Saturday, 04 December 2021

Silence makes room for the spirit to speak

Silence makes room for the spirit to speak

HAVE you noticed that the sounds of traffic have increased since the easing of lockdown restrictions?

Henley seems generally noisier now, which for some may be a positive sign, a return to the typical liveliness of our town. Hooray for the regatta and the Henley Festival!

Others would welcome a little more silence.

“True silence… is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”

These are the words of William Penn in 1699, a Quaker leader from London who established the province of Pennsylvania in America.

He could not live a quiet life in England, having experienced severe persecution and imprisonment as a non-conformist Christian.

His vision was to make a state where Quakers and other minority religions could live safely.

Today there are many Quakers who also belong to other religions or none.

Silence is an essential part of Quaker worship. This can feel unusual because we are surrounded by noise which pulls our attention this way and that.

Even if we manage to find a moment and a space in which to sit quietly, our minds are chattering, what Buddhists call the “monkey mind”.

When sitting with others in a Meeting for Worship, the silence becomes a presence that is more powerful than when sitting alone. There is nourishment that refreshes “the parts that others can not reach” as the slogan goes. (By the way, Quakers do drink beer, among other things!)

The precious silence in a Meeting can be carefully punctuated by those present.

Jesus said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mathew 12:34)

Whatever is spoken, it is not a preaching of platitudes. It comes from the spirit within the speaker. This is called ministry.

All are equal ministers in a Quaker Meeting and the ministry often stirs the souls of those listening.

Ministry could be about relationships, difficulties, joys or confusions, good times and not so good times.

We are very good listeners. Every Meeting is spontaneous, with food for thought even when no ministry is given. This is because the silence makes room for the spirit to speak to and through us.

The Meeting House doors are open to everyone when we re-open on May 23 with a Meeting for Worship at 10.45am.

If you would like to experience a Meeting, please call Jenny Gordon on 07896 439679.

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