Faith at Work XLIII

February 2008

Someone “took the Lord’s name in vain” the other day when I was visiting a factory in my role as Workplace Chaplain. A colleague, noticing that I was there, commented that he would need forgiveness now. Why my being there affected the situation at all, I’ve no idea – aren’t our beliefs personal, between the Almighty and ourselves? I suppose it seemed to them that my presence had made a difference, which made me wonder how much others affect what we think or believe. In my case, as well as being ordained, I hold membership as a Quaker. Both approaches to God help me and, though there are important differences, for me they complement and enrich each other.

Back in September last year, Quakers in Britain held an open week. As part of their preparation in Wolverhampton, Quakers were asked to write down (in 300 words) “what I believe”. These expressions were put on display for a while in the Meeting House and it is now proposed to hold them together in a booklet that can be a snapshot of what various members of the Meeting thought are part of the essence of being a Quaker; this seems to me to be a very valuable exercise and I wonder what would you say if you were asked: “what do you believe?”

Would you start by reciting the creed, I wonder? During Lent, those being prepared for confirmation in June will be given a similar opportunity to think through the central core of their beliefs in the tradition of the Church of England. That will enable them to explore more deeply what is important in life and in worship; I would hope that they discover that they are different aspects of the same thing. What we share in worship, we can use to inform our lives.

I find it helpful to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one”. Those words are what George Fox, often regarded as the founder of the Quakers, wrote from prison in 1656. He had been put there for speaking his mind and challenging the religious views in the country rather too much. With him, I believe that all of us, whatever faith or tradition we come from, share some sense of what is true and are guided by what some will call the “Holy Spirit”, others an “inner light” or perhaps some other special phrase or expression.

This is the mystery that underpins the whole of life for all time, unknowable yet intimate, unpredictable yet wise, the Word that speaks with an authority beyond definition. We hear especially when we become still and listen or when we are confronted with a situation demanding our involvement and when we are concerned to be most effective. In those moments, if we permit, that greater Spirit, which is at the heart of life, can inform our true spirit and lead us into action; and so, we pray:

Lord God, enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
and subsequent experience during ministry in the parish of Codsall and the BCUIM.
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