This week I have been feeling what many of us are feeling during the extended period of the pandemic, that is, a little sad, a little confused, and trying to find some joy and hope amongst the sense of being constrained by the world and all that’s happening in it.
As often is the case, I found the quiet of Sunday morning a time when I could bring to mind something positive. I was looking at quotations from and about William Penn, an early Quaker, though not amongst the very first. He is remembered mainly for the founding of Pennsylvania and his fair dealings with the Native Americans he met. But though there were words of wisdom there it did not speak to ‘my condition’, as Friends would say. Then I remembered the words of Isaac Pennington which are etched onto the windows of the Garden Room at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham.
“Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.”
Isaac Pennington 1667, Excerpt From
Quaker faith & practice: Fifth edition
Britain Yearly Meeting
What I did not know at the time was that this quote dates from 1667 in the time of the great plague, which makes it all the more pertinent.
I then went on to think of a song that I could sing that might fit this mood. I remembered one of my favourites and began to work through it to shape it to fit my present feelings and beliefs. I found the original a wonderful expression of tenderness, so my thanks to Richard Gillard the author. This is what I created in the silence.
Brother, sister, let me serve you. Let me be a friend to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you give me friendship too. We are seekers on a journey and companions on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and share the load. I will hold the love light for you in the night time of your fear. I will hold my hand out to you; speak the peace you long to hear. When we sing of love together we shall find such harmony, born of all we’ve known together of life’s joy and agony. Sister, brother, let me serve you. Let be a friend to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you give me friendship too.
Holding one another up with a tender hand implies there are hurts and vulnerabilities that mean we need to be cared for. It also is a call to offer that care to each other.