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  • Roger Cooke

Remembering Raymond Smith

Earlier this month, the CMSI family lost one of its much-loved elders, with the passing of Rev Canon Raymond Smith, who previously served as General Secretary of the society.

A number of former and current CMSI staff, Mission Partners and members attended Raymond’s funeral and thanksgiving service on 23rd July in Christ Church, Delgany. Raymond’s successor as General Secretary, Rev Canon Cecil Wilson, shared the following words of tribute:

Raymond Smith graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with BA and BD degrees in 1956. In the same year he was both ordained and married. He had met Audrey Jones while at Trinity and together they moved to Belfast for Raymond's first and only curacy in the shipyard parish of Ballymacarrett.

Three years later, Raymond and Audrey offered themselves to CMS for mission service and were accepted to go to St Paul's Theological College in Limuru, Kenya where Raymond was to lecture in Old Testament studies. After training at the CMS Training College in England they departed for Kenya in 1960 with two-year-old Peter and four-week-old Ros.

The Smiths remained in Kenya for ten years throughout the traumatic Mau Mau uprising for independence. They arrived back in Dublin in January 1971 when Raymond was appointed General Secretary of the Hibernian Church Missionary Society (HCMS).

From the start, Raymond had a vision of an Irish Society committed to educating the church in mission and both sending and receiving mission partners. As that work grew and developed it eventually led to the formation of the Church Mission Society Ireland, an autonomous independent society within the world family of CMS.

Raymond was a visionary, always several steps ahead and he embraced the new technology which was just beginning to appear. He immediately saw the benefits and possibilities of word processors and it wasn’t long before he introduced them into the offices. He was also instrumental in negotiating a television service on RTE which became an annual fixture for more than 25 years.

In 1986 Raymond was appointed rector of Powerscourt, leaving an enormous gap in CMSI, but he was always there in the background, only giving advice when it was asked for, always present at events and a tremendous encouragement to the staff.

CMSI Mission Director, Jenny Smyth, adds the following reflections:

Canon Nigel Waugh, who led the service of Thanksgiving, opened his tribute with the words "Raymond was a gentleman, a kind, gentle man": words echoed by many.

Raymond is fondly remembered for his warmth and hospitality, for his ability to listen appreciatively and draw people out and for his sympathetic and supportive manner, which was a great encouragement to many. Raymond’s ability to think deeply about theological issues, inspired by his breadth of study, informed his conversation and faith.

Raymond’s daughter, Fiona, spoke on behalf of the family, remembering her father as an enthusiastic sailor, photographer, mountain climber, scout and gardener. She spoke most lovingly of a father committed to his family who will be deeply missed, especially by Audrey his wife of so many years.

During their years in Kenya, Raymond made a beautiful garden and earned the Swahili name of ‘Bwana wa miti’ or ‘Father Of Trees’. Perhaps this is also a most appropriate title for someone who was always focused on nurturing those around him, within his own family, his community and in the worldwide Church.

We celebrate Raymond’s 26 years of service with CMSI, both as a mission partner in Kenya developing church leaders, and as the General Secretary – guiding the organisation to maturity as an independent mission agency, working alongside the Church of Ireland, developing its own unique contribution to global mission, mobilising people and resources in God’s Kingdom service.

We thank God for all our memories of Raymond and His life of service to others.

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