WHEN SILENCE IS GOLDEN

The modern world is full of sound and distraction, from the background noise of radio and television, to the daily deluge of e-mail and text messages, to the chatter called “talk,” which substitutes for conversation. We are inundated with noise. No wonder a sense of peace seems so elusive.

                 

Maybe that’s why silence in worship is so precious to many folks. Silence is a devotional discipline. We can practice it individually, but also as a worshiping community. Are there times of silence in worship that are important to you? Are there occasions when noise interrupts your prayers and your peace? Many people respond with a resounding “YES!” To help us receive silence as the gift it is, the following suggestions are drawn from the worship traditions of the church.

                 

The time preceding services, especially during the organ prelude, is a chance to clear the mind and prepare the heart for worship. It is helpful to use this “quiet time” intentionally for one’s own and the neighbors’ sake.

                 

Points of silence during the service also are important; the brief pause for reflection between the sermon and the hymn of the day, the silence that follows the choir’s offering, the moments of prayer and reflection after Holy Communion.

                 

There are appropriate times to applaud in affirmation of individuals or groups in worship; at baptism, confirmation, ordination, marriage, reception of members, installation and recognition of ministry.

                 

It is not appropriate, however, to applaud after the lessons are read, or after the sermon is preached, or after the choir offers its anthem. These are devotional actions centered in God’s Word. The focus is on the offerings made for and with the congregation, not on the worship leaders themselves. In these cases, applause impairs that proper focus.

                 

Watch for, observe and celebrate precious moments of silence. Doing so will enrich your worship and the devotional life of your sisters and brothers in Christ. May we receive and share such silence as the gift it truly is.

–Pastor Dean Bard, November 2010