Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 12th May 2024

Dear Friends, The truth is a funny thing. It’s sometimes easy to see from a distance, but more obscure when we get up close. At a recent Meeting for Worship, Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 12th May 2024

Dear Friends,

The truth is a funny thing. It’s sometimes easy to see from a distance, but more obscure when we get up close.

At a recent Meeting for Worship, I found myself ministering about the truth testimony. I said there’s a difference between seeing truth as a product and truth as a process. If we view truth as a product, we expect to find solid truths that we can hold onto forever. ‘The sky is blue’ is one of the first truths that we learn in childhood, when we paint a bold stripe across the top of our picture.

If, on the other hand, we view truth as a process, we don’t expect things to be quite this simple. We keep asking questions, testing reality and checking our assumptions. ‘The sky seems blue to some eyes, yes, but this is a complex result of human biology and atmospheric science and cultural definitions of colour, and it doesn’t mean that the sky really is blue…’.

Which of these approaches is best? Which one gets us closer to the truth? Is it better to hold onto the crude truths that are handed down in childhood, or to keep searching for something deeper – at the risk of never arriving at our destination?

The same question applies to moral and political truths. We can look at the horrific events in Israel/Palestine and decide that there is a simple, all-encompassing truth about the situation. Or we can look more closely and find that this truth dissolves into multiple – maybe infinite – facts and feelings, as though seen through a kaleidoscope.

Where do we stop this process of truth-seeking? When do we have a clear enough sense of the truth on which to base our convictions and our actions? If we kept trying to process all the facts and feelings about Israel/Palestine, we’d never be able to believe or do anything.

So, at some point, we have to stop processing things, and arrive at a conclusion. The product of our truth-seeking may be different from others’, but so long as we’ve all gone through some kind of process to understand the truth, we should recognise the integrity of each other’s positions.

So, truth is both a process and a product, something we hold lightly but carefully, something in which we believe wholeheartedly, but which we know can change.

‘Creeds are milestones, doctrines are interpretations: Truth, as George Fox was continually asserting, a seed with the power of growth, not a fixed crystal, be its facets never so beautiful.’
John Wilhelm Rowntree, 1904, in Quaker Faith & Practice, 27.21.

Jonathan Heawood

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