Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 28th January 2024

Dear Friends Last Thursday, I spent the evening with the Continuing Explorers group, talking about the nature of Quaker belief. Some of us have a strong sense of God in Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 28th January 2024

Dear Friends

Last Thursday, I spent the evening with the Continuing Explorers group, talking about the nature of Quaker belief. Some of us have a strong sense of God in our lives, others less so. Christ is an important figure for some, but not for all. I felt very sympathetic to those Attenders who asked, ‘yes, but what do Quakers believe?’It’s strange to enter a religion that doesn’t tell you what to think. I love how Quakerism (or at least, liberal British Quakerism) has this kind of openness. But what are we inviting people to join, if we invite them to join us as Quakers? This question feels more pressing as we prepare to open the doors of the renewed Meeting House to the communities of Lewes and beyond.Some say that Quakerism is not an orthodoxy but an orthopraxy – a set of practices rather than beliefs; ‘not a notion but a way.’ In this case, the better question is not ‘what do Quakers believe’, but ‘what do Quakers do?’But I’m not sure this quite captures it either. You could say that ‘Quakers sit in silence for an hour every Sunday morning’, but what would that tell anyone about the quality or purpose of our silence? What would it say about our testimonies to truth, simplicity, peace, sustainability and equality?What distinguishes us, I think, is not what we believe but how we believe. The testimonies are starting points for deep discernment, not rules. Like the collected wisdom in Quaker Faith and Practice, they create a map of our moral landscape, but they don’t tell us where to go. We can travel the main road of peace or the green lanes of sustainability. We can take detours, find new shortcuts and retrace our steps. If we leave the map entirely, we have probably left Quakerism. But when we sit together, whether in silent or spoken ministry, we can hear the echo of each other’s journeys, and be inspired to walk together for a while.Just as a map cannot show everything about the world it describes, so there is always more to Quakerism. This is not a journey without maps, but a journey where the map is constantly unfolding before us, and where we are all free – indeed, encouraged – to find our own way through the landscape. In FriendshipJonathan Heawoodon behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)