Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 8th October 2023
Dear Friends, When I can’t get to sleep at night, I often recite the first passage of ‘Advices and queries’ to myself: ‘Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of … Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 8th October 2023
When I can’t get to sleep at night, I often recite the first passage of ‘Advices and queries’ to myself:
‘Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.’
There’s something deeply comforting about these words, particularly when I’m closing my eyes at the end of the day and looking forward to the new life of tomorrow.
At the same time, there are some powerful words here that are enough to keep me awake: love, God, Light, darkness, life… The biggest word of all, for me, is truth.
What kind of truth are we being encouraged to trust? The empirical truth of science, where experiences are tested to find the best explanation? Or the truth of revelation, where we sincerely believe things that can’t be proved or disproved?
The truth ‘in your hearts’ sounds more like faith than science. But I worry about this. I think this kind of truth can get in the way of building a shared reality. And I think a shared reality is important.
Recent research has shown that Trump’s supporters believe he is being honest when he tells them that his inauguration had the largest crowd, or that he won the 2020 presidential election. They don’t necessarily agree that this is the literal truth. But they think that Trump believes what he is saying – that this is, to borrow a phrase, ‘the truth in his heart’.
So, I worry about what happens when the truth in our hearts is at odds with the truth of our senses. Isn’t this the way to a world of ‘alternative facts’, where we each believe what we feel to be true, rather than what the evidence tells us to be true? How can we deal with shared challenges like climate change if we can’t agree on what’s really going on?
On the other hand, I don’t think we can live by empirical truth alone. We need something more to find our way through life. Our senses can tell us that there’s a fork in the road, but they can’t tell us which path to take. Science can tell us that we are disrupting the world’s ecosystems, but it can’t tell us what to do about it.
To make choices, we need to decide what’s important. And for that, we need some kind of worldview, some kind of moral framework – some kind of faith.
It’s a paradox. The truth of the senses and the truth of the heart are incommensurate, but mutually dependent. They exist in different dimensions, but we need both in order to make sense of the world.
And we need something more, as well. As ‘Advices and queries’ tells us, we need to take heed of the promptings of love, as well as truth. We can get very busy in our heads with the pursuit of truth, which brings out a frantic desire to know, to understand, to be right. But the concept of love acts as a beautiful counterpart to this. It softens us, makes us humble and brings a smile to our faces.
Even if I am committed to my pursuit of truth, love helps me to recognise the importance of other people’s journeys. And maybe it can remind us all to temper our own truth with the recognition of others’, so that, through recognising our differences, we can build something meaningful together.
on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)