Truth has many facets. Forty people came to a public event at Reading Quaker meeting house to explore our understanding of truth, with five invited presentations. Periods of stillness before and after each presentation allowed space for questions to the speakers to arise.
Vanessa Bird, co-editor, New Internationalist spoke about the complexity of understanding truth, and the challenges for the media to honestly seek the truth and for the public not only to hold the media to account but also to believe that some journalists are doing their best to uncover truth. She warned against the temptation to disengage.
Helen Drewery, Head of witness and worship for Quakers in Britain discussed Quaker perspectives on truth, highlighting spiritual truth as a “living truth that cannot be fettered by words”. She acknowledged at the same time the significance and value of words – they can convey weight, meaning and clarity, but they can also confuse.
Three Quakers from the Mid Thames area then talked about their personal experiences of living truth.
Simon Bond described the practice of ‘quiet diplomacy’. This is used by Quakers engaging with the EU and UN. Diplomats with opposing political positions are brought together for a shared meal in a setting that is peaceful and confidential. This simple model of hospitality and privacy seems to help break down barriers and allow diplomats to build dialogue and friendships.
Jean Scott-Barr talked about her experience of working with refugees in ‘The Jungle’ at Calais. She has been deeply touched by the warmth and kindness shown by refugees towards her and her husband, despite their extreme circumstances. These encounters have left deep marks that have altered the focus of her life.
Dave Rowlands reflected on his own life as a journey towards spiritual truths. In his earlier life he had chased success and recognition in ways that damaged him. The Quaker practice of stillness helped him free himself of substance addictions, and over time he experienced a peace he had not previously known. Dave now supports others who are treading a similar path to him.
This event, on the hot afternoon of 1st July, was part of the Reading Quakers’ initiative ‘What can we do?’, which seeks ways of responding to these uncertain times. More details on the speakers and presentations are available here.