Rabbi and liturgist born Hans Sigismund Rahmer, in Berlin, Germany, on 30 May 1924, the only son and younger child of Ferdinand Josef Adolf Rahmer (1887–1942?), chief French correspondent at Deutsche Bank, and his wife, Charlotte, née Landshut (1897–1942?).
Rayner was ordained into the Liberal Jewish ministry by Rabbi Israel Mattuck in June 1953, and served the South London Liberal Synagogue in Streatham as their first full-time paid minister until 1957, when he received the 'call', as he described it, to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood, to be associate minister to Rabbi Leslie Edgar.
The south London years were happy times. On 19 June 1955 he married Jane Priscilla Heilbronn (b. 1931), a secretary, and daughter of Lionel Heilbronn, manufacturer's agent, and his wife, Pauline; they had two sons and one daughter. In the early years of their marriage they lived penuriously—the salary was minuscule—in Upper Norwood, and made many friends. Rayner was particularly remembered in the congregation not only for his brilliant sermons and his unfailing devotion to pastoral care, but for his car, which, due to his lack of money, was an old, failing Austin Seven named Gomer after the prophet Hosea's wife, who had been unfaithful but whom he loved just the same. The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, with its place at the heart of the Liberal Jewish movement at the time, suited John Rayner perfectly.
(Baroness Julia Neuberger)