31 October 2007

Counsellor: Dr Martin Israel

Counsellor: Dr Martin Israel

Canon Michael Perry writes:
BEING counselled by Martin Israel was often a disconcerting experience. There were frequent long silences — on occasion lasting the whole of the session. Yet people in their hundreds came to him for spiritual sustenance, and few went away disappointed.

Why? It was that he seemed to have an intuitive — some would say, a psychic — understanding of them and of their deepest spiritual needs, which he helped them to sort out at a deeper than verbal level.

His lectures and retreat addresses were greatly treasured. He would speak almost as though the words were being given to him from some outside source, and he needed no notes to be able to speak for an hour at a time, in complex but perfectly formed sentences. It was all solid material, without padding, and with few illustrative anecdotes.

Martin Israel, who died on 23 October, aged 80, was born in South Africa, the son of liberal Jewish parents, and studied medicine at Witwatersrand University. He came to England, where he became a Senior Lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons, and wrote the standard textbook on histopathology.

At the same time, his long pilgrimage led him eventually to Anglican Christianity, and to his involvement in spiritual direction and the ministry of healing. In 1974, he was ordained. He was Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity, Prince Consort Road, from 1983 until 1996.

Intensely shy and a natural loner, who suffered from depression for many years, he never promised believers an easy spiritual experience. His honesty in this regard, and his evident spiritual maturity, brought him a large following. The titles of his many books mirrored this uncompromising honesty — they included Precarious Living, The Dark Face of Reality, The Pain that Heals, and Doubt: The way of growth.

As chairman of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, under the presidency of Chancellor Garth Moore, he rescued that organisation from a pseudo-Spiritualism, so that it could become firmly linked with mainstream Christianity, and could be a lifeline for people of psychic sensitivity who wanted to remain in the Christian faith.

He took over the presidency after Garth Moore retired, and continued in that capacity for 15 years. He was also President of the Guild of Health from 1983 to 1990.

He died after a long and debilitating illness. He was unmarried.

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