Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 31st March 2024

Dear Friends, My view of myself depends very much on what I can do and what I can’t do, and there is a risk of viewing other people in the Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 31st March 2024

Dear Friends,

My view of myself depends very much on what I can do and what I can’t do, and there is a risk of viewing other people in the same way, forgetting that every person has infinite value. I was reminded of this by Henry Nouwen (1932-1996). He was a Dutch priest and academic whose interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. He went live in a L’Arche community where people with and without learning disabilities live and work alongside each other. They seek to grow by building mutual relationships across diversity and differences, and to work together for a more human society. He wrote:

What first struck me was that their liking and disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, the books could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my twenty years at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.

Not being able to use any of the skills that had proved so practical in the past was a real source of anxiety. I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment. In a way, it seemed as though I was starting my life all over again. Relationships, connections, reputations could no longer be counted on.

The experience was and, in many ways, is still the most important experience of my new life, because it forced me to rediscover my true identity. These … people forced me to let go of my relevant self ­ the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things ­ and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.

Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 1989

We are given different gifts which help build our faith communities, and we are also given the ‘gifts of need’ that allow others to exercise their gifts. If we only all had gifts of contribution, we would have no way of realising them. Musicians are often as grateful to their audience for wanting the music as the audience is to the musicians for wanting to play it. This idea of everyone being given a gift is fundamental to early Quaker theology and to understanding the interdependence of everyone within a faith community. Without the full realization of each other’s gifts, we are incomplete in our ability to build our communities. It is our responsibility as meetings to nurture the gifts that make up who we are called to be as a community.

Ben Pink Dandelion
Open for transformation, the 2014 Swarthmore lecture.

David,

on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)