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

Dear Friends, Some years ago I noticed a book in a charity shop with the title Avoid Boring People. It was written by a famous scientist who had been awarded Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 28th April 2024

Dear Friends,

Some years ago I noticed a book in a charity shop with the title Avoid Boring People. It was written by a famous scientist who had been awarded the Nobel Prize for work which you will have heard about. I bought it, thinking it might give useful hints on how to keep your audience awake in lectures or on how to avoid, say, the experience at a party in which someone asks you what you do and when you answer, you see their eyes glaze over.
It turned out the book described the author’s single-minded pursuit of recognition and a top academic career. This involved not wasting time on anyone who would not serve that end.  So the title actually meant Avoid People Who Are Boring. I was disappointed, finding that despite his brilliance, I did not find him an attractive person, which is why I haven’t spelled out his name.

My role-model in these matters is an ancient, humble but controversial itinerant teacher, probably known in his time as Y’sua Bar Joseph.  This is maybe naive of me, not really knowing just how much of the picture of him handed down to us in the New Testament is historical, exaggerated or a fabricated idealisation. Here is a person who was said to welcome the outcast, embrace those with frightening diseases, mingle with people who others rejected as either heretical, drunkards, traitors, or scandalously immoral, yet he also found time for children. He clearly stood for acceptance, not avoidance.

After years of agonised searching, this was the one role-model that Fox found spoke to his condition, later contemplating that if one person lived in this spirit it would shake the countryside for 10 miles round. (I wonder what that would translate to in our www world.)  At heart is a conviction that a deep, unconditional love of people and of life is the key to fulfilment.  Some of Fox’s like-minded contemporaries expressed it as finding the “seed”. They accepted that others could find the same seed independently of this particular role model by looking within. They may be people from other religions or none, but they have a kind of overarching unity through that seed.

I fear that writing about this may be pretentious and in danger of hypocrisy. Moreover putting it into practice is certainly not easy. Luke Cock 1657-40) speaks of his struggle to follow his Guide in QF&P 20.22 “… This was very hard; yet I said to my Guide, ‘Take my feeble pace, and I’ll follow Thee as fast as I can. Don’t outstretch me, I pray Thee. So by degrees I got up here. …” A more recent comment comes from Phyllis Richards (1948) in QF&P 21.13

When we descend from our towers, and come out from our sanctuaries, and take our place in ordinary homes, and workshops, and are surrounded and jostled by our fellow-creatures, we find that our sensitive souls shrink from some of these contacts: that this man humbles our pride, and that one offends our aesthetic sense: that this woman takes our words amiss, and that one misconstrues and resents our actions. It is so much easier to feel enthusiasm for humanity, than to love our immediate neighbours.

Yes our ideals are not easy to live up to. We are told even Y’sua needed to escape onto the lake or into the hills from time to time to be able to sustain a high level of engagement.

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)