Eric & religion
After Reginald’s second marriage and the family’s move to Alexandra Road, Watford, Eric used to go home at weekends; his stepmother and father were often at loggerheads and Eric tried to calm things down. It was on one such visit that he met Dr. Cyril Sparrow, TB officer for Hertfordshire, a member of St Andrews Church in Watford and a member of the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group had been founded by a man called Buchman and involved Oxbridge people. Its tenet was to share religious experiences rather than worshipping in isolation and it was to have a great influence on Eric for the rest of his life. Some of its radical ideas worried Reginald and he asked his sister Mary to speak to Eric, hoping she would dissuade him. In fact, Eric found Mary had considerable sympathy with their philosophy.
Eric was an active churchgoer, an evangelical Christian whose religious belief was a pillar of strength to him and shaped his life. For many years he attended services at his local church, St. Andrews, where he was studying to be a lay-preacher until differences in theological interpretation between him and both the vicar and the Bishop led him to transfer his allegiance to St. Luke’s in Watford.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, he had been so overworked as an actor and scenery maker at the Cambridge Festival Theatre, he was exhausted. A letter of March 1940 from his father, Reginald, to Frank Owen in Canada stated, "I have Eric at home at present recovering from influenza and a kind of nervous breakdown. He was badly overworked at Cambridge being scene designer and painter as well as one of the regular actors. The company did badly so he is still short of much of his pay, with the result that I have had to pay up to get him out of debt there and get him home. He is now on a month’s respite from reporting to the military medical board, owing to his health, but is due to sign up."