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Answering God – Day 14

Answering God – 40 Days with

the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Day 14 – Thursday after 2nd Sunday of Lent

A&Q sidewaysTo Read:

Do you take part as often as you can in meetings for church affairs?
Are you familiar enough with our church government to contribute to its disciplined processes?
Do you consider difficult questions with an informed mind as well as a generous and loving spirit?
Are you prepared to let your insights and personal wishes take their place alongside those of others or be set aside as the meeting seeks the right way forward?
If you cannot attend, uphold the meeting prayerfully.
(Advices & Queries #15)

From the Scriptures: 

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
(Luke 14v7-11)


To Reflect: 

I blame my wife;  well it was not her fault but rather the fact that she was secretary to the Diocesan Secretary of the Diocese of Johannesburg.  Sid Colam (member of the Order of Simon of Cyrene), had learnt that his secretary’s husband was discerning a vocation to ministry and suggested that she, as she would have to type the Minutes of Diocesan Synod in any event, should persuade me to be the Minute Secretary for the House of Laity in our Diocese to get some experience of the inner workings of Church life.

I was hooked from the very beginning!  First Diocesan Synod in Johannesburg, then Provincial Synod in Port Elizabeth, a quick two years at Seminary before returning to Provincial Synod but now as part of the House of Clergy.

What inspiring times to be sitting for a week at a time with the heroes of the Tutu and Duchess of SussexSouthern African Church, Archbishops Philip Russell, Desmond Tutu and Njongonkulu Ndungane, and learning to live the faith from giants of the Apartheid resistance movement.  And also discovering their human side – Desmond Tutu has a very sweet tooth and I was often seeking out a box of Mint Imperials for him.  Now, returning home to the Church of England I am in my 10th year as a member of General Synod, and provide a daily box of sweeties to pass around the Chamber!

Does this make me a ‘big deal’ in the Church?  I sincerely hope not!  But it has been exhilarating, and also frustrating, to be involved in decisions about ordaining women as priests and bishops, caring for the environment, working to ensure that even the poorest have a decent funeral, encouraging the church to welcome all God’s children regardless of sexual orientation, and making our country a place where waste food goes to fill tummies and not landfill.

And there is the awesome privilege, on two continents, of being part of the team of people who gather together to pray and discern with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, those who are called to be Bishops in the Church of God.

GS sweetiesIs it always inspiring?  Sadly no. Sometimes it is turgid, apparently pointless, and a shop window for those who want to demonstrate that the learnt the Constitutions and Canons by heart.  It is at times like this that I praise God for having created me with a well-padded Gluteus Maximus and I pass the sweeties around the Chamber J

Being in the ‘meeting[s] for church affairs’ is no sinecure.  Perhaps especially so when things feel turgid, the sunlit uplands of our resurrection faith are in shadow, and those with whom you disagree seem to be being called to speak far too often than is good for them or for the health of the Church.

This is when todays Advice is most helpful and I wonder if I could somehow have this copied to all members of General Synod:

Do you consider difficult questions with an informed mind as well as a generous and loving spirit?

Are you prepared to let your insights and personal wishes take their place alongside those of others or be set aside as the meeting seeks the right way forward?

Have an informed mind; I try to be well-prepared.
A generous and loving spirit; I aim to compliment and pray for and with those who answer the question God asks of us differently.
Give equal weight to my insights as to those of another; I frequently read papers and publications that argue for different outcomes than the ones I would prefer.

Let my insights and wishes be set aside; ouch!

This is where learning to ‘go and sit down at the lowest place’ becomes my watchword and should be a motto for all who are eager to put their case.
Waiting to be called to speak, and then not being called to speak, is hard work for people such as myself.  In my worst moments I’m sure the church is drifting away from the Truth every time it refuses to listen and implement my latest crackpot idea for spreading the Gospel.  In my better moments I have learnt to quietly whisper, ‘Thank you, Lord’ as someone else is called to speak instead whose words are far more sensible than mine could ever be.

That doesn’t make it easy.  I remember a recent session of General Synod when I hadqueen-elizabeth-iiat GS written out six carefully crafted Five-minute speeches on a variety of, what I saw as ‘urgent’ topics.  Only to be called once for the sixth of the topics and have my speech cut down to 90 seconds!  However, it was a holy moment and it was afterwards that I had the humbling experience of a colleague on the opposite side of the Church seek me out to say, ‘thank you’.

Not everyone is called or chosen to sit in Church Assemblies, Synods, Conferences or even the Parochial Church Council.  Those who are should not hesitate to stand when ask and always be prepared to speak even if they are seldom called.  If that is not our gift then we still have work to do as the Advice reminds us;

If you cannot attend, uphold the meeting prayerfully.


To Pray:  

Dearest Lord,
teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as I should,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and ask not for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.
(Ignatius Loyola)


To Do:

1)  Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2)  If you are a member of the Church of England elections for a new General Synod will take place this Summer.  Pray about standing for election.
If you are not, or the answer to your prayer is ‘not yet’, find out when your Church’s Synod or Assembly meets and commit yourself to praying for them when they gather together on your behalf.



Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright  © Becca Anderson 2017

These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged

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