|'NORWAY ABLAZE - DENMARK SHAKEN'|
At the end of the house-party Fredrik Ramm was offered a lift back to Oslo by Halvor Mustad, the son of a business man who had made a fortune by selling horse-shoe nails to both sides during World War I. Young Mustad was near-sighted and cheerfully reckless. Slithering down the snow-covered mountain road at high speed, he piled up in a snow-drift. Ramm emerged with the remark, 'What an excellent chance to have an "Oxford meeting" while we wait for another car,' and duly called the local villagers together to hear 'the miracles of Høsbjør'.8
'The Oxford Group Conquers Oslo: President Hambro, Ronald Fangen, editor Ramm and several other well-known men witness to their conversion' was a typical headline 9 about the first of three meetings that took place in one of Oslo's largest halls immediately after Høsbjør. Fourteen thousand people crowded in to them, and thousands more were turned away. Three thousand students attended a meeting at the University, and informal gatherings took place with railwaymen, nurses and doctors, teachers, civil servants and business and professional groups. The Military and Naval Club invited ten ex-officers travelling with Buchman to address them, with the Crown Prince present. Behind the scenes there was a ceaseless stream of personal interviews, informally estimated at 500 a day.
Early in December the visiting team, reinforced by Norwegians, moved on to Bergen. Again there were the same throngs. 'Oxford Conquers Bergen' ran one headline, as sub-editors began to drop the word 'group' in the interests of space.10 The idea got around that an 'Oxford' man was one who had undergone a transforming spiritual experience - to the embarrassment of a visiting Oxford don.
Helge Wellejus, a Danish journalist whose articles appeared regularly in some twenty Scandinavian papers, described Buchman in action at one of these Bergen meetings: '. . . With Buchman on the rostrum the questions pour over the audience. He describes a situation. Short and crisp. Then a question. It is repeated. Uncomfortably aggressive. But always something which concerns everyone.
'He encourages a reply. But he catches it in the air. Turns it with lightning speed. And the bullet lodges itself in the bark of your brain. He never appeals to emotions. Often people who come from outside are moved. Then the Oxford people are on their guard. They seize the first opportunity for a humorous remark. The hall is filled with laughter... You sense the connection. Freud is a mere schoolboy compared to this. But there is nothing the least mystical or psychoanalytical about the whole thing. Everything is brilliantly a matter of course. Because the audience is forced all the time to creative participation. ...'11 In Bergen one of the visitors was put to stay with the City Librarian, a much respected atheist called Smith, whose wife had recently reached the end of a long search for faith through meeting the Oxford Group. The visitor was an ex-atheist lecturer in moral philosophy, and Mrs Smith thought that he would be just the man to convert her husband. No such conversion took place. However, the indomitable Mrs Smith - one son describes her as one who would willingly have been torn to pieces by lions in the Coliseum but found household chores insufferable - herself came to be so different that all four Smith children found the same faith. The eldest son, who although sharing a room with his brother had not spoken to him for two years, apologised to him. All four later travelled with Buchman in various lands, Victor - the younger brother and an artist - once laying down his brush for two years to do so. 'It was in a small hall, with room for barely 100 people that, as a lad of seventeen, I uttered the words, I give my life to God,' he says. 'The meeting was led by a young engineer named Viggo Ullman, the father of the actress Liv Ullman, who can hardly have been born at the time. But the young engineer was typical of that troop of modern, forward-striving people, with no church back-ground, who had now suddenly become leaders of a dynamic religious development.'12*
(* At the age of 50, Victor Smith adopted his mother's name of Sparre. He became in later life one of the principal Western contacts of the Russian dissidents, and Solzhenitsyn travelled to Norway to meet him soon after his deportation from the Soviet Union. See his autobiography The Flame in the Darkness (Grosvenor, 1979), first published as Stenene skal rope. (Tiden Norsk Forlag, 1974.)