Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 16 – Saturday after 2nd Sunday of Lent
Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern?
Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it.
When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others.
Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you.
Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language.
Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue.
Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
(Advices & Queries #17)
From the Scriptures:
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognised the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
Beloved of Church Bookshops and often found amongst the inspirational posters for sale as you leave a Cathedral, you will often find a ‘Prayer of a 17th century nun’ or even of ‘an anonymous abbess’. There is much in to make one smile wryly, nod knowingly, and even laugh out loud. This line from it strikes me deepest and brings me joy and freedom;
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.
It perfectly balances the final words of today’s Advice the more gently phrased…
Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
In this cyber age one of the challenges of Social Media in particular, is the presumption that the distribution of knowledge is the same as gaining wisdom. This has led to a presumption that those armed with much knowledge and hyperlinks and access to obscure (often questionable) research are ‘experts’.
It used to be said that ‘a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing’, however the person who wrote that had not worked out how damaging things could become when everyone had access to oodles of knowledge. Over-much knowledge can be truly disastrous!
When we are at our worst our refusal to listen before speaking, to give our own opinion before trying to understand the viewpoint of another, to assume that insult and criticism make our view of life more valid, destroys and cripples conversation and any possibility of understanding between people.
We can do this better. We do not have to join in every argument that we are invited to and if we find it difficult to walk away from discussions with others then the problem is most likely with ‘us’ rather than with ‘them’.
It is a truism that when we become defensive about our own views and opinions we are not far from becoming offensive, and offending, about them. We should be careful which battles we choose, or better still refuse to enter into battles at all.
If the Truth we hold is true it does not need us to defend it.
If the Truth another holds is true it will shine regardless of our denial of it.
If we do not find a way to see Truth in the views of others alongside the Truth that has been revealed to ourselves we will grow up crippled and live in ingrown self-congratulatory ghettos where everyone else is always wrong and the insiders are always saints.
Churches and community groups across the world have discovered that this is not so but we have not always acted to change things. When that happens, people, most often the young and the vulnerable, suffer.
Thinking that we, and those in our group, are always ‘right’ and everyone else is ‘wrong’ is at the root of much abuse and shame in the area of Safeguarding of the young and vulnerable. A member of General Synod recently gave this guide to Safeguarding which is a good pattern for all public discourse;
- Speak up
- Put survivors first
- Tribes go out the window
- Conceal nothing
- Take responsibility
An approach like this may help us find the joy that comes when we discover a truth brought to us by another and we can learn again…
the glorious lesson that occasionally [we] may be wrong.
Let us be united;
Let us speak in harmony;
Let our minds apprehend alike.
Common be our prayer,
Common be the end of our assembly;
Common be our resolution;
Common be our deliberations.
Alike be our feelings;
Uniﬁed be our hearts;
Common be our intentions;
Perfect be our unity.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) Try to match how you use social media, as well as daily conversations, with this Advice.
These reflections are also published on my blog: www.suffolkvicar.wordpress.com
as well as on my public Facebook page: Rev Andrew Dotchin
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
Pax et Bonum
Rev. Andrew Dotchin
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Vicar of Felixstowe Town and Rural Dean of Colneys The New Vicarage, 54 Princes Road, FELIXSTOWE, IP11 7PL, Suffolk
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