Gill Pennington reflects on an ecumenical conference at Ampleforth Abbey entitled ‘Come Holy Spirit’ at which Bishop Graham Cray gave the key-note speech. His inspiring talk and his clear message spoke of:
- the real abiding presence of person of the Holy Spirit as a partner in our lives today
- the stability that is assured when we recognise the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling presence
- and the challenges that are offered when we follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and trust his/her wisdom
I was asked to respond to his speech as a Quaker and I found much encouragement and congruence in his reflections, even though for of us, the language would be very different. George Fox said:
“Be patterns, be examples, in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.” — George Fox, 1656
Cheerfully in this context doesn’t just simply mean being happy but being purposeful. We are called to live our lives in the world with divine purpose seeking out ‘that of God’ (the indwelling Holy Spirit if you like) in those we meet and answering it by drawing out the good in them; enabling each person to become their best self. It is how we, as Friends, try to live our lives today. Many of us no longer identify with the Christian language that George Fox or indeed Graham Cray used, and so we find alternative ways of expressing our intention to live our lives based on the deepest truth we know. However I think that we would all still seek to ‘answer that of God’ (or good) in everyone and recognise the power of the spirit at work in many of our processes such as Meeting for Worship where ministry is, at its best, the spirit speaking through us experientially – a prophetic voice to the gathered community.
So the work of the Spirit is alive and kicking in our Quaker communities. And even though many of us would not use this language, we are alive to the reality of the Spirit of Christ and the call of God to act with integrity. We are grounded in Christianity and yet open to new light. We have an expectation of the continual unfolding of divine revelation in the modern world. And whilst some of us are more contemplative, and others much more concerned with practical activism we can draw on the passage in Romans 8 which tells us:
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8 27-28
We can be confident that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love because we know there is that of God (good) in each of us. If these ideas challenge you – be bold! Listen to the still small voice within you, and then take a risk; step out into a new experience, and find a release, a freedom to do something different… by coming on a Woodbrooke course that is way outside your comfort zone!
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Cor 3:17-18