Simon and Garfunkel ring in my ear when I think of silence. I can sit in silence. I can sit in silence for a very long time.
Silence is a part of worship that we are sometimes too busy for. As westerners, we are so busy, so animated, so distracted, that any attempt at silence takes a while to settle. I was in a worship setting recently, and the leader led a moment of silence. It took a while before the fidgeting and rustling quieted down, and we actually entered true silence. And then… we were silent. As we were silent, we were in worship together. A worship where words and pitch and tone and order did not matter. We were waiting to receive God.
Silence can make us uncomfortable, though. It’s one of the reasons we took so much time to settle down before our worship space came to be still. There were still the sounds of hearts and breaths and the gentle hummm of a building in wintertime. But our words were silent. Our mouths were silent. We were in the presence of God, and there were no audible ways for us to compare ourselves to each other. There’s not a “right” way to do silence in worship.
But what about silence outside of worship? How does it work? I like to say that I can sit in silence and wait for someone else to talk. That waiting helps sometimes to bring someone else to the place where they would like to be. But, sometimes, in a big group, there is no space for that. Other things become more important, and we like to think that a lively conversation is the most valuable part of the time.
But. What about silence? What about letting those who usually don’t have the gumption to interrupt, speak?