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Sydney Cook

Welshman and MRA worker

Sydney Bertram Cook was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1915, the youngest of 5 siblings. His father, a stonemason, had moved to Wales from Bridgewater, Somerset, for work, and later helped to build some of the beautiful buildings that form the heart of the capital of Wales. Sydney was the first of his family to attend university, winning a scholarship to study modern languages, French and German, at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was here in the 1930s, that he encountered the ideas of the Oxford Group, and met students from Oxford and Cambridge who had become part of this growing movement. Initially skeptical, Sydney purchased a book: “For Sinners Only”, written about the Group, as a birthday gift for his older brother. On the long train ride home to Cardiff, he read the book himself, and became intrigued enough to try out some of the ideas he had just read about. He got up early for the first time ever at home to stoke the fire that heated the living room; and he apologised to his sister, two years older, for the constant arguments that had, until then, been a hallmark of their relationship. His family noticed the changes!

Later, back in Cambridge, Sydney “gave his life to God”, a commitment he renewed on that date every year thereafter. After graduating, Sydney worked with the Oxford Group in London. Unfit for military service, he continued to be a full time volunteer with the Oxford Group (renamed Moral Re-Armament in 1938) in Britain.

After the war, Sydney joined other colleagues in Germany as they worked in the heart of the coal mining and steel producing Ruhr to offer an alternative to the Marxist philosophy that was catching the imagination of many workers at that time. Sydney’s fluent German was an asset; and it was in Germany that he met his future wife. Dietlinde, known as Linde, Helmes was among the first group of Germans permitted to leave postwar Germany to attend an MRA conference in the newly opened MRA center in Caux, Switzerland. Sydney and Linde were married in the Ruhr in 1953 and their only child, a daughter Angela, was born there. As a couple, they traveled to Japan with a group of German miners who had written a play “Hoffnung”/“Hope” about their experiences in Germany. They also traveled to America. In the early 1960s they returned to the UK, and in 1963 they settled in Sydney’s hometown of Cardiff. Here Angela rejoined them, from the small Caux School in Switzerland where she had spent five years alongside other children of full-time MRA volunteers.

In South Wales, Sydney and Linde got to know, and became friends with, miners and their families in the Rhondda Valleys, continuing the work they had begun in the Ruhr. In addition to many visits to their homes, Sydney and Linde also invited the miners up to London to see plays being performed at the Westminster Theatre as part of Moral Re-Armament’s outreach to both management and labor at a time of some industrial strife. Groups of miners, and steel workers, went from South Wales to London by train and buses for several years . In the mid 1960s, a musical created by young people from India traveled to the UK, including to South Wales. Linde and Sydney were subsequently invited to India and spent several years there, losing their hearts to the country and its people.

In 1972, Sydney along with his close friend, Garth Lean, and their two daughters and several others, co-authored “The Black and White Book”, — a distillation of the ideas, and their applications, of MRA in a format small enough to slip into one’s pocket. It was reprinted many times, and in many languages.

A life-long Methodist, Sydney credited MRA with helping him to make practical the faith that sustained him throughout his life. He died in Cardiff in 1998.

Nationality
United Kingdom
Primary country of residence
United Kingdom
Nationality
United Kingdom
Primary country of residence
United Kingdom