The sound of silence

Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence and Associate Director of Music Ministries

In 2006, Argentine-Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim delivered a series of Reith Lectures for the BBC in London (a British answer to the famous Norton Lectures at Harvard.) One of his lectures was on the topic, “In the beginning was Sound.” 

At first, I thought, “How dare he be sacrilegious!” In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth! Point blank; full stop. Yet as I studied the lecture, I came to realize that in the beginning, there was a sound: total silence. 

In terms of Christian religion, I never understood the powerful role of silence until I started working in Catholic churches. In the beginning of mass, there is silence. At the most reverential moments, there is silence. 

Growing up in a Black Baptist gospel tradition, where “background music” was a constant muzak that only stopped for the sermon (and resumed at the end of the sermon to tell the preacher to “wrap it up” or give him music to whoop and holler his conclusions), silence meant something was “wrong” in the production on stage.

I came to see that too much music, too much talking from both the congregation and the pulpit, left me feeling spiritually empty at the end of church. 

When I visit religious sanctuaries in my tours abroad, regardless of faith, I notice everyone is expected to enter in silence and remain in silence. This is powerful. It’s an acknowledgement that God needs us to be silent so we can focus on Him, and it realizes that God used silence as his canvas for Creation. 

How would our individual and corporate worship at First United Methodist Garland be transformed if we routinely entered our beautiful Sanctuary in silence? 

Our First Youth recognized the significance of this simple act when they invited us to stand in silence during the Bringing of the Light at the beginning of both worship services on Youth Sunday this past week. 

I challenge us to try this for a month. As part of our holy rhythm, let’s embrace Holy Sanctuary silence to recreate the Creation Backdrop God used so masterfully to make everything – and requires for His Spirit to speak inside of us. 

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