Everett L. Cattell

Source: Report of the Fourth World Conference of Friends. Birmingham, England: Friends World Committee for Consultation, 1968. This is copyrighted material and is reprinted with the permission of Friends World Committee for Consultation.

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Friends have been saying how very helpful are the morning group gatherings in which there has been a considerable exploration of the divergences and differences between us. Very great appreciation has been expressed for the fresh and eager effort toward understanding one another which has come about. But along with this appreciation comes a certain sense of near despair as one realizes how fundamentally these differences affect us and how seemingly hopeless unity becomes. At any rate, one is often reminded of the tower of Babel when one hears such divergent voices, and recognizes the problem of language, the problem of words, the problem of communications in our midst. God's answer to the experience of Babel was Pentecost, and at the outpouring of His Spirit communication was restored, understanding came, and the language barrier was down. I am wondering, Friends, whether it would be too idealistic to hope that this Fourth World Conference could be another Pentecost? Could it be that the Holy Spirit might so triumph amongst us as to produce this miracle of restored understanding?

A further question which I address to myself as much as to you is this: Do we really love one another enough to want that to happen; or do we find it more convenient to remain more or less as we are, going away with a sense of having understood other a little bit better? Could it be that our love for one another should reach such a climactic point that we should really want to speak as one, and are prepared to pay the price of submission to God's Holy Spirit which this would entail? Could this worship service this evening contribute to that?

It does seem to me that worship at its centre always involves a confrontation with the Holy Spirit. He always has something to say; the purpose for which he confronts us is not solely to comfort us and encourage us but God is always confronting us with His demand "Be ye holy for I am holy". Worship, for me, becomes a response to this confrontation. This response must be total. This is to say, the totality of my being must respond to His overtures. That means that I must bring such intelligence as I have to the understanding of what He is and says. It means that I must bring my feeling into line until they, touched by Him, become springs of action. But worship is never complete until, having been touched in mind and heart, there come an act of will where the response is total and life is brought under His control.

What does this say to us about methods of worship? I suppose that it is fair to say that there is no method of worship on earth that can prevent somebody really worshipping if he has deep enough intent, although I must confess that I find some methods which are a great hurdle for me. On th other hand it is also true that there is no method of worship which can guarantee that worship will actually occur, not even Quaker forms of worship; as witness the classic story of the Quaker who made his fortune from a rat trap which he invented during the silence. It has been a privilege for which I am profoundly grateful that my life has been so cast as to have been brought to share in a very great variety of forms of worship, not only within the Society of Friends but elsewhere, and I must testify to you the help that I have received from them all. I am grateful for those which have helped me to understand the truth. I have been grateful for times when men anointed of God proclaimed the truth in such a way as to clarify my vision. I have been grateful for those times of silence in which insights were vouchsafed direct by God's spirit. I am also aware that it is entirely possible, and for some of us, very comfortable to stop with the understanding and to identify worship with a sort of confirmation of our ideas. It is also clear that some others, not wanting to be bothered with too much thought, prefer that worship be cst in an emotion form, and for some this may be good, while for others it may merely betray the unworthy patterns of culture to which we have come accustomed. I have to admit that I have been prejudiced in this area. There are certain cultural patterns that are difficult to sit through, although one recognizes that those for whom they are customary may find them an instrument of great value. But the thing I am trying to say this evening is that beyond thinking and and feeling we must go to the point where our response is a fresh decision; where these is a positive response to the voice of God's spirit.

We are told by Jesus himself that when the Holy Spirit comes in our midst he will do several things two of which I would like to emphasize here. First, He will teach us. This will enlarge our understanding to be sure. But, as a further phase of that teaching ministry of His, is is said that He will take the things of Christ and make them clear to us. Am I far from the truth when I say that probably there is no other point around which we divide more deeply than this, and that our uncertainty about what we think about Christ is one of our very major problems? Is it possible that in a fresh setting aside of our past potion, perhaps prejudices and idea, we can afresh in this Conference look to God's Holy Spirit, somehow to clarify what He has to say about Jesus Christ? The second things Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do at His coming is that He will convict the world. This should start within our own hearts, and in every worship service where prayer is wont to be made, where there is a reaching out in adoration and praise, and a seeking for deeper understanding, we must believe that the Holy Spirit will faithfully minister the word of rebuke, the word of conviction for sin. He keeps pointing out to me again and again those ares in which there is such a gap between my life and Christ's love. Further more this convicting power of His will clarify our view of human nature, for here again our view of man is another one of the points of difference around which we polarize. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will help us to see both the glory and the wretchedness of man; both that of God and that of the devil in every man!

But if the Holy Spirit can speak to us tonight and if we open our heart to hear what He says, convict us about the un-Christlike areas of our lives, then if we are really worshiping must come the ready, quick and positive response: "Lord, cleanse my heart." I hope that as we worship together this evening, amidst whatever else may happen, there may come a fresh answer to the injunction given by the Mother of Jesus when she said, "Whatever He says to you, do it."