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Category - "Silence":

The Sound of Silence

I have made a new friend. In the early hours of this morning, as I was tweaking my posts and twittering on twitter, as you do when you can’t sleep, I started chatting online to the friend of a Facebook friend whom I had befriended (still with me?) because we shared common interests in Flanders and Swann and that marvellous quote by Alice Roosevelt “If you haven’t got a nice word to say about anyone, come and sit next to me.” And though I may not be at exactly the same altitude as him on the church candle, his description of himself as ‘High Church Latitudinarian Anglican’ sounds pretty compelling to me. He writes like an angel, with that gift of establishing an immediate bond of sympathy across the ether which any writer trying to communicate with an audience would envy. He has no blog of his own at the moment, but has kindly allowed me to offer the following as a guest post. We would both appreciate your comments. Over to the Revd Richard Haggis:

The Sound of Silence
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given” we sing at Christmas time, and yet Easter time is much the same – there is silence from the tomb as the great and extraordinary event of the Resurrection actually happens. If it actually happened. Of course it did – we’d half of us be out of a job otherwise! Oh wait, I am out of a job! Christian art generally engages with the risen Christ – standing boldly atop the tomb or with Mary Magdalen in the garden or at the barbecue on the beach – but we read nothing of the moment, presumably glimpsed only by angels, when life was restored to death.

On this day sixteen years ago I was ordained a deacon of the Church of God. On this day eleven years ago, I was licensed as a parish priest to Saint Giles-in-the-Fields. Both make me think of silence. Some of the evangelicals on our ordination retreat struggled a lot with the rule of silence. One said she thought it was “rude” to be amongst strangers and not talking to them. Saint Giles had a congregation which appreciated silence in the intercessions, probably, on average, the most mature congregation, spiritually, I ever ministered to. Chequered times since, but I do not for one moment regret the privilege of ordination, nor the greater privilege of serving some very wonderful people. And even the less wonderful were pretty wonderful.

I was talking to a charming young lady at a party lately swapping notes about how much we liked walking alone in the dark, preferably in the rain, and it was the silence we agreed we both enjoyed, a sort of blanket of privacy, making the world and its woes irrelevant, and allowing and encouraging us to think our own thoughts. So many people these days fill up the silence with music, piped straight into their ears – Joyce Grenfell wrote a prescient song about that, when she noticed that piped music was broadcast in the ladies “and into the gents … they tell me”. (Bring Back The Silence And Deserve Our Thanks.)

I’ve known a few priests who are terrified of silence. This seems a shame. How else will they ever hear the “still small voice”?

But silence is a two-edged sword. There’s the mutual silence of calm content between friends or partners, and the silence of unexpressed grudges and sorrows; the warm silence of contemplation in the small of the night, and the silence of terror at real or imagined horrors; the silence of the aquarium and the sleeping cats, and the silence of the empty nursery, the deathbed vacated; and the silence that draws us towards the silence of God, into the transfiguring quiet of that emptying tomb.

Then there’s the silence when the bloody telly is switched off.

So, I’m broadly in favour of silence, but I know there’s a downside.

Littlemore, Oxford

2 July 2011

The video is attributed to i-church,which you can find online here

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