Learning to be silent
Yesterday I led a “Quiet Space” at Loughton Methodist Church in Essex on the theme of Pilgrimage. The congregation there have a beautiful building and a lively programme of events; as part of this they have begun regular days to draw aside and be quiet together. An excellent plan! As we moved through the short sessions, with periods of quiet and reflection in between, I was hugely impressed by the quality of the silence. Sometimes (especially, it has to be said, in Methodist gatherings) we struggle with silence and there is such an air of unease around that no-one gains much at all.
Clearly those who have been attending the Quiet Space regularly are learning about being quiet together, something which takes time and commitment. Yesterday I felt the periods of silence were real growth times (and I’m sure it would have been even better if the silences had been longer and I had spoken less! I remember Donald English, himself a wonderful preacher, commending a verse in Job as a text for all preachers; “I will put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4)!) Preachers need to learn about silence too.
My greatest time of learning about silence was when I attended a retreat in Atlanta two years ago. As a result of that experience, the group of six of us who went are organising a similar event in Northern Ireland in May this year at the beautiful Drumalis Retreat Centre (with its amazing Irish hospitality. See the chapel, left). This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about silence, but also to hear two excellent speakers (Amy Oden and Pádraig Ó Tuama) and to share in daily worship and sharing. Read more on the Community for Spiritual Formation blog; there are still places, so do contact me if you would like to know more.
Over the past few weeks I have also experienced the thrill of meeting my two brand new great-nephews, Samuel in Leeds and Charlie in London. They are both beautiful and brilliant (of course) and their parents are doing wonderfully in adjusting to these new little people, with all the demands they bring. I guess learning silence feels like a remote possibility at times in these households! But life is all about balance and there are also times to make noise and shout out! Jill