Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 4th February 2024

Dear Friends, In 1808 William Marten of Lewes Meeting went for a walk with an Anglican clergyman, and he concluded, with some surprise, that there are ‘many in this establishment Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 4th February 2024

Dear Friends,

In 1808 William Marten of Lewes Meeting went for a walk with an Anglican clergyman, and he concluded, with some surprise, that there are ‘many in this establishment (the Church of England), both ministers and others, who are members of the church of Christ’.In the 1840s Caleb Kemp, a young member of Brighton Meeting, and his father worked with other evangelical groups among the men building the railway. Later in his life, then a member of Lewes Meeting, he was Clerk of Yearly Meeting, a member of the Anti-Slavery Committee and Chairman of the British and Foreign Bible Society where he ‘rejoiced that it brought together Christians who in other respect were separated by denominational differences.’ In 1883 when the Congregational minister in Lewes was taken ill Caleb was asked to lead their service, and in 1897 he helped to set up the Lewes Evangelical Free Church Council. In 1901 the Protestant Alliance erected the Martyrs’ Memorial, which he opposed because it would be ‘a slap in the face’ for the Roman Catholics.It was about that time that Quakers became open to modern scientific thought and a historical understanding of the Bible, freed from the rather fundamentalist understanding of the past. That was in common with Christians of many denominations, but others were not sympathetic to that view.Through the 20th century Friends moved slowly, but were still often ahead of the other churches, especially with our peace testimony. By 1967 the quiet acceptance of people who had been divorced was replaced by a formal statement that meetings could use their discretion about celebrating remarriages. There is now a Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Group and we can celebrate equal marriages.We have been blessed by the attendance at our meeting of many people of other denominations and other faiths, including Roman Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Bahai’s, and Muslims. Silent worship is open to all and can embrace all. 30 years ago there was tension between Christocentric Friends and Universalists, and that was resolved without splitting our Yearly Meeting. Now the positions of theist and non-theist Friends have yet to be reconciled.With every change there are fears that we will be taking unnecessary risks and that we will lose something precious from the past. It was always the same. An elderly Friend once expressed strong disunity with the young Caleb Kemp on account of the content of his ministry and the way that he brushed his hair, saying that he was ‘standing on the brink of a precipice’. The elderly Friend did not realise that the whole Society was in danger of becoming extinct and that it was only the daring of younger Friends willing to break from the past that was going to revive it. May we always be ready to stand on the brink.“The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers”William Penn, 1693. QFP 27.01David Hitchinon behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)