Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 18th February 2024

Dear Friends, I heard recently on Radio 4’s Today programme the Professor of Radio Astronomy at Jodrell Bank say that the work the astronomers do there matters “because it is Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 18th February 2024

Dear Friends,

I heard recently on Radio 4’s Today programme the Professor of Radio Astronomy at Jodrell Bank say that the work the astronomers do there matters “because it is helping us understand our place in the universe…we are small people and we are on a small planet and the planet is all we have – small but beautiful. It is also important because it is inspirational.” I was reminded of similar thoughts that I had many years ago under the night sky in Malawi. I had a small telescope that I used with the students to whom I was teaching science. The evenings were mild and dark early. It was usually clear so observing was easy. The sky held so many added beauties through the telescope. The seven stars of the Pleiades became a myriad of bright points of light as countless other stars came into view. So did many areas of the Milky Way spread across the night sky. I felt very small in a very big universe. I can still recall the sense of wonder that, nonetheless, I was able to see and know about it. The words of Psalm 8 came to me. The New Revised Standard Version expresses them well:“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them,mortals that you care for them?Yet you have made them a little lower than God,and crowned them with glory and honor.You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;you have put all things under their feet..” We know too well these days the problems that have arisen from that dominion and the misuse of having had all things put under our feet, and yet I want to go on making the affirmation that there is a spiritual power beyond and within ourselves that is “mindful” of us and to which we can respond in caring for the creation. Jocelyn Burnell, well-known astronomer and a Quaker, put it this way in an introduction to a session of Yearly Meeting in 1976 entitled ‘The Kingdom in our midst’, which speaks to me:“…From what I have learnt as an astronomer I believe that the Universe evolved itself without any active participation from God, and it seems reasonable to me that the world continues, at least on a grand scale, to evolve by itself – that God does not directly interfere with the running of the world; but that he does through people and their attitudes… I believe that we are God’s agents in this world and that he may require things of us. A lot of my effort goes into trying to understand what God expects of me. I do this by trying to maintain an orientation towards God – to live my life in the spirit – to bring my whole life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ – to acknowledge my discipleship.”S Jocelyn Burnell, 1976, QFP 26.25 Chris,on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)