Tuesday, 5 January 2010

For a year of silence

Thanks to Hansuli Gerber for pointing to the German Jahr der Stille a project of several churches in Germany to promote silence as part of prayer and the search for God.
As he remarks there seem to be rather alot of words and printed material and even podcasts to promote the year. Nevertheless I think the idea of encouraging silence, even just a breath between words and ideas is a really important idea. Using silence in public worship is quite complex and somehow words and music need to be used to introduce it as well as some calm leadership (or curatorship as it seems sometimes now to be called). In ecumenical contexts silence can also sometimes be interpreted negatively - silence might mean that the leaders have lost their place, worship meaning that prayer continues.
I am a noisy person for whom silence is essential. Without silence I cannot find my voice. I love the quote from Søren Kierkegaard that Jahr des Stille has at the top of their website - one day I must look at the original Danish as the German has a rather different ring to it compared with the English:
A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."

On my way to Crete last year I read Sara Maitland's A Book of Silence. I understand her search for real and meaningful silence but I also know how terrifying it can be. Holding together words, silence and music, speaking and listening are what worship is about for me. Sometimes when I am alone with God I am surprised that I need to speak aloud or sing to God, to myself to the walls of the room I'm in. Perhaps speech or thought is the only way to stop my busy thoguhts.
So I wonder how silent will I learn to be in the year of silence?


janetlees said...

Thanks for posting about this as I will look for more. It seems to me that just as light and dark are both alike to God (I think that's Pslam 139) so too are sound and silence (that's in my RB anyway) and it's something I learnt from silent people... those with communication difficulties and impairments. The British Government have appointed a children's communication champion (reported in the Guardian yesterday). Unfortunately she didn't seem to think silence was that important and is reported to hold the view that parents don't talk to their children because they are too stressed about paying the mortgage. Now I wonder where she's been hanging out recently?

Jane said...

Obviously not in rented accommodation!
Thanks I thought of you when I heard an interview with her the other day.