…or productive silence?
As I sit here at my desk preparing sermons and writing for a publication on worship, the church is a noisy place. Downstairs a children’s singing group is belting out the raucous strains of ‘here we go round the mulberry bush‘. Elsewhere the phones are ringing, and there is the clatter of chairs as the church is prepared for a funeral later on. Meanwhile, there is the occasional soft bleep from my computer as an email arrives, or a friend contributes to the daily commentary on life,the universe and everything which is Twitter.
This is all a far cry from the monastic silence in which sermons were first prepared when I began in ministry. Back then I would shut myself away where no noise of any kind could penetrate and wait for inspiration to dawn. So, have I sold out to the demons of distraction, or is this a deliberate ploy? Certainly I have been challenged by Mike Graves in his book The Fully Alive Preacher about the appropriateness or preparing for an audible act in an environment of silence.
There is something more to it than that, though. These sounds – both human and digital, are part of the world where I live. Whatever I produce from this desk must bear scrutiny and find relevancy in that noisy world. If it does not, then it might as well stay in the silence of my head where it can’t do any harm! This is not to say that there is not a time for silence – my quarterly retreats to plan and pray are part of my spiritual survival strategy. However, I have grown to love this noisy place in which my sermons are born. It is full of the clutter, joy, noise and conversation which makes the world our home.
Is noise (either digital or physical) your enemy or your friend when you are preparing to preach?