A Time to Keep Silence

I was able to go to my town’s cenotaph on 11th November and share in a two-minute silence for the Fallen at 11am. I noted the presence of several councillors (and candidates), the local vicar, surviving veterans suitably bemedalled, and a couple of current servicemen. As the hour struck, I and the 60 or so who had gathered silently reflected on those lost generations, as well as those still serving. At its close, we are all duly filed away, returning to our homes or our business.

It is the first Remembrance event I have attended in which nothing at all was said- no poems, readings, homilies or hymns. Was this further evidence of Great Britain’s descent in to godlessness and spiritual pig-ignorance, I wondered? Yet there was something rather moving about that silent vigil, that speechless, songless - but not thoughtless - gathering of townsmen. It quite possibly made it all the more profound. We who lead Christian worship are sometimes afraid of silence in church; some fool might pray aloud something daft, or people might get fidgety. Yet silence is golden, allowing the mind time to contemplate and the spirit opportunity to reflect. “Be still, and know that I am God”, admonishes Psalm 46. Likewise, Solomon observes that there is

a time to tear, and a time to sow; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

Silence must not chiefly characterise our worship - we have too many reasons to sing for joy and pray with fervour. Neither must we resemble modern Quakers who have little to say (for want of listening to God’s word). Sometimes, however, it is best to shut up, sit still, and say nothing.