Silence Service: What, in a church?

Few churches in our fair municipality offer any form of silence, or meditative quiet. In many of our local churches, the noise levels before and during services exceed 100 db, which, in my opinion, detracts from the purpose of one being in a church.  Most church services are called worship services because they are ostensibly for worshiping our God and Creator. Personally I don’t believe God confusion in place of worship

During my world travels, I’ve experienced many churches where silence and reflection are valued qualities. In Mexico, for example, no matter how much busyness and noise is outside the church, it’s usually peaceful and quiet within, with people of all ages coming in to pray and meditate.  In this town, most churches are closed outside of worship hours due to vandalism, disrespect, and dare I suggest, lack of interest.

With joy I discovered St. Mary’s Episcopal Church has begun offering an Evening of Silence at their lovely sanctuary at Tudor and Lake Otis.  Organized by member Heidi Marlowe, a lay monastic, it was initially announced to parishioners by internal church media, and word of mouth. Their first Evening of Silence was held this past Thursday evening, 6:30-7:30 pm.  The church was dimly lit, except for service candles, and attendees were given a printed vesper booklet to use as they saw fit for their time there.

Ms. Marlowe prepared the booklet using the Liturgical Press ‘Shorter Breviary’ based on the Rule of Benedict. It uses a two-week Psalm cycle, which Marlowe also conformed to the Book of Common Prayer. Her booklet, titled “A Vespers Office for a Thursday”, starts with a prayer, and includes an Ambrosian Hymn, Psalmody using three Psalms (with Antiphons), a short NT Reading and Responsory, the Magnificat, a Litany, the Lord’s Prayer, the Kyrie, a Concluding Prayer, and the Final Blessing.  Most of those present, but not all, used the booklet. (see link to booklet at bottom)

The time was truly one of silence, reflection, meditation, and prayer.  I was reminded of Christ’s words, “My house shall be called a house of prayer…”.

Michael Burke, rector of St Mary’s, responding to my question about his impressions about the Evening of Silence said, “Given everything going on in the world right now, silence is probably the most counter cultural thing a person could do.” He also shared the Francois Fenelon quote, “There is also a modification of prayer, which may be termed the prayer of silence. This is a prayer too deep for words. The common form of silent prayer is voluntary. In the prayer of contemplative silence, the lips seem to be closed almost against the will.”

It was a time of refreshing for me, long overdue in my fast-paced, noisy existence. I’m looking forward to the next “Evening of Silence” at St. Mary’s and will announce it in these pages. Thank you St. Mary’s community.

Evening of Silence Vespers 2017.10.19  Vespers Booklet

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