Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 5th November 2023
Dear Friends, The paramount issue occupying most of our thoughts as I settle to write is the conflagration in Israel and Gaza, which is particularly dire and looks set to … Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 5th November 2023
The paramount issue occupying most of our thoughts as I settle to write is the conflagration in Israel and Gaza, which is particularly dire and looks set to be even more dire by the time this message goes out. Most of us are overwhelmed and despairing just contemplating it. To venture any comments without having been through the equivalent to what either side faces feels arrogant. The suffering is so acute on both sides, that the pitfalls in saying anything without giving unintentional offence appear insurmountable and wise counsel, even if we could give it, is unlikely to be heeded. We are baffled how to react.QF&P 2.23 Bob Harwood on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)This is not the only intractable conflict either. The Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on, as do the situations in Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere which are unabated but don’t get much or any media coverage. Moreover, we all have the individual more personal problems of our own lives to navigate, on top of which we have lists of other contributions to improving the world, unique to ourselves. So, even if we have insight into what we could do, we are juggling the priorities of what is most urgent and effective for us to attend to. Confusion about life’s purpose becomes severely clouded. Paralysis seems inevitable. Those who were at the discussion after meeting last Sunday will recognise that many of these themes also arose spontaneously in that discussion after one participant said she was disappointed that there had been no ministry on the subject at that day’s meeting. Quakers have long recognised that what is needed in such situations is an inward turning to prayer, testifying to the importance of silence for that. What to pray for? Well no-one can tell us that; it’s something we have to find for ourselves. Paul wrote to the Romans that “we do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the spirit means …”. Our prayer surely cannot be like asking for a magical transformation, but it can lead to an inner calm and acceptance, a feeling of love for all protagonists and ourselves. It can lead to clarification, even if dim and tentative of what steps forward we can take. The silence, like the vacuum in quantum mechanics, is fizzing with nascent possibilities from which even new possibilities may emerge. Chapter 2 of QfP contains many useful insights including this from Harold Loukes in 1967:- Prayer is experienced as deeper than words or busy thoughts. ‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts’, said Fox. It is marked by a kind of relaxed readiness, a ‘letting-go’ of the problems and perplexities with which the mind is occupied, and a waiting in ‘love and truth’: the truth about oneself, the truth about the world, deeper than the half-truths we see when we are busy in it about our own planning and scheming, the love in which we are held when we think of others more deeply than our ordinary relations with them, the love that at root holds us to the world. Prayer is not words or acts, but reaching down to love: holding our fellows in love, offering ourselves in love; and being held by, being caught up in love. It is communion, an opening of the door, an entry from the beyond. This is the point where secular language fails, for this cannot be spoken about at all: it can only be known.