I have always had a very inquisitive mind. I was one of those toddlers that always asked “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”
So it was probably not a great surprise that I went into science where discovery and an understanding of how the world works could be further explored. My favourite field within science is genetics, although much of what I learnt in the late 1990’s is now probably rather outdated such is the rate of discovery in this field.
Many people ask me about my change in career path or calling. Some are surprised that I would go from science and teaching to theology and ministry. I however think they are very similar. As a theologian I am always learning more about God and God’s relationship with creation. There is always more to discover for “who has know the mind of God?” There is always more to be discovered as God continues to reveal Godself to us.
The Uniting Church in its rich heritage draws on traditions from the Methodists, Presbyterians and the Congregationalists. John Robinson, one of the founders of the Congregationalists is an inspiring man who trained as a Church of England minister. In 1606, when king James demanded all clergy confirm to a new book of canons, John joined a separatist, Puritan, congregation and became their assistant pastor. Life was hard for this small congregation who defied the religious authorities in England to stay true to their conscience and to seek the truth. They decided to relocate to Holland so they could again enjoy religious freedom. Their years in Holland were hard, they found the culture and language difficult to learn. What’s more a war was brewing between the Holland and Spain and if Spain overtook Holland, there was a possibility that again they would then lose their freedom. So in 1620 a group of them were relocating again. Taking their greatest risk ever, sailing to New England, America.
John Robinson hoped to join them at a later date, unfortunately he died before this hope was realised. They spend the entire night before their departure in prayer. Then just before they board the Mayflower, their pastor speaks to them:
‘I charge you before God and his blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveals anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as you were ready to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from his holy word.’
‘The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of his will our God has revealed to Calvin, they (Lutherans) will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented. For though they were precious, shining lights in their time, yet God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received.’
These wise words of John Robinson show they know that they do not yet see ‘all things’. There is ‘further light’ to be embraced and more of God’s will to be revealed, so they may not ‘stick fast’ to their current understanding, but must instead ‘go beyond’. For ‘the Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth from God’s holy word’. What new light might God be sheading on the world at this time? Will we have the wisdom to see it and embrace it that we may continue to be salt and light for our community?
Rev Tammy Hollands