima and Lisieux. Dr Winch himself grew disillusioned with the western Orthodox aspiration and reverted to Roman Catholicism without however going through official reconciliation or receiving the Sacraments. He died unshriven, but I have confidence, having known him and his purity of intention, that God took him into his Kingdom all the same.

  4. Jeremy Marshall says:

    Having stumbled across your page, I thought I would offer some reminiscences.

    I first met Ray Winch in 1982, in the early days of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society, when (I think) he was brought along by a mutual friend, Clive Tolley (both then being members of the Orthodox congregation in North Oxford). He was a constant member of the Society, and chaired a number of events, including a deeply mismatched debate between a group including myself (a zoology student who dabbled in religion) and a theologian of great erudition (I suspect it may have been Nigel Biggar, now Regius Professor) on the proposal “Morality is dependent upon theism”.

    He spoke of teaching at Chard (mainly history, I think, along with chemistry when he had to and philosophy when he could), a schoolteacher of the kind that excels in bringing the best out of intelligent but socially disengaged pupils. His conversation was immensely stimulating, and as an undergraduate it did much to teach me the art of argument. Though as an increasingly liberal Anglican I did not share his ecclesiastical outlook (which I once characterized as “historical fundamentalism”), I sympathized with his frustration as someone attracted to Orthodoxy but not to Greek or Slavic culture, and having access to a rather primitive University computer, I was happy to act as his typist for the first edition of the “Canonical Mass”, learning a good deal of church history in the process. I still have a picture and lamp that he gave me in thanks, on condition that I did not light the lamp in front of the picture (a Greek but Western-influenced and strictly heretical depiction of the undepictable Holy Trinity). I did not have the impression that the membership of the Gregorian Club ever extended to more than a handful of enthusiasts of his acquaintance.

    David Ll. Dodds has mentioned Ray’s enthusiasm for Chesterton, and he described himself politically as a Distributist. In philosophy, his great master was Abelard. Of his upbringing I know only that as a teenager he would cycle around the countryside at weekends to visit medieval churches. While I was learning to drive in the late 1980s, he would borrow my rusting Morris Traveller for the same purpose.

    He was, as you say, hugely untidy. When I once dined at his home, I had discreetly to remove from my plate a fly which had inadvertently been cooked into the dinner. He was frequently seen lumbering around Oxford with a large bag full of papers, and he had the unnerving habit of stopping to elaborate some thought which had occurred to him, even if he was halfway across the High Street at the time. As a self-described “clericus non tonsuratus” he had an old prie-dieu in his room where he said the Latin office, and a shed where, among cardboard boxes of junk bearing such labels as “vinculae”, he kept a supply of cider and beer, having a Chestertonian disdain for water. By the time he suffered a heart attack in the mid 1990s, I saw him rarely, but an old pupil tracked me down and I visited him in the John Radcliffe Hospital. His only two requests were for beer (I smuggled in a large plastic bottle into the ward) and a copy of Aelred’s treatise on friendship (he had to make do with Cicero’s “De Amicitia”, which was the best I could do at short notice).

    I lost touch after marrying and moving to Gloucestershire. He had spoken of his intention to leave his estate to Magdalen College School, for no better reason than that he had been impressed by the demeanour of the pupils he had met around the town, and there is now a bursary at the school in his memory.

    • Many thanks for this precious account. I was staying in Oxford during Holy Week of 1988 with the Blackfriars, where I was “sniffing” but decided not to go any further. As a result of meeting Ray Winch and attending a week’s seminar in Geneva organised in part by my university (Fribourg), I was getting quite seriously interested in the idea of western rite Orthodoxy.

      I must have spent several whole nights in conversation with Ray from Holy Week of 1988 until about 1990. His main preoccupation was thinking how things would have been in England had there been no Reformation, or at least if some college of canons had survived in their immemorial foundation. Indeed, he was also concerned for the art of debate and argumentation in place of the “might is right” of present-day apologetics and ideology.

      I remember his devotion to the Monastic Office. His hair would go off in all directions from a bald crown (a natural “tonsure”) and was cut evenly all round, giving him something of the appearance of a medieval cleric. He often spoke of wine, beer and cider and his idea of spirits being for medicinal use. He knew that I would sympathise, since I live on the Continent, and we drink all three beverages in France (though I miss an English pint of bitter).

      He introduced me to St Aelred of Rievaulx and De Amicitia, which was an eye-opener and vaccinated me against the “reformed” Catholicism of the Counter Reformation. This work has been of tremendous help in dealing with marriage issues. I hope others will come up with more anecdotes of Ray Winch, and help keep his memory alive. He was more of an influence on me than I often remember – not in the way of getting me over to Orthodoxy, but getting me to re-think the influence traditionalist Roman Catholicism had on me at the time. I thank him. His last letter to me was when I was a working guest at the Abbey of Triors in the first half of 1997.

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