Monday with Michael Spencer: October 7, 2019
Silence in Worship
Silence has been banished from most contemporary worship as if it were an outright evil, yet what modern worship consumer is not likely to come back from a monastic retreat saying “I loved the silence?”
The Protestant liturgy has no tradition of silence, but periods of silence have often been incorporated into Protestant worship.
For example, the pastoral prayer is sometimes preceded by silence. Sermons can be followed by silence. Some congregations have announcements well before the prelude, then call for relative silence during the prelude. The basic idea of the prelude and/or postlude may involve silence for some churches.
Silence presents some functional obstacles, especially where there are small children, but keep in mind that we are not trying to achieve some sort of state of absolute silence as a task, but to “be still and know that I am God.”
Perhaps more useful is simply the idea of ceasing conversations and being still and quiet before the Lord as a preparation for worship.
Many evangelicals have little idea how noisy their services are. Bring a visitor from the Catholic or Anglican church and see how they compare the “quiet” portions of your worship to theirs.
I grew up in a tradition where “meditation over music” was common in worship, Many traditional Baptist services continue this practice as part of prayer during worship. Exactly how silence and the sounds of an electronic organ or projected slides of nature accompanied by canned music relate to worship is still a mystery to me. I find such moments of meditation to be anything but meditative.
Silence taken to uncomfortable extremes can be distracting, and occasionally embarassing. Be judicious.
I have used a silent introduction to pastoral prayer for years, and will continue to do so until I actually fall asleep during the silence. Then we’ll have to review the idea.