Monthly Archives: May 2014

A continual weighing…

It is, indeed, not easy to define the precise kind or amount of indulgence which is incompatible with Christian simplicity; or rather it must of necessity vary. But the principle is, I think, clear. In life, as in art, whatever does not help, hinders. All that is superfluous to the main object of life must be cleared away, if that object is to be fully attained. In all kinds of effort, whether moral, intellectual or physical, the essential condition of vigour is a severe pruning away of redundance. Is it likely that the highest life, the life of the Christian body, can be carried on upon easier terms? ….

The Quaker ideal, as I understand it, requires a continual weighing of one thing against another–a continual preference of the lasting and deep over the transient and superficial…. If we bear in mind the essentially relative meaning of the word “superfluous,” it is obvious that such a testimony against “superfluities” does not require any rigid or niggardly rule as to the outward things. To my own mind, indeed, this view of the matter seems to require at least as clearly the liberal use of whatever is truly helpful to “our best life” as the abandonment of obstructing superfluities. No doubt a testimony against superfluities is very liable to degenerate into formality, and to be so misapplied as to cut off much that is in reality wholesome, innocent, and beautiful….

Caroline E Stephen, Quaker Strongholds

There is a truism common among jazz and blues bass players (other musicians too, for all I know) that, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”

A life that is called to a “continual weighing of one thing against another–a continual preference of the lasting and deep over the transient and superficial…” is bound to bump up against the culture of the internet. It is not that the internet necessitates “the transient and superficial”, or that writing which is (first) published online is necessarily so; rather there is so much transient and superficial stuff around that it is hard sometimes to see past it. Just look at any news website to see what I mean – there’s no need to drag poor old Facebook into this again. But we have to wait, to avoid hastiness: many online babies may be lost in the flood of bathwater if we just pull out the plugs of our computers.

As Caroline Stephen says, “To my own mind, indeed, this view of the matter seems to require at least as clearly the liberal use of whatever is truly helpful to ‘our best life’ as the abandonment of obstructing superfluities.” Technology, in any age, is a mixed blessing. Any technology. A hammer may as well be used to stave in someone’s head as to build a hospital, and the internal combustion engine has been used to power lifeboats as well as tanks.

There is no easy way around our Quaker call to “a continual weighing of one thing against another”. Rules and regulations, categories and classifications are a lazy excuse for discernment – as, usually, are heroic acts of renunciation. Only the silence can really show us, and the wisdom the heart finds when all the kerfuffle dies away, what is “lasting and deep.” May we each find our lasting and deep things, and live there feeding quietly on the good things of God, like moorhens on our own ponds.

On not holding back

Do not assume that vocal ministry is never to be your part. Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking, even very briefly, may open the way to fuller ministry from others. When prompted to speak, wait patiently to know that the leading and the time are right, but do not let a sense of your own unworthiness hold you back. Pray that your ministry may arise from deep experience, and trust that words will be given to you. Try to speak audibly and distinctly, and with sensitivity to the needs of others. Beware of speaking predictably or too often, and of making additions towards the end of a meeting when it was well left before.

Advices & Queries No. 13

It’s been somewhat quiet around this blog. We’ve been in the throes of arranging to move house, with all the endless bureaucracy that involves, and I’ve been rehearsing with a new band for our first gig, which is always a bit – all right, very – scary.

Our local Quaker Meeting tries to choose one of the 42 Advices and Queries each week to ponder.I think I’m going to try to write a little about my own ponderings here, if only to try and inject some regularity into the posts.

This week No.13 was chosen. I have to confess that I am one of those who rarely gives vocal ministry. I don’t think I am held back by any undue sense of my own unworthiness or anything like that – I am just naturally silent in worship, and my love of silence and prayer seems to come through in meeting. But I suppose I should pray to be more involved in ministry – if nothing else, I should be prepared to share that love, and the long, deep yearning from which it stems.

May Day!

The first of May. What does it mean to you? A reminder of the international distress call, “Mayday Mayday Mayday”? International Workers’ Day? The Feast of St Joseph the Worker? Or the Spring Festival, Maying, Beltane, Þrimilci-mōnaþ?

To me it has always meant the heavy sensual scent of mayflowers, and the hum of bumblebees – Bombus terrestris, earth-bees. The year’s new life rising in sap and flower-head, larks ascending, the irrepressible joy of sparrows.

The songs of Easter cling about us still. What was dead and cold is risen, new and warm and lively, bright-eyed in the promise of summer. New, sing the opening leaves, the uncurling flower-buds. Abundant life, sing the Pagan worshippers. New life, sings the Church – what are we going to do about it?

What are we going to do about it?

Love, love the land. Love the new life, the song of all that is born again. Unless we love, how can we care, how can we help heal the scars of greed – bluebells crushed in the wheel tracks, spring lambs loaded for slaughter, the hungry in our own streets? Only Love knows. Only in the silence of hearts that love can Love speak. Honestly. I don’t know what else to say.